Why yes, I have done that and it can be quite entertaining. The FCC has graced our humble presence and apparently cracked down hard on one of those pie-rite types:
The New York Office received information that an unlicensed broadcast radio station on 87.9 MHz was allegedly operating in Poughkeepsie, New York. On January 14, 2016, agents from this office confirmed by direction finding techniques that radio signals on frequency 87.9 MHz were emanating from the basement of El Patron Restaurant, located at 411 Main Street, Poughkeepsie, New York. The Commission’s records show that no license was issued for operation of a broadcast station on 87.9 MHz at this location in Poughkeepsie, New York.
Hot Snot! One down and several to go? What is also interesting is the frequency; 87.9 MHz. That falls outside of the frequency range of the NY State anti-pirate law passed in 2011. That well crafted bit of useless legislation only covers 88-108 MHz.
If you are wondering about the title, it is from the movie “The French Connection:”
This is how I imagine those rough enforcement bureau types interrogating a busted pirate. Well, at least back in the days of Alexander Zimny and Judah Mansbach anyway.
The FCC is stepping up enforcement on pirate radio. They have released an enforcement advisory, which you can read here.
The advisory starts out like this:
WARNING: Unauthorized Radio Broadcasting is Illegal
Persons or Businesses Operating “Pirate” Broadcast Stations
Are in Violation of Federal Law and Subject to Enforcement Action
Okay, so when you stop laughing, here is what will really happen: They will go out, bust a few pirates, issue larger than normal Notices of Apparent Liability, collect none of the money from them and call it a huge success. I doubt very much that the FCC or congress has the wherewithal to wage an all out effort against pirate broadcasting. This is the same FCC that eliminated most of its field enforcement agents and closed most of their field offices. But that doesn’t matter either, because the NYC field office is still open and within a ten mile radius of that, there are likely a dozen or more unlicensed broadcasters.
In the mean time, if you are a licensed broadcaster, God forbid you accidentally miss a Required Monthly Test or have an unlocked tower fence.
It is like the city police force that sits on a stop sign writing tickets to otherwise law abiding motorists when the next block over, kids are out in the street openly selling bricks of heroin. Meanwhile, the chief of police sits in his office furiously typing blistering memos saying that the sale of heroin is illegal.
In an interesting development, the FCC has taken notice of some pattern distortion from the side mounted FM antenna of KFWR, Jacksboro, Texas. For those, like myself, not familiar with Texas Radio, that is in the Dallas/Fort Worth market. The crux of the issue is co-channel interference to KCKL in Malakoff, Texas. These two locations meet the spacing requirements in 73.207 (215 km). The issue is with the side mounted ERI antenna and what appears to be intentional pattern optimization.
From the FCC order to show cause:
ERI’s president, Mr. Thomas Silliman, acknowledging that KFWR’s antenna “was mounted in a favorable direction, but… has not been directionalized and therefore is legal.” Mr. Silliman adds that the custom lambda tower at the top of the new KFWR tower was specifically designed for operation at KFWR’s frequency of 95.9 MHz, and that the tower’s lattice structure is “repetitive at the half wave of the specified FM frequency.” Thus, “if one picks a favorable mounting position on the tower, every element in the array sees the same favorable mounting result. Mr. Silliman also states that vertical parasitic elements are used to make the vertical radiation pattern “more circular” and reduce the vertically polarized gain to the east. In a subsequent pleading, ERI elaborates that its computed values “are relative to an RMS measured field of 1.0.” Mr. Silliman concedes that the mounting of the antenna on a certain tower face constitutes “pattern optimization,”arguing later that this is a common practice used by all antenna manufacturers, but states that it is the ERI’s policy “not [to] increase the directivity of the antenna pattern.”
The FCC concludes that the directionality of the side mounted antenna, in this case, is clearly intentional. The radiated power towards co-channel KCKL was calculated to be 274.5 KW, which is in excess of the 100 KW limit and orders KFWR to reduced TPO from 25 KW to 9.1 KW.
We have lots of these out in the field:
Side-mounted Shively 6810 antenna. WSPK, Mount Beacon, NY
In fact, I believe the majority of our FM stations use side mounted antennas. Some of them are mounted to a leg and some are mounted to a face. Usually, I try to place the antenna on the tower so that the bays are facing the desired audience. This information is given to the manufacture when ordering the antenna so that proper mounts can be furnished and the mounting distance between the tower and antenna properly calculated. That is about the extent of any “optimization” that is allowed.
As the FM band gets jam packed with FM signals, this may become more of an issue in the future, particularly around dense signal areas around major metropolitan areas.
FCC rules stipulate that when a station is operating at a variance from its licensed parameters for more than 10 days, Special Temporary Authority (STA) is required. The reasons for requesting an STA are varied but could include things like:
Damaged transmission equipment
Loss of transmitter site or building use
Loss of tower
Facilities upgrade or renovation
The loss of transmission tower at WUPE-FM falls into one of those broad categories. Thus, we have filed a STA with the FCC for temporary transmission facilities while a new tower is being constructed. Since the old tower is completely lost, we specified a new tower location, new height above average terrain (HAAT), new ERP and environmental certification. To gather that information, several steps were needed:
Obtain new tower location. This was done with a GPS receiver and verified on itouchmap.com. Once the NAD83 position was obtained, it needed to be converted to NAD27 for the FCC filing. The FCC has a conversion tool on their website.
HAAT calculation is fairly simple, use the HAAT calculator tool on the FCC website. For this, the antenna radiation center height Above Mean Sea Level (AMSL) is needed. Using a topographical map, find the ground level AMSL, convert it to meters, then add the radiation center height above ground level (AGL).
The Effective Radiated Power (ERP) calculation is also simple; Transmitter Power Output (TPO) minus system losses (transmission line and antenna gain). It is easiest to do this in dBm, e.g. convert the TPO from Watts to dBm, then add or subtract the gain or losses in dB, convert the final product back to Watts.
The environmental statement is slightly more tricky. Basically, the filer is certifying that the STA complies with all environmental regulations including OET-65 (RF exposure limits). Since the temporary antenna is significantly lower than the original, some investigation is required. For this, there are two methods to demonstrate compliance; ground measurements with a NARDA meter, or RFR worksheets which are a part of the broadcast station renewal form, FCC-303s.
I have taken the RF worksheet sections out of the 303s and separated them into the FM RF Worksheet and the AM RF Worksheet. These worksheets are not effective for large tower farm type sites where there are too many variables and RF contributors to be accounted for. The calculations on the worksheets are not conclusive, however, if the facility in question falls under the limits, it is generally accepted as being in compliance. Taking ground measurements with a NARDA meter is the definitive method for determining RFR compliance. Since this is a relatively simple site, the worksheet calculations should be sufficient.
The worksheet calculations show that the RFR is with in both the controlled occupations limits and the uncontrolled general population limits.
WUPE-FM temporary antenna RFR worksheet
The position of the new temporary pole verified on itouchmap.com:
It is never good to be operating at a varience from licensed parameters without notification of the FCC. Such things could lead to fine or other problems for the broadcaster.
I have been reading the comments regarding the FCC’s NPRM (13-249). Clearly, many people are interested in keeping the AM broadcasting band both active and relevant. Some of these suggestions have merit, but are unlikely to be adopted by the FCC. Others are viable and could alleviate at least a few of the technical shortcomings of the AM band. The rest fall along expected positions. Here is a brief rundown:
Clear Channel, iBiquity: Allow stations to transmit in all digital mode. Likelihood: Possible. The hybrid version of AM HD Radio has been a failure on several fronts; added interference to adjacent channels, self interference, poor adoption, wonky CODECs, etc. However, letting stations choose to broadcast in all digital AM HD Radio may decide the issue once and for all. As long as the all digital carriers fall within the current analog channels, this would be fine. Actually, I would add that station transmitting in all digital be allowed to choose DRM as well as HD Radio
REC Networks, MMTC: Move AM stations to former TV channels 5 and 6. Likelihood: Unlikely. It would be a neat solution, however, there are currently many full and low power TV stations still using those frequencies.
