Broadcaster wants to stop overprotecting stations


As the owner of a Class A FM station, Matthew Wesolowski would like to be able to upgrade and better serve his market. So he’s frustrated that he can’t boost power because he has to protect the theoretical contour of another station which is unlikely to ever be built out to its maximum potential.

Wesolowski’s WYAB-FM Flora, MS serves the Jackson, MS market on 103.9 MHz. It isn’t even a full Class A, operating at 5kw rather than 6kw from its 99-meter tower, because it has to protect the maximum Class C0 allocation of WFFX-FM Hattiesburg, MS on adjacent channel 103.7 MHz. But while WFFX is at 100kw, it uses a 324-meter tower, not the maximum 450-meter height allowed for a Class C0.

Noting that the FCC set its current contour protection rules for FM in place in 1987, Wesolowski figures that anyone who intended to build to the maximum limit would have done so by now. So he’s filed a Petition for Rulemaking with the FCC to apply the same rules to commercial FMs that already apply to the reserved non-commercial band and protect only actual facilities.

Matthew Wesolowski“No other aural broadcast service, including AM, noncommercial educational FM, low power FM, FM translator, or FM booster is required to demonstrate the existence of a second hypothetical location in which a facility could operate, and as such, Petitioner respectfully requests that the Commission eliminate this burden on FM non-reserved band licensees and permittees,” Wesolowski said in his Petition for Rulemaking. Click here to read it.

Yes, under the current rules Wesolowski could negotiate a settlement with WFFX owner Clear Channel Radio. He told RBR-TVBR he’s approached the radio giant with numerous proposals, but to no avail. But he doesn’t hold Clear Channel responsible for his problem. “What motivation do they possibly have to work with me?” he asked.

If WYAB only had to protect real, operating radio stations, Wesolowski figures he could upgrade to at least 50kw on his current tower, with a directional antenna putting its main lobe over Jackson.

Should the FCC change its rules and protect only actual facilities in the FM band, Wesolowski thinks nearly all Class As would be able to upgrade to some extent. And while many of those Class A stations are owned by small broadcasters like him, quite a few are owned by major group owners who would also benefit – not to mention that many stations above Class A would also be able to upgrade. He figures it would be a great business boon to equipment makers and consulting engineers.

So far, there’s been no feedback from the FCC on whether Wesolowski’s proposal will get serious consideration. Similar requests by others years ago failed to spark any action.

RBR-TVBR observation: No doubt the current owners of stations which are not built out to their maximum facilities would not want to give up that option. But it is worth noting that many of those group owners which have such a station in one market would benefit from this proposed rule change in another market – or perhaps for another station in the same market where they have an over-protected theoretical contour.