FCC On Track to Meet/Beat Enforcement Record

As the graph to the right shows, the agency’s Enforcement Bureau is well on pace to meet or exceed last year’s record-breaking enforcement action effort.
eadbyyearLooking more closely at the data, one can see how FCC field agents are escalating the initial levels of the enforcement protocol much more quickly now (for example, the New York field office has cut the time between visit to warning letter down to as little as eight days). Continue reading “FCC On Track to Meet/Beat Enforcement Record”

Attorney General Nominee No Friend of Pirates

Recently, former federal judge Michael Mukasey was nominated to be the next Attorney General of the United States. There’s lots of punditry going on within the mainstream media about his past legal leanings (surprise, they’re reactionary!), but Mukasey’s also been involved in microradio case law to a degree not experienced by any other contemporary Attorney General. It was back in 1998, when the Steal This Radio collective preemptively sued the Federal Communications Commission in hopes of stopping a station raid or other major, life-threatening enforcement action.
STR’s lawsuit was not the most well-thought-out piece of legal argument. It took a shotgun approach to the FCC’s licensing authority: some claims alleged the Communications Act itself was unconstitutional because it gave the FCC excessive latitude to restrict access to the airwaves via the licensing mechanism; one claim specifically attacked the practice of auctioning off commercial radio licenses for limiting “free expression” only to those who can afford it. Another posited the radio spectrum as a public forum, which necessitated the strictest scrutiny of government attempts to regulate it; under such analysis, the broadcast licensing regime was overly restrictive and therefore also unconstitutional. Continue reading “Attorney General Nominee No Friend of Pirates”

Alternatives to HD Radio

Believe it or not, “HD Radio” is not the only digital audio broadcast system in the world. Alternatives do exist: one of the most promising is Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) (which should not be confused with “digital rights management,” a whole other (evil) animal), which has been jointly developed and deployed by some 30 countries around the world. It’s an open-source standard, which has the potential to operate on either new or incumbent spectrum, and contains the potential to practically advance the service terrestrial broadcasting provides; it is not just a “better than analog” standard, featuring chimerical vaporware such as “buy buttons” for the download of digital music – services for which radio was not initially designed.
At present, while Digital Radio Mondiale is gaining traction around the world, it’s all but been ruled out as a potential alternative to HD Radio in the United States, though that may be changing. A coalition of spectrum experts has been formed to advance the notion that broadcasters should be afforded the choice of picking between HD and DRM. As of now, this advocacy is restricted toward the possible deployment of Digital Radio Mondiale on the shortwave and AM bands only; although an FM version of the technology is under development, HD’s relatively slow but steady adoption by U.S. FM broadcasters may make it a tough sell in the marketplace (even though some transmitter manufacturers are making dual-compatible HD/DRM transmitters, and there’s no reason why receiver manufacturers couldn’t follow suit). Continue reading “Alternatives to HD Radio”

FCC Now Taking Pirate Complaints Online

In a message circulated exclusively within the broadcast industry this week, the Federal Communications Commission has unveiled an online pirate radio snitch/complaint form.
The page, nestled within the Enforcement Bureau section of the FCC’s website (though not yet linked publicly, as it’s currently in “beta test”), requests information on the station’s name, address, operating frequency, dates/times of operation, and whether or not the station has an online presence (MySpace page, blog, etc.). This information, once submitted, “will be automatically forwarded to the closest Field Enforcement Office” for further investigation.
This is a development with mixed consequences. On the one hand, it makes the complaint process much simpler for licensed broadcasters, who used to have to navigate somewhat complicated bureaucratic channels in order to make sure their concerns were heard. Thus, one might expect the number of complaints filed against pirates to rise. It certainly has taken the FCC long enough to harness the power of the Internets to help do its job. Continue reading “FCC Now Taking Pirate Complaints Online”

Boston Pirate Tickles FAA Frequency

The story, of course, makes national news because it feeds into the industry-foisted myth that pirate radio has the potential to make airliners fall from the sky. Buried within the copy is the admission, however, that the affected channel at Boston’s Logan International Airport prevented “air traffic controllers from communicating with private aircraft, but not commercial airlines, on the frequency published to all pilots” [emphasis mine]. A follow-up story also notes that the dirty pirate station is but one of about a dozen known to broadcast regularly in the Boston metropolitan area, none of which are reported to interfere with anything. Continue reading “Boston Pirate Tickles FAA Frequency”

Settlement Reached in Calvary Satellite Network Split

The parties in the nasty power-struggle over control of the multimillion-dollar Calvary Satellite Network have come to a settlement agreement.
In a nutshell, the “Idaho faction” (Mike Kestler et al.) walks away with close to half the full-power FM stations in the CSN inventory and the overwhelming majority of translator stations (400+). The “California faction” (Chuck & Jeff Smith et al.) retains control of 29 full-power stations and just two translators, as well as most of those currently wending their way through the application- and construction-approval process at the FCC (with whom a copy of this settlement agreement has already been filed). The Idaho faction will make a symbolic payment of $200,000 to the California faction for the media empire it’s wangled out of the deal, as well as bear the costs of doing the necessary FCC paperwork to formalize this schism. Continue reading “Settlement Reached in Calvary Satellite Network Split”

Full-Power FM Filing Window Imminent; FCC in Chicago

Next month, the FCC will open a long-awaited filing window for applicants for new non-commercial FM radio stations. The FCC is currently considering placing certain parameters/limitations on how many stations a single entity can apply for – possibly in hopes of avoiding the flood of mass-applications for FM translator stations filed by greedy godcasters in 2003.
At present, the FCC is considering capping the number of full-power FM stations a single entity can apply for at 10, but it’s waffling under pressure from some incumbent broadcasters, like the aforementioned godcasters and some public broadcast outfits. Continue reading “Full-Power FM Filing Window Imminent; FCC in Chicago”