There’s no more potential interference for country music fans seeking to take a musical ride on “U.S. 98.3” in the Raleigh-Durham area.
That’s because a lengthy battle waged by radio industry veteran Tom Birch against the owner of a co-channel translator that caused signal degradation to Birch’s Class C3 WLUS-FM, licensed to Clarksville, Va., is over.
By order of the FCC, the translator no longer exists.
Birch is the President of Lakes Media LLC, the licensee of WLUS.
In a statement issued Monday (9/25), Birch confirmed the receipt of a FCC Staff Letter ordering immediate cessation of the operation of Arohi Media LLC translator W252DK.
Those call letters have now been deleted.
W252DK had most recently served as a simulcast partner of Class A Urban WRSV-FM 92.1, a heritage station serving African-Americans founded by the Wynne family and owned by Northstar Broadcasting since 1989.
Before that, Arohi aired a South Asian format steeped in Bollywood hits on W252DK, at 98.3 MHz.
The translator officially signed off May 31, but Arohi’s fight was technically still alive.
Lakes’ interference claims first surfaced in August 2016.
While interference was immediately noticed, Birch says Arohi opposed Lakes Media “at every step.” Response to the FCC of Lakes’ initial opposition did not come until Sept. 30, 2016. While that’s within the FCC window, the interference claimed by Birch was driving WLUS listeners to a competitor, he says.
After a sizable effort by Birch to get the FCC to nix its approval of W252DK, the Commission in February 2017 asked Arohi to resolve all WLUS listener complaints.
As part of its defense, Arohi submitted to the FCC video done via an iPhone in each allegedly infringing location to show that there was no interference, as Birch had claimed.
But, months later, in March 2017, Birch debunked the videos after learning that they were produced when the translator was either turned off or at significantly reduced power.
That was following the first FCC action on the matter, which came in the form of a Staff Letter dated February 24, 2017 ordering Arohi to resolve all WLUS listener complaints.
Birch says Arohi failed to do so.
Finally, on May 9, 2017, the FCC dismissed Arohi’s CP application and ordered W252DK off the air.
Arohi then filed a Reconsideration Petition and Emergency Motion claiming that the Commission had not provided Arohi access to three unresolved complaints in the February letter.
This led the Commission to rescind its May 9 letter and return the Lakes Complaint to pending status, much to the frustration of Birch.
As of June 2, W252DK interference resumed, and Lakes began submission of new interference complaints that included multiple complainant-recorded videos of the interference.
Today, interference from a licensed station in WLUS’s vicinity will be a thing of the past
“This has been an extraordinarily frustrating, expensive and financially and emotionally enervating experience,” Birch said. “The presence of W252DK interference to WLUS in Durham, Wake, Orange and southern Granville Counties NC was undeniable, but Arohi was able to delay FCC action by objecting to Lakes complaints at every step and questioning the validity of WLUS listener complaints on procedural issues.”
Birch adds that this “has been a lose-lose-lose proposition, with Lakes being the biggest loser.” He claims WLUS lost an audience that took 12 years to build, “as well as tens of thousands of dollars in lost advertising, legal and technical fees and hundreds of hours of my time misappropriated to a matter that should have been concluded over a year ago.”
He adds that Arohi “incurred significant legal and technical expenses, and FCC staff time and resources were needlessly expended on a matter that should have been promptly resolved by Arohi adherence to FCC regulations.”
Birch claims that some 12,000-plus WLUS listeners were lost in areas where the translator operated by Arohi caused interference.
While WLUS is not a Raleigh-Durham radio station, its signal contour extends south to the market’s northern suburbs, including such North Carolina towns as Butner, Creedmor, Franklinton, Youngsville, and most of Wake Forest. In the car, WLUS can be heard throughout much of Durham and nearby Chapel Hill.
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