Category Archives: National

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.”

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.

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.

2019 EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) Update

June 5, 2019

Larry Wilkins, CPBE, CBNT, AMD
Chair, SBE EAS Advisory Group

The Federal Communications Commission has announced that all EAS participants must renew their identifying information in the EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) Form One on or before July 3, 2019. This is in conjunction with the nationwide test of the EAS scheduled for Aug. 7, 2019, at 2:20 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).

EAS participants must renew their identifying information required by ETRS Form One on a yearly basis. The ETRS site is online and available now at the FCC site:
https://www.fcc.gov/general/eas-test-reporting-system.
It can also be reach by going to fcc.gov and clicking on ETRS under the licensing and database tab.

All the information for logging in and completing the form is on the ETRS home page. Make sure you have the company Federal Registration Number (FRN), station Facility ID, along with correct login information from last year available before you visit the site.

Additional information is available in the Public Notice:
https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-19-505A1.docx

Review all the information and make any corrections or changes before submitting the form. You will receive a confirmation email after it has been successfully submitted.

On or before 11:59 p.m. EDT, Aug. 7, 2019, EAS participants must file “day of test” information sought by ETRS Form Two. On or before Sept. 23, 2019, EAS participants must file the detailed post-test data sought by ETRS Form Three. ETRS Forms Two and Three will become available in the ETRS at the time of initiation of the 2019 nationwide test.

No Chapter Meeting in April— See you at the NAB Show!

If you find yourself at the NAB Show in Las Vegas this year, make yourself an appointment to join us at the SBE national meeting, Tuesday, April 9 at 5:00 PM in Room N234, upstairs in the North Hall. These meetings move fast, and there are nice door prizes given at the end of the hour. A Membership Reception starts immediately thereafter and across the hall. This is a great opportunity to network with industry leaders and fellow engineers.

Yours truly will receive an award at the national meeting for having served for ten years as the Chapter 36 Certification Chair.

Also consider stopping by the SBE booth, LN4, meet your officers and administrators; buy a T-shirt, book, or cap; and enter the daily drawings for a giveaway prize.

On Saturday, April 6, just a few blocks away at the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel, the SBE is presenting a full-day tutorial on ATSC 3.0 organized by SBE Fellow Fred Baumgartner. Fred, past manager at Qualcomm MediaFLO, is now director of the Next Gen Broadcast Implementation at One Media – Sinclair Broadcast. This comprehensive, all-day learning opportunity is open to all and costs $95 for SBE members and PBS member station employees and includes lunch. Register here.

GPS Date to Rollover April 6 on Some Electronic Devices

Some compare the change to the famous “Y2K” transition at the end of the twentieth century. An information security expert said at the RSA 2019 conference in San Francisco last week, “I’m not going to be flying on April 6.”

Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers limited the number of stored digits needed to count the date, so some devices will roll back to zero on April 6, 2019.

Broadcasters seldom directly use GPS to supervise station activities. Most often, a GPS-based device might be used to indirectly correct a wandering computer clock, or as a time standard in a precise oscillator where its pulses are measured but the date may be ignored.

However, GPS is used often for time stamping video and for displaying time of day. I contacted Bill at El Segundo Electronics, ESE, about whether his ES-series clocks, used widely around broadcast stations, might have the 10-digit time problem. He replied, “The supplier for our GPS receivers assures us that there will be no problem with the WNRO (Week Number Roll Over) on April 6, 2019. Our Chief Engineer recommends that you keep the unit powered up and running over the WNRO.”

Thanks for the news tip, Bill Lipis.