IBOC procedures simplified

May 1, 2003


Further demonstrating its desire to jump-start the shift to digitalbroadcasting, the FCC has simplified its procedures for authorizing AMand FM stations to commence in-band, on-channel (IBOC) digital service.Previously, the Commission required licensees planning to operate IBOCsystems to first file a request for Special Temporary Authority (STA).However, the Commission has announced that, as of March 20, 2003,licensees may implement IBOC operation without prior authorization, aslong as they notify the FCC within 10 days of the commencement of suchoperation.

The FCC has issued a sample notification letter that contains allthe information required to determine if the proposed facilitiescorrespond with the Ibiquity hybrid IBOC system. Specifically, thefollowing information must be provided:

  • The date that interim operation commenced.

  • A certification that the IBOC facilities conform to the Ibiquityhybrid transmission specifications.

  • The name and telephone number of a technical representative theCommission can call in the event of interference.

  • Transmitter power output (note — if separate analog anddigital transmitters are used, the power output for eachtransmitter.)

  • A certification that analog effective radiated power remains asauthorized.

  • A certification that the interim operation would not cause humanexposure to levels of radio frequency radiation in excess of Section0.1310 of the rules and is therefore categorically excluded fromenvironmental processing pursuant to Section 1.1306(b). Any stationthat cannot certify compliance must submit an environmental assessment(EA) pursuant to Section 1.1311 and may not commence interim operationuntil such EA is ruled on by the Commission.

  • If applicable, any power reduction in an AM station's primarydigital carrier.

AM stations can operate their IBOC systems only during daytimehours, and pre-sunset and post-sunset hours if previously authorized todo so.

Electronic renewal forms ready

The Commission has announced that the electronic version of FCC Form303-S is up and running and must be used for renewal applications dueon or after Oct. 1, 2003. Electronic filing of Form 303-S is optionalfor renewals due June 1 and Aug. 1.

Form 396 (Broadcast EEO Program Report), which must be filed withall renewals, must be filed electronically even by June 1 and August 1filers.

Recent forfeitures

Tower Fencing Problem

An AM licensee in Alabama argued that he did not need to have afence around his AM transmitter because part of the property was onswampland and could not be casually accessed. The FCC did not acceptthis excuse, nor did it believe that the fact that the licensee'sbrother lived nearby was a deterrent. The FCC noted that on twooccasions an FCC agent was able to drive up to the transmitter andtouch it. The FCC continues to fine licensees who do not have effectivelocked enclosures for their antenna structures. The AM licensee was hitwith a $7,000 forfeiture.

Former Licensee Escapes

An AM licensee was relieved of his obligation to pay fines after hedismantled his AM towers and sold his station. In deference to claimsthat its authority over the former licensee had vanished, the FCCcancelled a $12,000 forfeiture.

The licensee was fined $12,000 when an FCC inspector found that thestation did not have Antenna Registration Numbers or proper paintingfor its five towers. After the fines were issued, the licensee sold hisstation and the towers were dismantled. The FCC cancelled the fines ina brief decision, so brief in fact that it's impossible to say exactlywhy the Commission decided to cancel the fines — other than thefact that the subject of the fines was no longer a licensee subject toCommission jurisdiction, and the towers themselves no longerexisted.


Martin is an attorney with Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, PLC.,Arlington, VA. E-mail martin@fhhlaw.com.

Dateline:

Radio stations in DC, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia must filetheir renewal applications by June 2, 2003.

Stations in the following states must file their biennial ownershipreports with the FCC, and place their annual EEO reports in theirpublic files and on their websites, by June 1: Arizona, DC, Idaho,Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, WestVirginia and Wyoming.



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