Clear Channel, SBE, MMTC, Crawford, et al: Allow AM stations a special translator filing window. Likelihood: Almost assured. This has been broached by the FCC itself. I would add that Class D and Class C stations be given priority.
SBE, du trial, Lundin and Rackely, MMTC et. al: Remove the “ratchet rule,” reduce antenna efficiency requirements and city of license contour requirements. Likelihood: probable. Over the years, the FCC’s rules and regulations designed to help AM broadcasting’s technical product have done the opposite in many cases. This is especially true of the “ratchet rule.”
SBE, du Trial, Lundin and Rackely, MMTC: MDCL (Modulation Depended Carrier Level) Likelihood: Possible. MDCL does not do much to improve AM signal quality, but it can save the station owner some money on the electricity bill.
Alabama Broadcaster’s Association, et al: Better FCC enforcement. Likelihood: Not very. This is another area were interference and AM noise problems can be fixed. Given Ajit Pai’s desire for “non-regulatory” relief, stepped up enforcement seems to be a non-starter.
Hatfield and Dawson: Eliminate substandard AM stations. Likelihood: Not very. Getting rid of substandard stations and let the remaining AM stations enjoy a little breathing room is actually a big step in the right direction. H&D notes that the FCC should petition congress for tax relief for those stations that choose to surrender their licenses. Unfortunately, it does not appear likely that the FCC, congress and the current station owners would go for it.
du Treil, Lundin and Rackely: Do away with skywave protection for class A stations Likelihood: Possible. The argument goes; skywave listening represents a very small number of mostly hobbyists (AM DXers) as other, better methods for program distribution exist for serious listeners. Sad but true.
du Treil, Lundin and Rackely: No more new AM stations. Likelihood: Possible. There is a cogent argument to be made regarding the overcrowding of the AM band. Stopping any further crowding is a good idea.
SBE, Cohen, Dippell and Everist, et al: Tighten regulations on electrical noise emitters. Likelihood: Unlikely. The FCC does not have the mettle to tighten regulations against powerful manufacturing and technology lobbies.
iBiquity: Do not let anything get in the way of the HD Radio rollout. Likelihood: Is it possible to get in the way of something that is standing still?
Talking amongst engineers and AM broadcasters, many of these ideas have merit. The real question is, will any of this bring more listeners?
By Paul Thurst, on September 30th, 2013 3 comments
In the putsch to revitalize AM, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai advises that it would be best if we did not argue about solutions. Actually what was said was this:
On the other hand, if too many broadcasters allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good, our efforts could be doomed by infighting.
That is well and good, so long as the proposed solution does not make things worse. I would posit that worse is already the enemy of the good, so any proposal that would make things worse should be protested vigorously.
I have written quite a bit about AM, its relevance and possible revitalization. There is no one sized fits all solution to the problems facing AM broadcasters. In the final equation, stations should be judged on their viability as a business and service to the community. Those that fail to measure up should turn in their licenses.
Update: And so it begins. The narrative is already being shaped, as Darryl Parks (original post has been removed) has found out. After posting in his blog a few comments on the FCC’s revitalization efforts, he was excoriated by several high profile broadcasters calling his comments “Beyond not helpful.” For those not versed in double speak, that means it is harmful. While Parks may not have gotten all the technical jargon exactly right, his points are valid and are in agreement with the widely accepted laws of physics. I know, I know, quoting science is dull and boring, something that conspiracy theorists are well practiced with.
