FCC Orders Silence For Atlanta-area FM Translator… For Now

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A 105-watt FM translator serving the northern portion of the Atlanta metropolitan area has successfully nixed a license modification from the FCC’s Media Bureau that would have lowered its power output to just 10 watts.


It’s not exactly a victory for the translator’s owner, however. Interference to a co-channel Class A that’s not too far away remains an issue, and the translator has been ordered to cease operations until it resolves the problem.


RBR+TVBR OBSERVATION (full text below, for Members Only): We looked at the signal contour for the fully licensed station that is complaining of interference from an FM translator on the same frequency. We then reviewed the signal pattern for the translator. From our eyes, it looks like the FCC should have never OK’d this translator.


The translator at the center of the situation in Woodstock, Ga., is W265AV at 100.9 MHz, owned by Immanuel Broadcasting Network.

Authorized for 105 watts, W265AV on July 18 was ordered by the FCC’s Media Bureau to reduce power to a mere 10 watts. The Media Bureau was to then reissue the translator’s license, with 10 watts as its new approved output.

Why? The Bureau sent to Immanuel a License Modification Letter resulting from interference complaints submitted by nearby 6kw WJES-FM 100.9 in Maysville, Ga., owned by Nelson Rodriguez.

This led to a flurry of back and forth filings with the Media Bureau, and a Bureau decision on the matter delivered Friday (10/13).

The Bureau’s ruling: It erred in issuing the License Modification Letter. Thus, power output for W265AV stays at its original 105 watts. Consequently, the Bureau dismissed a facility modification petition from Rodriguez, which became moot.

While this appears to make Immanuel victorious, there’s still one very important task the translator owner needs to do: To prevent any interference with WJES, the FM translator must suspend operations until all potential obstructions are eliminated.

BATTLING CLERGY STATE THEIR CASE

On Feb. 3, 2017, Rodriguez filed an “interference complaint” — supported by 37 listener statements — that W265AV was causing problems to WJES’s signal coverage.

Immanuel President Neil Hopper questioned if the interference to WJES was truly tied to W265AV and noted the complainants were “relatives of Mr. Rodriguez or members of his congregation, doing him a favor.”

Rodriguez is a clergyman, and WJES airs a Spanish-language religious format.

To help resolve the issue, W265AV reduced its power by 20%, Hopper told the Bureau.

Rodriguez then told the Bureau this power reduction did little to ease the interference to WJES. This led the Bureau to cut W265AV’s power to 52 watts.

Rodriguez still wasn’t happy, and wanted the translator off the air altogether. Further, he rejected an offer from Immanuel for a temporary power reduction, the installation of a directional antenna, and even the relocation of WJES — an unusual offer from an owner of an FM translator.

As the Media Bureau reviewed the matter, W265AV temporarily lowered its ERP to 10 watts.

More filings came from both parties.

In reaching its decision, the Bureau noted that Immanuel showed that there was “material error” in the Media Bureau’s License Modification Letter that would have permanently set W265AV’s ERP at 10 watts.

Here’s the rub:  Immanuel states that it complied with the Audio Division’s Section 74.1203(a)(3) order to reduce power to 10 watts ERP, “but such interim measure does not result in the permanent modification of the W265AV license unless and until the Section 316(a) process, also embodied in Section 1.87(a) of the Commission’s Rules, is formally
complied with.”

It turns out that Immanuel is correct.

Now, it has to figure out how to keep its sanction ERP, while ensuring Rodriguez’s signal is clean.

 


RBR+TVBR OBSERVATON: We looked at the signal contour for the fully licensed station that is complaining of interference from an FM translator on the same frequency. We then reviewed the signal pattern for the translator. From our eyes, it looks like the FCC should have never OK’d this translator.

W265AV signal contour (courtesy Radio-Info.com)

The signal contours are technically protected, but this is a bit too close for comfort, isn’t it? Translator W265AV has the FCC-approved ability to bring its signal up I-85 to pretty much Buford. If you look at WJES’s signal contour, as approved, this station should be heard throughout the entire city and down I-85 to just about Norcross.

It’s unfortunate that Immanuel Broadcasting Network has to silence its translator until it works out interference issues. But, we believe it is the FCC’s fault for approving the facility in the first place. We’ve seen this play out in Durham, N.C., and in Baltimore.

Perhaps whoever is approving these translators at the Portals needs to be a bit less stamp-happy in saying OK to new sticks that only bring problems and more clutter to the FM dial — something we should be protecting as more people use Sirius XM, Pandora, Spotify, or audio via wireless data.

WJES signal contour (Courtesy: Radio-Info.com)

Neither Immanuel nor Rodriguez should have to bear the costs of this battle, which likely involves attorneys and fees.

This entire issue could have completely been avoided had the FCC been a little smarter with its zealousness to clutter America with translators that may not be authorized for the right places.