Chicago LPTV’s audio focus questioned


Low power television station WLFM-LP is licensed to operate on Channel 6, right next to the non-commercial FM band. Its decision to emphasize the audio portion of its signal on 87.7 MHz as a commercial Smooth Jazz outlet has one non-commercial broadcaster asking the FCC for a ruling.

The complaint about WLFM is coming from 91.5 MHz WBEZ-FM, operated as Chicago Public Radio. The gist of its complaint seems to be confusion that may be caused when listeners encounter commercials down below the traditional and non-profit end of the FM dial, which – for radio licensees – bottoms out at 88.1 MHz. All stations between 88 MHz and 92 MHz are supposed to be noncommercial. Of course, WLFM does not fall between those frequencies.

WLFM, owned by Venture Technologies Group, adopted the Smooth Jazz format when Clear Channel’s WNUA-FM abandoned it, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. It even hired former WNUA’s Rick O’Dell to act as both PD and program host. If you go to the station’s website, you’d be hard pressed to find anything there that indicates that it is in fact operating with a television license.

The Sun-Times says WBEZ-FM President Torey Malatia simply wants an official FCC ruling on whether or not WLFM is using its license properly. At the moment, it seems to be a gray area.