By Paul Thurst, on September 19th, 2013 5 comments
I am wondering what is going on with the HD Radio roll out these days. Particularly the all digital AM conversion scheme being bantered about so often last spring. Not much is being discussed publicly about that or the AM revitalization. I have found FCC Commissioner Clyburn’s remarks at this week’s NAB Confab interesting. HD Radio is paid lip service here:
There are hurdles: if broadcasters do not broadly embrace the HD technology and the multicasting and other enhancements that it makes possible, listeners will have few incentives to buy digital receivers. Likewise, if no consumers own digital receivers, then there is no reason to broadcast in digital.
But I’m not worried. More than 15 million digital receivers have been sold so far, and that number will only rise. Thirty-three auto manufacturers include or plan to include digital receivers in their cars, and those receivers are standard equipment in over 80 models. This will dramatically increase the number of digital receivers in the coming years.
But in the solutions for AM broadcasters, HD Radio is not mentioned at all. What is put forward as a six (actually five) step plan to revitalize AM radio turns out to be some rearranging of the deck chairs and little more. Cliff notes version for the FCC’s AM revitalization:
Open a one time filing window for AM license holders to acquire an FM translator
Relaxing community coverage rules for AM licensing allowing greater flexibility for transmitter siting
Eliminating the “Ratchet Rule” used in night time allocation studies for new facilities
Permitting more widespread use of MCDL technologies by eliminating STA requirements
Reducing minimum field strength requirements by twenty five percent allowing the use of shorter towers
While those options may save an AM license holder some money, none of them do anything to improve the technical quality of AM broadcasting. Several of them (#2, 4 and 5) will, in fact if widely implemented, reduce signal levels over cities of license, making electrical noise and interference problems more prevalent. This is a step in the wrong direction.
These points are basically a rehash of some to the MMTC’s (Minority Media Telecommunication Council) ideas for a radio rescue first bantered about in 2009.
This demonstrates that the NAB and the FCC are not at all serious about revitalizing the AM band but merely marking time and making it look good until the final transmitter is switched off.
AM licensees are on their own, but all is not lost. I have noticed several successful stand alone AM station that are not only surviving but thriving. The common thread in these station is good local programming. On the technical side of things; a well maintained plant with good quality audio feeding a properly operating transmitter and antenna array will go a long way to providing good service to the city of license.
The Massachusetts house is considering a bill to outlaw unauthorized transmission in the AM and FM broadcast band. The bill, H.1679 is included here for your reading pleasure:
SECTION 1: The General Laws, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after chapter 93I, the following chapter:-
Chapter 93J. UNAUTHORIZED RADIO TELECOMMUNICATION
Section 1. As used in this chapter the following words shall, unless the context clearly requires otherwise, have the following meanings:—
“Emission”, radiation produced, or the production of radiation, by a radio transmitting station.
“License”, a radio frequency assigned by the Federal Communications Commission for use by amplitude modulation (AM) radio stations between the frequencies of five hundred thirty kilohertz (kHz) to seventeen hundred kilohertz (kHz), or frequency modulation (FM) radio stations between the frequencies of eighty-eight megahertz (MHz) to one hundred eight megahertz (MHz).
“Person”, a natural person, corporation, association, partnership or other legal entity.
“Radio telecommunication”, any transmission, emission or reception of signals and sounds or intelligence of any nature by wire, radio, optical or other electromagnetic systems
Section 2. Any unauthorized radio telecommunication or emission to, or interference with, a public or commercial radio station licensed by the Federal Communications Commission are prohibited.
No person shall (a) make, or cause to be made, a radio telecommunication in the Commonwealth unless the person obtains a license or an exemption from licensure from the Federal Communications Commission under 47 U.S.C. s. 301, 47 U.S.C., s. 605, or other applicable federal law or regulation; or (b) do any act, whether direct or indirect, to cause an unlicensed radio telecommunication to, or inference with, a public or commercial radio station licensed by the Federal Communications Commission or to enable the radio telecommunication or interference to occur.
