FCC Does Media Ownership Redux

On June 28 the FCC voted to restart its project to revise its media ownership rules. The formal Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to begin this process was released last week. The agency last tried to do this in 2003, but most of its proposed changes were blocked by court order in 2004.
The last time around was a near-disaster. Then-chairman Mikey Powell tried to ram through a christmas-load of changes that would have let large media conglomerates get much larger. The FCC tried to use hopelessly biased “research” to justify industry moguls’ wet dreams. Millions of people cried foul on the scheme, and it still took the courts to stop it. Continue reading “FCC Does Media Ownership Redux”

NAB Seeks FM Translator-Grab for AM Stations

A very intriguing Petition for Rulemaking was recently filed by the National Association of Broadcasters. It asks the FCC to let the owners of AM stations apply for FM translators, so that they may rebroadcast their AM signals to provide better service, especially at night, when many AM stations must operate at reduced power or go off the air completely. NAB believes the FCC needs to give a much-needed “boost” to the lot of these beleaguered stations.
The FCC has considered and rejected this very notion twice in the last 25 years, but NAB thinks the third time is the charm because of new sources of interference to the AM band. What new sources? Computers and traffic signals are mentioned, but a footnote otherwise plugging digital radio casually drops the comment that AM broadcasters are “encountering ever more interference problems as a result of an increase in ambient noise.” Continue reading “NAB Seeks FM Translator-Grab for AM Stations”

Cable-via-DTV Company Goes Bankrupt

This month U.S. Digital Television filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. USDTV used digital television spectrum to broadcast a dozen encrypted basic cable channels at a price designed to undercut basic cable package rates. Subscribers used a set-top box descrambler to watch.
The company got some startup funds from Fox and the Hearst-Argyle station chain, but it wasn’t enough to grow the business to anywhere near a sustainable subscriber base. So after a run in just four cities, reaching an average of about 4,000 subscribers per city, USDTV is looking for an angel, or at eventual liquidation. Continue reading “Cable-via-DTV Company Goes Bankrupt”

Translator-Traffickers Mint Another Million

Since 2003, the unscrupulous folks at Radio Assist Ministry/Edgewater Broadcasting/World Radio Link have sold hundreds of FM translator station construction permits scarfed up in a questionable fashion to mostly-religious broadcasters looking to establish or extend turnkey radio networks on the cheap.
Horizon Christian Fellowship was one of RAM/EB/WRL’s biggest early clients. It bought 20 FM translator construction permits along the West Coast from Radio Assist and Edgewater in a series of deals worth $219,000 in early 2004. Horizon has loose ties to the Calvary Chapel fellowship of churches, and many Calvary Chapels are well-known for their abuse of FM spectrum. Horizon, like Calvary, grew from a single church in California to a network of churches throughout the U.S., Mexico, Japan, and Russia. Continue reading “Translator-Traffickers Mint Another Million”

Sirius Confesses to Power-Jacking Transceivers

Sirius Satellite Radio also filed a document with the SEC this week with regard to overpowered satellite-to-FM transceivers and its role in developing and marketing them. Check this:
[C]ertain Sirius personnel requested manufacturers to produce Sirius radios that were not consistent with the FCC’s rules. As a result of this review, we are taking significant steps to ensure that this situation does not happen again…. Continue reading “Sirius Confesses to Power-Jacking Transceivers”

