Category Archives: News

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.

More Shuffling at KFMB

By now, we all know that when a group owner buys a broadcast property from a privately-held company, there’s bound to be a lot of change. After all, there’s a big mortgage to pay. Centralized human resources, accounting, promotions, graphics composition, and master control send laid-off local employees looking for work. Newsrooms shrink. And accountants look over spreadsheets and start looking for ways to layoff, dismiss, or have senior or highly-paid employees retire.

TEGNA bought family-owned KFMB-AM-FM-TV in December of 2017, and since then, veteran engineers have been leaving.

Last year, Manager of Technology Chris Hoffman was picked up from a sister TEGNA outlet in Buffalo, NY. Dean Imhof left. Senior Engineer Chris Aamodt was laid off. Long-time RF Supervisor Rick Bosscher resigned. Earlier this year, Director of Engineering Leann Lanflisi, who had been at the job just two years, retired.

We learned this month that Mark Goodman, a brilliant engineer acquired when XETV closed its San Diego facilities in 2017, has moved to KPBS. Mark says he’s happy to be making the change, which puts him closer to home, working with a great team of veterans, and, to paraphrase, “is less stifling.”

Scott Casale is leaving KFMB to join KUSI in the coming week as the Assistant Chief Engineer. Scott had been with KFMB since 2004, doing everything from RF to data transmission set-up and systems installations.

In the plus column for KFMB, Steve Cilurzo joined this month as an Engineering Supervisor, taking over Rick Bosscher’s office though with broader duties like a radio studio rebuild. He said he feels very fortunate to have such “big shoes to fill” and much to do. He was downsized at Entercom in June.

Disclosure: I worked for KFMB for 15 years as a staff engineer and briefly as Director of Engineering before the TEGNA purchase.

Sage ENDEC Updating Firmware & Software

In mid-July, Sage Alerting Systems announced a firmware update for its popular ENDEC model 3644.

Sage says on its website:

This free update addresses a changed requirement in the FCC EAS rules, Part 11.33(a)(10), which affects how the valid time frame of an alert is determined. This rule change takes effect on August 12, 2019. The ENDEC currently employs a slightly different method of determining the valid time frame. The update will have no adverse effect on the reception and relay of valid alerts. All users must install this update to keep your ENDEC compliant. The update also adds the BLU alert to the list of valid alerts if you have not previously installed version 89-32.

NOTE: This release does not affect the ENDEC’s reception and relay of the scheduled August 7, 2019 National Periodic Test. Whether your ENDEC is running version 89-30, 89-32, or this new version 89-34, your ENDEC will relay the NPT.

A software “major release” is planned for September 2019 to address changes in the distribution of CAP messages from IPAWS. This update will cost users $349 per unit, sold through distributors. The major distribution is available for free for units purchased new after March 1, 2018. Sage says registered users will be notified by email when the update is available.