FCC may help daytime AM stations


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In addition to the previously-reported proceeding looking toward allowing AM stations (including daytimers) to rebroadcast on FM translators, the FCC received comments in August on a petition for rulemaking that proposes a number of improvements to the post-sunset service rules on the AM side.

The petitioner, a broadcast consulting engineer in New Jersey, argues that the current post-sunset rules lag behind the technical advances made in AM since the rules were last updated in 1992. Operating with the greatest allowable power during post-sunset hours is of utmost importance to AM broadcasters because drive-time hours are after sunset — when many stations are off the air for much of the year — are vital for economic survival. The petitioner contends that his proposed changes would allow AM broadcasters to increase their coverage without causing any additional risk of interference. The proposals include the following:

  • Eliminate the 500W nighttime power limit on PSSA currently contained in Section 73.99 of the rules and permit higher-power operation as long as such operation would not cause interference. According to the petition, computer models are now better able to predict interference at these levels than in 1992 when the rules were issued.

  • Make all Class B and D AM stations eligible for extended-hours service — again, as long as such operation would not cause any interference.

  • Require more accurate contour mapping of Class A stations than was available in 1992. More accurate mapping of these stations' contours would allow other stations to operate without interference to the Class A station's actual coverage area.

  • Give stations flexibility in choosing which antenna or combination of antennas to use for expanded-hours service. The proposal would allow for the use of the daytime, nighttime, critical hours and/or auxiliary antennas.

  • Require that all interference calculations, including expanded nighttime service, use the formula set out in Section 73.182 of the rules currently used for allocating AM service.

It is unclear whether any of these proposals will be adopted because their technical feasibility is unknown at this point. The value of the petition is that it will focus attention on the problems of AM daytime stations at a time when the FCC is more concerned with the DTV transition, media ownership limits and the upcoming wireless auction than on radio or AM technical issues. Hopefully, the proposals included in the petition will be considered, and some of them adopted. As is often the case when the FCC seeks comment of a series of proposals, other new and useful proposals emerge which have as much or more appeal as the original ones. No one disagrees that if relief for AM daytimers can be found in a re-evaluation of the technical bases of the current post-sunset authorization scheme, as the petitioner suggests, the FCC should take whatever action makes sense from a technical standpoint.


Dateline

On or before December 3, radio stations in the following states must file their 2007 biennial ownership reports with the FCC: Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island.

On or before December 3, radio stations in the following states must place their annual EEO reports in their public files and place them on their websites: Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Rhode Island.

Also on or before December 3, radio stations in Georgia and Alabama with 11 or more full-time employees must file a Broadcast Mid-Term EEO Report with the FCC using FCC Form 397 and attach their two most recent annual EEO public file reports.


Martin is a past president of the Federal Communications Bar Association and a member of Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, Arlington, VA. E-mail martin@fhhlaw.com.




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