Paper Tiger Apes Big Bad Wolf

The FCC’s taking a cue from the Three Little Pigs, huffing and puffing about the work it’s doing to combat the “problem” of pirate radio. Just in time for the National Association of Broadcasters’ annual Radio Show in Austin, the FCC’s gone on an enforcement spree of sorts over the last month or two.

With 158 enforcement actions on the books at the end of August, the agency is now on pace to meet or exceed the number of actions it took against unlicensed stations in 2016. For the eight years we’ve experienced of this decade so far, 2017’s enforcement-trajectory seems on target to rank as third or fourth-busiest.

States visited by the FCC hunting radio pirates, 2017Field agents have traveled far beyond the most popularly-recognized East Coast “hotspots” this summer. Arkansas gets on the board for the first time in the history of our Enforcement Action Database, while the closure of the Seattle FCC field office made it San Francisco and Los Angeles-based agents’ responsibility to visit Alaska in pursuit of a Baptist church – the first time since 2013 that the FCC’s made waves there. (Alaska is the 36th most active U.S. state/territory for pirate radio, just behind FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s home state of Kansas.) Read More

Now They Tell Us: FCC, Congress Rethinking Enforcement Drawdown?

Radio World revealed earlier this month that the acting chief of the Enforcement Bureau, Michael Carowitz, held a videoconference with members of the Bureau’s field-agent staff. The call revealed that the FCC’s downsizing of its enforcement resources has begun, with 11 field offices closed over the last several months (Anchorage, AK; Buffalo, NY; Detroit, MI; Houston, TX; Kansas City, MO; Norfolk, VA; Philadelphia, PA; San Diego, CA; Seattle, WA; Tampa, FL; and San Juan, PR) and 14 remaining open.

At present, that leaves just 34 field agents covering the entire country – this includes one of two roving “Tiger Teams” of agents organized to backstop the decimated staff in-residence. That’s almost a cut of half from the prior force of 60 that spanned the nation. It’s also important to keep in mind that these agents are responsible for enforcing all FCC regulations, not just the broadcast license requirement. Read More

Digital Radio Mondiale Tests Underway in Alaska

According to my pal Bennett Kobb, limited tests of the DRM broadcast protocol are now taking place on a station in Alaska specifically licensed for the research. It is important to note, however, that the tests do not involve the broadcast bands – although Digital Radio Mondiale has been certified to work on them all.

Instead, the ultimate hope of these DRM tests is to assess the protocol’s performance in the 26 MHz segment of the spectrum. This falls between frequencies designated for radio astronomy and maritime mobile use – and, according to the experiment’s proponents, could be utilized to provide “hundreds” of new, low-power community-based broadcasting stations across the country. Read More

More Corporate Piracy: FCC Takes 9, Leaves 6

As June slips away I want to highlight a few other interesting FCC happenings that got crowded off the radar by the hoopla and its reverberations this month. The rest of the loose ends will follow later in the week.

First up is FCC administrative law judge Richard L. Sippel’s June 19 decision to revoke two licenses for FM stations owned by Peninsula Communications in Alaska. This case has been wending its way through the agency for several years and involves the company’s creation of a seven-station translator network, which it had been operating in violation of the FCC’s translator rules since 1994. A $140,000 fine (collection pending) and one federal court injunction later, Peninsula finally silenced the stations last August. The seven translators were fed by two full-power stations; in addition to those Peninsula also owns one AM station, one FM station, and an additional four FM translators. Read More

Radio – With Video?

If you spin the radio dial to the very bottom of the FM band in Anchorage, Alaska – and then go a little lower – you’ll find a pleasant surprise. There’s a radio station there.

Broadcasting on 87.7 MHz with 920 watts of power, KZND ‘The End’ is causing quite a stir in Anchorage. It was first stumbled upon by an intrepid newspaper columnist and offers “alternative music” to the masses.

But the KZND is out-of-bounds. The FCC says any FM radio station must fall on a frequency between 88 and 108 MHz, and must have a minimum broadcast power of 100 watts. KZND, by broadcasting on 87.7, falls outside the parameters the FCC allows for legal radio broadcasting. Read More