FCC Shuts Down 99X Atlanta Over Interference Complaints
For the third time in its history Alternative “99X” has been removed from its analog signal in Atlanta.
Unlike its removal from 99.7 WNNX in 2008 or its flip to Active Rock in 2012, the removal of the format from 98.9 W255CJ Atlanta comes from the FCC. W255CJ has been subject to interference complaints from Gradick Communications’ “Great Classics 98.9” WWGA Tallapoosa GA since March 28, 2014 and had been operating with 200w as opposed to its licensed 250w sine June 2017 in an attempt to rectify the situation. While both sides dispute the origination of the interference and validity of the listener complaints, the FCC ruled on Tuesday that:
Section 74.1203(a) provides, in pertinent part, that an FM translator station “will not be permitted to continue to operate if it causes any actual interference to. . .the direct reception by the public of off-the-air signals of any authorized broadcast station. . . .
The rule places no geographic or temporal limitation on complaints, and we have long held that mobile receivers, such as automobile radios, should not be subject to interference resulting from the operation of an FM translator or booster station. The rule also specifies that signal strength is not a relevant factor. The FM translator rules strictly prohibit interference by these secondary service stations, and an interfering FM translator station must remedy the interference or suspend operation.
The Commission has interpreted “direct reception by the public” to limit actionable complaints to those that are made by bonafide listeners. Generally, the Commission requires that a complainant “be ‘disinterested,’ e.g., a person or entity without a legal stake in the outcome of the translator station licensing proceeding.” The staff has routinely required a complainant to provide his name, address, location(s) at which FM translator interference occurs, and a statement that the complainant is, in fact, a listener of the affected station. Moreover, as is the case with other types of interference complaints, the staff has considered only those complaints of FM translatorinterference where the complainant cooperates in efforts to identify the source of interference and accepts reasonable corrective measures.
Accordingly, when the Commission concludes that a bonafide listener has made an actionable complaint of uncorrected interference from an FM translator, it will notify the station that “interference is being caused” and direct the station to discontinue operations.
Staff has reviewed the test results and determined that the testing conditions complied with staff’s instructions. Yet, because action can only be taken based on listener complaints, we are unable to consider the results of Sites Two, