As is the custom, Chairman Ajit Pai announced his coming departure in advance of the changing administration in January. Normally, the FCC has five commissioners, two of the minority political party and three of the majority party, including the Chairman. Pai was appointed by President Obama in 2012 and rose to Chairman under President Trump.
Ajit Pai, in a press statement, listed his accomplishments: “Closing the digital divide; promoting innovation and competition, from 5G on the ground to broadband from space; protecting consumers; and advancing public safety.”
His critics have pointed to a perceived bias toward telecom interests over broadcast as the FCC has worked rapidly to sell, not lease, spectrum to the telecom giants directly from spectrum previously used by broadcasters with the goal of universally available fast networking. Ajit Pai had worked two years for Verizon as an Associate General Counsel before returning to public service in 2003. Pai has also worked against internet neutrality in favor of ISP traffic controls and surcharges.
For broadcasters, he supported the move for AM broadcasters to get an FM translator channel wherever possible, which has worked better for some broadcasters than others. He also pushed allowing AM stations to choose digital modulation if they wished. There has been no increase in broadcast spectrum, including for the crowded FM band, under his leadership.
By Larry Paulausky, Vice-Chair Arizona SECC
A reminder for those who may have missed this info: a digital signing certificate used by FEMA for its IPAWS service will be expiring in the next few days. Certificates like this are designed to help recipients automatically authenticate IPAWS messages, and by design these certificates regularly expire to be replaced by updated versions.
To continue to receive IPAWS messages on your EAS devices, most end users like broadcasters and cable systems will need to update the certificate settings in their device. Please check with your device’s manufacturer for instructions on how to do this.
For Sage’s ENDEC systems, have a look at their home page at https://www.sagealertingsystems.com.
For Digital Alert System’s DASDEC devices, see their field service bulletin accessible at http://www.digitalalertsystems.com/DAS_pages/resources_fsb.html .
For most users whose devices are otherwise at current software levels and already receiving IPAWS messages, these updates are free to download and install. Please do so by the expiration date to keep receiving EAS messages (for example, AMBER alerts and Required Monthly Tests) via IPAWS.
By the way, the next certificate will be valid until August 21, 2021, so you may want to mark your calendars for July of next year to check again with your device’s manufacturer at that time for the next needed update.
The SBE will present the SBE Annual Membership Meeting and National Awards Presentation via the internet at 4:00 p.m. PDT on Wednesday, Sept. 23. Details on how to watch the webcast will be shared via the SBE website, SBE-news email newsletter and social media in the next week.
Salem Media, owners of KCBQ 1170 AM San Diego and K241CT Oceanside, apparently got hit by hackers with damaging ransomware. Salem announced it has been able to recover “many of its critical Operational data and business systems,” and that the company does not expect the incident to have a material impact on its business, operations or financial condition. No word on the impact on their San Diego operations.
Attacks in the last year caused damage to the Bicoastal Media, Urban One and Entercom groups.
The FCC last week issued a Report and Order eliminating prior rules (section 73.3556) that kept co-owned stations from broadcasting the same programming on both their AM and FM stations simultaneously. It was a rule intended in 1964 to begin pushing broadcasters to have more “voices” in a given community.
However, the competitive climate of broadcasting has changed. There are infinitely more voices in a a given community due to the introduction of cable, satellite, HD subchannels, and now internet broadcasting. AM broadcasting struggles now with NRSC bandwidth limits, lack of stereo, electrical noise, and all that competition from better sounding sources.
The FCC R & O said that simulcasting will facilitate AM stations transition to digital broadcasting by allowing them to simulcast on FM or other AM stations until they can stand on their own feet as AM digital radios become more common. AM digital, when well implemented, can fill in gaps in rough terrain and cover longer distances.
The rule also allows duplication of FM programming even when coverage contours overlap. For example, a major ownership group could create a network of stations in adjacent markets that all have the same programming 24 hours per day much like EMF’s “K-Love” and “Air1” formats.
The change takes effect immediately.