Posted by: cinnamonlaw | April 12, 2013

FCC Commissioner Pai Sings the Praises of AM Radio

At a time where lots of  AM station owners are struggling and there’s a great deal of focus on FM translators and LPFMs, Commissioner Pai’s request for an AM revitalization panel at the NAB was a welcome surprise.  Since his resume doesn’t show a big broadcast background (haven’t seen that on the 8th floor since Jim Quello) many wondered where his love of AM came from.  Come to find out it;s the same place my love of radio started.  He listened to baseball games as a child! Read his prepared remarks here (DOC-320038A1).

He advanced four ideas for discussion:

1. Make it easier for AM operators to obtain and use FM translators;

2. Allow an across the board power increase’

3. Transition the AM band to digital; and

4. Move to an AM synchronous transmission system.

He’s welcoming input from everyone and I’d like to hear some of your thoughts as well.  I know FM translators have provided lots of help, but in most cases, they cover only a small portion of the AM station’s coverage area.  Not sure I like digital because of the potential for drops in signal.  But enough about me.. what do you think?

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There is pending before the FCC a proposal to create a new Class C4 FM service.  Existing FCC rules provide for several different classes with minimum and maximum power outputs.  The smallest full power FM classification is a Class A, which allows a maximum power of 6 kW. Class C3 stations come next with a maximum power of 25 kW.  The new proposed Class C4 would fit right in between at 12 kW.  Before any new Class C4 stations are created, the petitioner proposes a procedure that would allow existing Class A stations to petition for an upgrade to Class C4.

People in radio broadcasting are split in their feelings about the proposal.  Radio station owners with more powerful stations (Class C3, C2 and C1) worry that allowing Class A stations to upgrade will cause more clutter and interference in the FM band. Struggling Class A who believe they could expand their audiences by claiming a larger coverage area want this new designation to be in place as soon as possible.  To view the entire Petition for Rulemaking, click here.  As of now, the FCC has not released a formal Notice seeking comment on the proposal, but if you have strong feelings about the proposal, you should share your opinion with the FCC as they ponder whether to move forward or not.

Posted by: cinnamonlaw | February 13, 2013

How to improve the AM Radio band

How to improve the AM Radio band

Just when most people had given up hope on AM radio (unless you like listening to scratchy talk radio or non-English language programming or play-by-play sports) an FCC Commissioner comes along and says he’d like to lead an effort to bring AM radio back to life.  While short on specifics, it’s encouraging to see AM radio on the 8th floor.  The question is, where do you start?  Better transmission equipment and parameters?  Improved receivers? Trying to filter and eliminate interference?  Looking for some technical folks to offer up some suggestions….

Posted by: cinnamonlaw | July 7, 2012

Television Station Public Inspection Files Move Online

The FCC has adopted new rules which require television stations (including Class A television stations, but not other LPTV stations) to post their public inspection files online through a Commission-hosted website.  These new requirements are set to go into effect on August 2, 2012, though the National Association of Broadcasters has filed with the courts asking for a stay of the rules.

Assuming everything goes according to the FCC’s plan, starting on August 2, television broadcasters will have to post online through the FCC’s website any new documents that they determine should be included in the station’s public inspection file.  Documents in station public inspection files before August 2 fill have to be uploaded to the FCC site within six months from the August 2, 2012 start date.  These requirements apply to all television broadcasters regardless of size.

With the election season coming up, there are changes to how the political file is maintained as well.  Television broadcasters who are NOT affiliated with the top four networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) in the top 50 markets DO NOT have to place their political files online until July 2014.   Those larger market stations will have to post new political file documents (i.e., those after August 2) on the FCC’s website but will not have to post older political file documents.

In its July 3, 2012, release (http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2012/db0703/DA-12-1057A1.pdf), the FCC said it would be scheduling user testing and educational webinars prior to the deadline so the process goes smoothly in August.

 

 

Posted by: cinnamonlaw | July 6, 2012

FCC Fines Increase for Public Inspection File Violations

During the last renewal cycle, the base fine for an admitted public file violation was generally $3,000. By “Admitted”, I mean a situation where a licensee actually checks the box in the renewal application and admits it was completely diligent in its public file maintenance during the last license term.  As renewals are being processed for radio stations in this renewal cycle, the proposed fines are starting at $10,000. Please make sure your public file is in order especially as you go through your preparation for renewals.

Also, EEO fines are on the rise. Remember, it’s not a question of the actual race, gender and ethnic background of the people who work at a station. It’s illegal for the FCC to ask because the Supreme Court struck down ethnic, racial and gender based quota systems designed to promote diversity hiring. The new EEO rules at the FCC relate to the recruitment process ONLY.  How a station publicizes its job openings. Make sure that your job announcements are going to as many community based organizations as possible. Remember to try to include local newspapers and any employment agencies in your area that specifically target helping female or minority members find employment.  Reach out to everyone on your distribution list once a year regardless of whether you have had any openings just to keep the contacts current.  When a job opening is filled, keep track of the sources that the applications came from and especially the sources of the candidates that were interviewed and eventually hired.  That information may be requested by the FCC during a random EEO audit.