Section 3. The attorney general may bring an action pursuant to section 4 of chapter 93A against a person or otherwise to remedy violations of this chapter and for other relief that may be appropriate.
Section 4. A person may assert a claim under this section in superior court, whether by way of original complaint, counterclaim, cross-claim or third-party action, for money damages, injunctive relief, and forfeiture of any property used in violation of this section. Said damages may include double or treble damages and attorneys’ fees and costs.
No forfeiture under this section shall extinguish a perfected security interest held by a creditor in a conveyance or in any real property or in any personal property at the time of the filing of the forfeiture action. Said forfeiture action shall be commenced in superior court.
This legislation is slightly different from the anti-pirate laws in NY and Florida as it appears the unauthorized operators would be liable for civil and not criminal penalties. That is an interesting twist; potentially, a commercial broadcaster could sue an interfering pirate operator for loss of revenue, etc. At least that is my interpretation of the above text and as I am not an attorney, I could be wrong.
It is also interesting to me that very few pirate operators in NY have actually faced a non-FCC law enforcement agency as of yet. I have heard about only one, which was in NYC. Is the criminalization of unauthorized broadcaster really affective in curbing pirates? A quick tune around the NYC FM dial says no. There are more pirates than ever and the NYPD seems to be too busy with other issues to go after them.
Alternative title: Who will really benefit from all digital AM HD Radio™?
Remember when, at license renewal time, radio and TV stations played this announcement:
On (date of the last renewal grant), (station’s call letters) was granted a license by the Federal Communications Commission to serve the public interest as a public trustee until (license expiration date)…
There seems to be a disassociation between those words and the actions of certain broadcasters who view their licenses as a matter of fact and have little regard for the public interest. The FCC exacerbates the situation with the attitude that everything, including the entire radio frequency spectrum, is for sale to the highest bidder. John Anderson (DIY Media) has a great article on how big business interests game federal regulators into doing what they want. This happens in all sectors; banking, agriculture, energy, health care, media, military and so on. There are many examples of shoddy regulators and big business gone wild over the last ten years to fully prove this theory. If you don’t believe me, do a little research. There is no reason to think that the FCC is different from any other federal regulatory agency.
The vast majority of mass media outlets in the US are owned by just six major corporations (see below). Radio remains the only piece of the mass media system that has not been completely rolled up in consolidation. Currently, there is a small number corporate radio owners who own a combined ~2,300 stations and one public broadcasting network that accounts for another ~900 stations. I include public radio here because the majority of those station’s upgrades were footed by the taxpayer though grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. That leaves a majority of the approximately 8,500 radio stations that are still owned by a diversified collection of medium and small groups and individuals.
Forcing radio stations to adopt the proprietary, all digital HD Radio™ as the broadcasting standard would, in effect, drive many of those small owners and individuals out of business because of the exorbitant costs for equipment upgrades, antenna modifications, and licensing fees. This would create a new wave of consolidation as smaller groups and single station owners sold out. Any remaining small station owners will not have the legal wherewithal to fight against the coming waves of digital interference on both the AM (medium frequency) and FM (VHF) bands.
Therefore, the short answer to the question; who benefits from an all conversion to all digital HD Radio™ is iBquity and its investors, many of whom are found in the list of consolidated media corporations below. Who looses? Just about everyone else; small and medium group owners, independent radio owners, listeners, communities of license, radio employees, advertisers etc. For those sitting on the fence, thinking “I’ll just do my job any everything will be just fine.” Full implementation of HD Radio™ will destroy what is left of broadcasting in this country. Radio is already on shaky ground as a result of product dilution, staff cuts, mediocre programing and competing media systems. One more step backward, such as adopting a technically flawed digital system that works worse than its analog counterpart, and the remaining listeners may just say “screw this,” and abandon radio altogether. When the last radio station is turned off, what do you think will happen to your job then?
