Comments support FM contour rule change


It is still early, but comments filed so far are 100% in favor of the rule change proposed by WYAB-FM Flora (Jackson), MS owner Matt Wesolowski to protect only the actual signals of FM stations. The current rule protects the theoretical maximum build-out for each FM allocation.

Two consulting engineers and religious station programmer/owner Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa have filed comments supporting the proposal to stop protecting facilities which haven’t been constructed more than 25 years after the rule was put in place.

Calvary Chapel noted that it had earlier proposed a more modest modification to correct an anomaly and stop protecting theoretical contours where “applicants are required to assume, falsely, that an antenna is situated underground.” Such situations exist for the theoretical facilities where the actual antennas are located on mountaintops and use lower power to compensate for the extreme height. Calvary noted that four comments were filed in support of its proposal (read it here) and none in opposition.

“The ball is now in the Commission’s court. It should be obvious that Section 73.215 needs modification,” Calvary Chapel’s attorney, Lauren Colby, wrote. Calvary Chapel said the Wesolowski proposal goes beyond what it asked for, but would resolve the anomaly it sought to change.

Thomas R. Spencer II of Indianapolis said in his filing that there was no reason for the commercial FM portion of the band to be treated differently from the reserved educational portion of the FM band. “I would note that this proposal would impact the Commission’s Congressional mandate under the LCRA [Local Community Radio Act] to provide for additional LPFM [Low-power FM] stations; thus it should be implemented so as to provide a ‘level playing field’ when the Commission opens the new LPFM filing window sometime next year,” Spencer wrote.

Dana J. Puopolo of Bryn Mawr, PA also wrote in support of the proposal, but said the amendments proposed by Wesolowski do not “go nearly far enough.” The engineer called the allocation system based on mileage separations “archaic” and noted that the current interference rules for second- and third-adjacent channels were created when consumers had vacuum tube receivers. Puopolo wants to see FM stations allotted by the same “where it will fit” philosophy that applies to AM and for interference rules to be based on current receiver technology.

“Puopolo realizes this is radical, and will likely be opposed by the ‘status quo’ of current FM broadcasters who will claim these proposals he makes will hurt FM broadcasting. Puopolo does not believe this and instead states that what is currently hurting broadcasting is the exact opposite-those who oppose change,” the engineer wrote. “Radio today is under assault from many directions – satellite, the Internet, smart phones, portable audio players and many other new technologies yet to ‘come down the pike.’ Anything the Commission can do to make radio more vital is clearly in the Public Interest.”

Click here to view all of the filings at the FCC.

RBR-TVBR observation: That LPFM observation from Tom Spencer could be the clincher. Maximizing the number of holes opened up for new LPFMs is a high priority for both the FCC and the US Congress. We now wait to see if Dana Puopolo is correct that the major broadcast groups will oppose the rule change. As we’ve noted before, they will be major beneficiaries, even if they have to give up some turf that they aren’t using – and in many cases can’t use.

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