Posted by: cinnamonlaw | October 22, 2009

Performance Rights Act Moves On

As discussed previously, the Senate Judiciary Committee was considering passage of the Performance Rights Act which, if passed and signed into law, would require radio stations to pay a fee to artists whose music they played in addition to the ASCAP, BMI and SESAC fees that stations already pay. The Judiciary Committee voted to send the bill forward. In this economy, that’s NOT good news for small market music radio stations especially. The smallest annual fee would be $500, with medium market stations paying $5,000 and costs rising from there.

Supporters of the bill claim its the just payment that radio owes the artists, because without music from the artists, radio stations would not make the “billions of dollars” in profit they have over the year. NAB, on behalf of radio stations, says that artists would not sell anywhere near the amount of product they do without the promotional power radio stations provide through airplay (anyone else old enough to remember “payola”?) Check out this LA Times article for a quick summary of both sides.

What side are you on and why? Leave a comment because this bill gains more and more traction each year.

Posted by: cinnamonlaw | October 22, 2009

Can Music Licensing Get Anymore Ridiculous?

As the Performance Rights Act moves forward in Congress to the dismay of radio station owners across the country, there was another move afoot by the music industry. It seems ASCAP decided to sue Verizon claiming that the $0.24 it receives per ring tone download from Verizon is not enough. The playing of the ringtone by a Verizon subscriber when his or her phone rings constitutes a “public performance” so ASCAP should receive ANOTHER $0.24. Thankfully, the Court disagreed. I wonder how long until recording artists will be looking for money from cell phone subscribers for having ringtones of their songs? Which brings my question — how many times does a person have to pay for a particular song or worse….his or her favorite 15 seconds of a song??

New rules adopted by the FCC in a June 29, 2009 Report and Order allowing FM translator licenses to specify AM stations as their “primary” stations to rebroadcast became effective on October 1, 2009. These new rules are intended to provide a much needed boost to AM stations, particularly daytime-only stations and those stations that must drastically reduce their power at sundown.  

With Special Temporary Authorizations (“STAs”) from the FCC, over 200 AM stations were already using FM translators to replicate as best as possible their daytime coverage area at night.  State broadcasters associations and the not-for-profit AM Daytimers Association that I co-founded voiced their support for the proposed rule changes before the FCC.  As a result, the STAs will be terminated and all AM stations that are utilizing FM translators by way of STAs will have to file appropriate paperwork with the FCC to change the license of the FM translator to specify the AM station as the primary rebroadcast station.  AM stations can continue to work out agreements with existing FM translators under the rules.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is, according to the FCC,  there won’t be a filing window for new FM translators until after a new LPFM filing window occurs.

While the relief for AM stations is welcome, it may not be permanent.  FM translators are “secondary services” meaning if a full-power FM station modifies in such a way as to create an interference problem with the translator, the full-power station, as a “primary service” takes priority and can ask the FCC to order the translator to modify or, in the worst case, cease operations.  The next logical step for AM stations is to convince the FCC that translators rebroadcasting AM stations should be given “primary status” to protect them from future encroachment from full-power FM stations.

Leave a comment if you agree, as that may be the next mission of the AM Daytimers Association.

Reports are that the Judiciary Committee is poised to send the bill on to the full Senate for a vote. If passed, the fear is it will put many small market music radio stations out of business. For a summary of the competing views, click to my prior post.

The symbiotic relationship between musical artists and the radio stations that have helped them generate sales since before Elvis first swiveled his hips is in danger of changing, and I am not sure it’s for the better. If you have an opinion on this issue, now is the time to get your voice heard. Call your U.S Senator and Members of Congress now before the opportunity is lost.

Posted by: cinnamonlaw | October 14, 2009

Congress to Abolish Third-Adjacent Protection for FM Stations

The Telecommunications Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives has sent on to the full House Commerce Committee a bill called the Local Community Radio Act of 2009 which is intended to increase the proliferation of low-power FM (“LPFM”) stations.    Based on a study conducted in 2004, the FCC concluded that third adjacent channel protection of full-power FM stations by LPFM stations could be dropped without impacting the service provided by the full power station.  If applicants do not have to protect third adjacencies, it will make more space available for LPFM stations, especially in medium and large markets where the FM bad is already pretty tightly packed. 

Similar bills were introduced in 2007 and 2008 but did not advance very far, however the players have changed. The new administration, the new FCC chairman and a majority of the current commissioners support greater diversity of ownership, and more local radio outlets. In fact, the FCC made clear that the next filing window for low power FM stations of any kind will be for LPFM stations.

The question is what effect will the presence of third adjacent LPFMs have on full-power FMs. What do YOU think?

For continued continued reporting on the bill’s progress, click here to view the Open Congress website’s coverage.

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