XM, Sirius Pull Pirate Transceivers

So it would appear that various models of mobile satellite radio receivers are indeed little pirate stations that can intermittently and over short ranges jam other FM radio stations as their owner/listeners drive around. A Securities and Exchange Commission filing made by XM this week discloses that XM and at least one receiver manufacturer have been contacted by the FCC about bringing certain models of mobile satellite receiver “into compliance” with “FCC emission standards.”
Aftermarket, add-on mobile receivers contain small FM transmitters that take the satellite signal and relay it to a car stereo tuned to a certain FM frequency. Similar kits are available to allow people to listen to other audio devices on the road. The National Association of Broadcasters says some models of these transceivers contain FM transmitters that are too powerful, and thus technically require licenses to operate. Interestingly, the NAB report suggests some of these devices may also interfere with the reception of digital “HD” radio signals, since these, in the words of its report, occupy
“vacant” adjacent channels, it is likely that these are the exact channels a user would choose upon which to operate one of these devices. To the user, the “noise” like HD Radio carrier appears to be a vacant channel. However, with the wide modulation capability and strong signal levels emitted by these devices, it is likely that significant interference to the much lower power HD Radio signals would be caused. Continue reading “XM, Sirius Pull Pirate Transceivers”

Microradio's Second Wave

The FCC has now conducted more enforcement actions against unlicensed AM and FM stations in the first half of 2006 than it did in the entirety of 2005, which broke all previous records for cat-and-mouse action. However, this milestone was reached by a bit of paperwork puffery on the part of the FCC. For example, as field agents hunted recent activity on San Francisco Liberation Radio‘s old frequency (93.7), they sent warning letters to two people and the owner/manager of the building they apparently live in. In the recent past, tagging one would have sufficed.
This year the FCC also broke its drought of issuing forfeiture (fine) notices to pirate stations. Four people have been presented with $10,000 government invoices so far this year, compared with none in 2005. Each case took at least a year to reach that level of escalation, and based on the FCC’s prior collection history, it will be lucky if it actually sees dough from half of them. Continue reading “Microradio's Second Wave”

FCC Punts on HD Rulemaking

Thursday’s Commission meeting was delayed by five hours; during the delay the agency revised the meeting agenda, announcing that the digital radio item had been pulled. No reason given, except, “it isn’t done.” One could say the same about the HD Radio protocol itself, but that’s not stopping radio’s major players from shoving it onto the air.
In related news: how much fresh content does digital radio multicasting really offer? Most HD-R side-channels run what is called a “hard clock,” meaning a set playlist with few or no updates. According to Mark Lapidus, “When they [reviewers of HD radio receivers] don’t discover the repetition, I figure that they just really haven’t listened very much. However, real listeners will catch on quickly as they hear the same song at the same time every day.” What kind of content diversity does one expect when the largest provider of HD multicast programming is Clear Channel?

FCC to Further Rubber-Stamp IBOC/HD Radio

The Federal Communications Commission’s monthly meeting goes down on Thursday, and the second-to-last item on its agenda is the adoption of a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the certification of “HD Radio,” the digital audio broadcast technology of-choice for the U.S. radio industry.
Though the HD Radio system has not yet been formally certified, a relatively vigorous campaign is underway to deploy it. Rush deployment before formal certification of a technology results in what is called “the creation of facts on the ground,” demonstrating the technology’s functionality and increasing the pressure on its regulator to approve its usage (since it’s already out in the wild, failing to certify it puts the regulator in the position of nullifying billions of dollars of investment). Continue reading “FCC to Further Rubber-Stamp IBOC/HD Radio”

BusRadio Gets Deceptive

The ethically-deficient crew behind BusRadio, looking to take the captive marketing of kids in school “to the next level,” have now put the most damaging of its marketing materials behind a “members-only” firewall. This after a slew of unfriendly press exploring its business model, which is to pipe advertisements for sponsors into school buses. Though BusRadio’s hyped its launch in a few Massachusetts school districts this fall, one has already backed out following parental backlash.
Queries to busradio.com now display a splash page, and access to busradio.net requires a username and password combination. It is extremely difficult to obtain a combination via the sign-up form (more than 85% of all requests are rejected). This content is apparently restricted to “sponsors” (read: ad clients). However, busradio.org is now chock full of information that heralds BusRadio’s efficacy at keeping kids quiet and in their seats. Continue reading “BusRadio Gets Deceptive”