FCC Grants A ‘Franken FM’ STA, Saving ‘Channel 6’ Audio


In a decision that could eventually extend the life of “Franken FM” facilities across the U.S., the FCC has granted Special Temporary Authority for the use of a FM radio signal alongside its ATSC 3.0 TV signal for VHF Channel 6 — thus allowing the low-power facilities to continue operation as an audio-first media entity, for now.


The facility receiving the STA from the Commission is KBKF-LD 6, Venture Technologies Group-owned facility.

As noted in the Radio + Television Business Report Spring 2021 magazine, KBKF is leased to Educational Media Foundation for use as the San Francisco Bay Area’s radio home of Worship Music network Air1.

On May 28, Venture on behalf of KBKF filed the STA request, with Wiley Law attorney Ari Meltzer serving as its legal counsel. As other stations had done, Venture requested an STA nunc pro tunc to operate an analog FM audio carrier as an ancillary or supplementary
service within KBKF’s assigned digital channel frequencies.

And, with no interference concerns in more than three months of using its current system, all appeared ready for the Commission to consider. Then came a June 4 amendment — one that sees Venture commits that, while it is operating pursuant to the STA, “it will continue to make efficient use of the ATSC 3.0 video portion of the station’s signal.”

That sealed the deal for the STA, with Venture pledging to provide at least one stream of synchronized video and audio programming on the ATSC 3.0 portion of the spectrum on a 24/7 basis.

But, there’s one important fact: the STA is good for six days from today (6/10).

And, the STA comes with various conditions set forth by Video Division Chief Barbara Kreisman. If there is any interference, authorization is terminated. With respect to audio vs. video service, both must reach similar populations. Lastly, the facilities cannot be modified, nor can they be transferred to a new licensee, during the period of the STA.

Commenting on the STA grant, Koplin tells RBR+TVBR, “The technology works. It is an innovative way to provide new services on ATSC 3.0.”

He reiterated earlier comments noting that NPR was the only entity to object to the petition.

“If, after the technical study, they find what we have seen since operating this station, then we believe this will be a permanent solution to allow two important services to coexist and [operating through] an efficient use of bandwidth,” Koplin said.