At the big NAB Las Vegas confab, FCC commissioner Ajit Pai and to a lesser extent, Commissioner Rosenworcel, encouraged people to write or email them with their ideas on how to revitalize AM radio. I suggest we take advantage of that invitation and tell them what HD Radio™ really is. There is a shrinking window of opportunity to join the discourse and be heard, now is the time.
Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. ~John Stuart Mill
What is at stake? The future of diversified media and radio broadcasting in the US.
Sidebar: Mass Media Consolidation
Can the public trust a mass media that is owned mostly by six mega corporations to honestly and without bias report news, current events, investigate corruption, and be a government watch dog? History says no.
Who owns the media?
Home Box Office (HBO)
Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
CW Network (partial ownership)
New Line Cinema
Time Warner Cable (spun off in 2009)
ABC Television Network (8 stations owned, 200 affiliates)
Radio Disney (31 stations, 2 affiliates)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Buena Vista Theatrical Productions
Buena Vista Records
Walt Disney Pictures
Pixar Animation Studios
Buena Vista Games
Paramount Home Entertainment
Black Entertainment Television (BET)
Country Music Television (CMT)
Nick at Nite
The Movie Channel
Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Fox Television Stations (25 stations)
The New York Post
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Fox Business Network
Fox Kids Europe
Fox News Channel
Fox News Radio
Fox Sports Net
Fox Television Network (175 affiliates)
My Network TV
News Limited News
Phoenix InfoNews Channel
Phoenix Movies Channel
STAR TV India
STAR TV Taiwan
Times Higher Education Supplement Magazine
Times Literary Supplement Magazine
Times of London
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
20th Century Fox International
20th Century Fox Studios
20th Century Fox Television
The Wall Street Journal
Fox Broadcasting Company
Fox Interactive Media
The National Geographic Channel
National Rugby League
Sky Radio Denmark
Sky Radio Germany
Sky Radio Netherlands
CBS Television Network (16 stations owned, 200 affiliates)
CBS Radio Inc. (130 stations)
CBS Consumer Products
CW Network (50% ownership)
Simon & Schuster (Pocket Books, Scribner)
NBC Television Network (10 stations owned, 200 affiliates)
Congress, is yet again contemplating a cyber security bill, this time called CISPA. This one has some worrisome privacy implications for the general internet user. I recall, not too long ago, another such measure called SOPA/PIPA which created a huge uproar and was voted down. For Congress and its corporate sponsors, this development was just a slight inconvenience when applying the “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” legislative method.
Not mentioned in this particular bill is the internet kill switch, which exists now in one form or another, and the unofficial back doors into operating systems and routers. Those things are in place but their use is not codified. The internet can be monitored, user data can be stored indefinitely and it can be restricted or switched off at a moments notice. That is the reality of the world we live in.
This is why a vibrant, independent radio broadcasting medium is important. After doing some numbers crunching over the weekend, I came upon some pretty interesting data points:
Large and medium large (over 30 stations) group owners account for approximately 2,300 AM and FM stations
NPR affiliated stations number about 900
There are 4,736 AM, 6,603 commercial FM, 3,917 educational FM and 802 low power FM stations licensed as of March 31, 2013.
There are 77 AM and 178 FM (not counting translators) stations known to be silent
Therefore, approximately 3,200 of the 15,803 stations on the air are controlled by major corporate interests or media conglomerates, the remaining stations are owned by medium small groups (less than 30 stations) or individuals. Those figures create an interesting situation when discussing the future of radio. What does the majority of owners and listeners want? Ask the market.
A pessimist sees the glass as half empty. An optimist sees the glass as half full. The engineer sees the glass as twice the size it needs to be.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
~1st amendment to the United States Constitution
Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers
~Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, Article 19
...radio was discovered, and not invented, and that these frequencies and principles were always in existence long before man was aware of them. Therefore, no one owns them. They are there as free as sunlight, which is a higher frequency form of the same energy.