IBOC procedures simplified


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Further demonstrating its desire to jump-start the shift to digital broadcasting, the FCC has simplified its procedures for authorizing AM and FM stations to commence in-band, on-channel (IBOC) digital service. Previously, the Commission required licensees planning to operate IBOC systems to first file a request for Special Temporary Authority (STA). However, the Commission has announced that, as of March 20, 2003, licensees may implement IBOC operation without prior authorization, as long as they notify the FCC within 10 days of the commencement of such operation.

The FCC has issued a sample notification letter that contains all the information required to determine if the proposed facilities correspond with the Ibiquity hybrid IBOC system. Specifically, the following information must be provided:

  • The date that interim operation commenced.

  • A certification that the IBOC facilities conform to the Ibiquity hybrid transmission specifications.

  • The name and telephone number of a technical representative the Commission can call in the event of interference.

  • Transmitter power output (note — if separate analog and digital transmitters are used, the power output for each transmitter.)

  • A certification that analog effective radiated power remains as authorized.

  • A certification that the interim operation would not cause human exposure to levels of radio frequency radiation in excess of Section 0.1310 of the rules and is therefore categorically excluded from environmental processing pursuant to Section 1.1306(b). Any station that cannot certify compliance must submit an environmental assessment (EA) pursuant to Section 1.1311 and may not commence interim operation until such EA is ruled on by the Commission.

  • If applicable, any power reduction in an AM station's primary digital carrier.

AM stations can operate their IBOC systems only during daytime hours, and pre-sunset and post-sunset hours if previously authorized to do so.

Electronic renewal forms ready

The Commission has announced that the electronic version of FCC Form 303-S is up and running and must be used for renewal applications due on or after Oct. 1, 2003. Electronic filing of Form 303-S is optional for renewals due June 1 and Aug. 1.

Form 396 (Broadcast EEO Program Report), which must be filed with all renewals, must be filed electronically even by June 1 and August 1 filers.

Recent forfeitures

Tower Fencing Problem

An AM licensee in Alabama argued that he did not need to have a fence around his AM transmitter because part of the property was on swampland and could not be casually accessed. The FCC did not accept this excuse, nor did it believe that the fact that the licensee's brother lived nearby was a deterrent. The FCC noted that on two occasions an FCC agent was able to drive up to the transmitter and touch it. The FCC continues to fine licensees who do not have effective locked enclosures for their antenna structures. The AM licensee was hit with a $7,000 forfeiture.

Former Licensee Escapes

An AM licensee was relieved of his obligation to pay fines after he dismantled his AM towers and sold his station. In deference to claims that its authority over the former licensee had vanished, the FCC cancelled a $12,000 forfeiture.

The licensee was fined $12,000 when an FCC inspector found that the station did not have Antenna Registration Numbers or proper painting for its five towers. After the fines were issued, the licensee sold his station and the towers were dismantled. The FCC cancelled the fines in a brief decision, so brief in fact that it's impossible to say exactly why the Commission decided to cancel the fines — other than the fact that the subject of the fines was no longer a licensee subject to Commission jurisdiction, and the towers themselves no longer existed.


Martin is an attorney with Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, PLC., Arlington, VA. E-mail martin@fhhlaw.com.

Dateline:

Radio stations in DC, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia must file their renewal applications by June 2, 2003.

Stations in the following states must file their biennial ownership reports with the FCC, and place their annual EEO reports in their public files and on their websites, by June 1: Arizona, DC, Idaho, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.




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