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

Window Brings Surge of Translator Deals

On Friday, the FCC opened a six-month filing window for AM broadcasters to acquire existing FM translators, and move them up to 250 miles into their local coverage areas. This is part of the agency’s AM revitalization initiative — though it’s still not exactly clear how FM spectrum fixes AM’s fundamental difficulties.

This window is exclusive to lower-power AM broadcasters; the large “flamethrower” stations will get a crack at the translator shuffle later this summer, and then the FCC plans to open an application window for new translator stations next year. The marketplace for translators, which has been simmering mightily underground for nearly a decade, has fully burst into the mainstream with the FCC’s blessing. Read More

Radio Stations Fall Victim to Cyberattack (Again)

Several radio stations in small markets throughout the United States are licking their wounds after suffering cyber-intrusions.

The alarm was first sounded by a cluster of radio stations in Louisiana on October 16. When the morning crews arrived, they found they had no access to the stations’ automation systems or music libraries. Instead, the data on their computers had been encrypted and frozen…and then they began to receive e-mails asking them to pay hundreds of dollars in order to set their machines free.

The stations’ owner reports that instead of paying the ransom demand, they’ve reported the intrusions to the police and plan to rebuild their systems from scratch. It will cost “tens of thousands of dollars” to undo the damage that the malicious software has inflicted, and they apparently keep finding more compromises as they continue their damage assessment.

Then last week, stations in Arkansas and Virginia announced that they, too had been infected by software that scrambled several of their computer systems and demanded payment to restore them. And this week, a cluster of stations in Michigan belatedly reported that they suffered the same sort of attack in September. Read More

More Ink for WNFC: “The FCC’s monitoring it, and we are, too”

The Daily Oakland Press gives the WNFC project a nice once-over. The quote above is from Ferndale police chief Michael Kitchen, who also says, “The FCC will tell us what to do, and we’ll do it.”

The Detroit area FCC office is pretty quick on the draw but has handled unlicensed broadcasting cases in the past with a level of diplomatic aplomb not seen in very many places. Although the organizers of WNFC have extended an offer of dialogue to the local field office, there has been no reported contact as of yet.

WNFC Update: Ferndale Police Waffle

In his ongoing crusade to recruit community support for a limited-run unlicensed “demonstration” LPFM station in Ferndale, Michigan, Tom Ness has been lining up support from community leaders like gangbusters. Folks including Ferndale’s mayor, the local Catholic bishop, and possibly even some Congresscritters from Michigan will grace the mic of this experiment in civil disobedience, among many others.

However, Ferndale Police chief Michael Kitchen will not take part. His response to Ness’ offer of air time at WNFC:

You can’t “not encourage lawlessness” and then intentionally break a law. If you wish to “cooperate fully” with me, simply don’t break the law(s) which I am sworn to uphold. Read More