Category Archives: Local

Entercom Hit by Ransomware Attacks

Radio Ink and Radio Insight are reporting that Entercom suffered a group-wide attack on their IT infrastructure over the weekend of September 7 – 8, 2019. They are said to have successfully isolated automation audio playout but are having to manually process sales orders and create operations logs.

In San Diego, Entercom stations include KBZT (FM) 94.9, KYXY (FM) 96.5, KWFN (FM) 97.3, and KSON (FM) 103.7. We have no confirmation of this attack locally as their corporate policy doesn’t allow staffers to discuss internal issues.

Ransomware attacks have made news lately as cities, school districts, and other businesses have had their computer files encrypted with an accompanying ransom notice demanding cryptocurrency for payment. Many organizations choose not to pay, but their internal recoveries can cost more than the ransom payment.

Thanks to Bill Lipis for the news tip.

KFSD 1450 Escondido Goes Silent

Astor Broadcasting filed in June 2019 an FCC request to go off-the-air while searching for a buyer. The station had been broadcasting “music standards” from the 1950s and 1960s, but the company’s lawyer explained to the FCC that the station “has been operating at a loss for a lengthy period of time.” According to FCC records, the station went silent June 1, 2019.

According to Wikipedia, the KFSD callsign traces back to the 1920s on 620 kHz (later 600 kHz). When Time-Life Broadcasting chose the KOGO callsign for their properties on 600 kHz, 94.1 MHz, and channel 10, the KFSD callsign disappeared until 1973, when 94.1 MHz picked it up again. Astor used the KFSD callsign first in 2001, switched to KSPA, and returned to KFSD in 2012.

At various times, Astor operated KOWN AM 1450, KOWF FM 92.1, and KCEO 1000 in North San Diego County, and KIKF Anaheim. Company founder Art Astor passed away in 2016.

Thanks to Bill Lipis for this news tip.

FCC Issues a Violation Notice to a SoCal Low Power FM

On August 9, 2019, the FCC issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) to Low Power FM broadcaster KLIE-LP Fountain Valley, CA, licensee International Crusade of the Penny. The FCC alleges they use a Bext XL-500 transmitter that isn’t certified for use as an LPFM device.

FCC Logo

I contacted Dennis Pieri, owner of Bext, Inc. in San Diego and asked what he knew about this violation announcement. First, he told me that all FM transmitters sold for operation in the USA need to be “FCC Approved.” Additionally, transmitters bound for USA low power FM broadcasters need special certification. The Bext XT150 and XT300 transmitters are low power certified, but not the XL500 model mentioned in the FCC NOV. This extra step was presumably designed to keep LPFMs from grabbing overpowered or Chinese knockoff transmitters with excessive harmonics and spurious emissions off-the-air since it was assumed these licensees might need to get on-the-air with minimum cost and less than ideal technical assistance.

Dennis says the transmitter in question was sold by a dealer in 2015, not by Bext directly. The owners of KLIE-LP claim the transmitter is an XL300, not XL500 that the FCC claims to have seen during their inspection. Michelle Bradley of REC Networks, an advocate nationally for LPFMs, says a photo sent by the owners of KLIE-LP clearly shows the label of an XL300. That transmitter is not certified for LPFM but presumably might help make the case that the station wasn’t trying to get around power limits by buying that model, and that the whole XT300 vs. XL300 mixup might be seen as an innocent mistake made by the selling dealer.

We reached out to KLIE-LP for comment, who forwarded the message to Ms. Bradley. While she would not address the incident itself, she provided a link to a REC Networks list of certified LPFM transmitters and reminded transmitter buyers to “look for the FCC ID sticker.”

Update 9/6/2019: Dennis Pieri of Bext, Inc. says he shipped an XT300 to KLIE-LP for no extra charge to replace the XL300 they were sold by a dealer. He says the station has installed the new transmitter. Whether this will satisfy the FCC remains to be seen.

Dream, Meet Reality

If you’ve ever been involved in one of these properties, low power FM stations are regulated to fail. They require at least ten-thousand dollars of capital to get on-the-air if you consider legal, technical, and equipment costs. Then they have ongoing labor and music licensing, maintenance, and utility costs. They aren’t allowed to sell commercials, though they can broadcast strictly-defined underwriting announcements. They have to have eight hours of locally-originated programming daily. Technically, LPFMs are limited to 50 watts output power in the Mexican border zone. This is devalued when their height-above-average-terrain exceeds 100 feet. Oh, and that transmitter needs not only FCC approved but a special LPFM certification. It’s daunting, and why many LPFMs never build out their construction permits and others turn in their licenses after getting their year or two doses of operating reality.

August 2019 Meeting: NextGen

NextGen Broadcasting (formerly known as ATSC 3.0) is an Internet Protocol (IP)-based digital broadcasting system that will enable broadcasters to transmit cinema-quality video and audio to viewers wherever they and their devices are.  NextGen Broadcasting addresses the pressing technical and policy problems facing broadcasting: “The incredibly shrinking broadcast band,” coverage gaps caused by interference, terrain and distance and basic incompatibility with computers and mobile devices.

Many thanks to John Wilkie for the August 2019 presentation.

About Our Speaker

John Wilkie is a member of SBE Chapter 36, and a broadcast engineer, journalist, coder, and expert witness.  He was the principal of EtherGuide Systems, where he created the first freestanding PSIP generator which included support for the Navajo language. He is an active member of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) and has participated in the development of SMPTE and Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) standards.  He is a native San Diegan, a graduate of Samuel F.B. Morse High School and attended San Diego City College. John is currently “in training” for an anticipated appointment in the field of US spectrum and telecommunications policy.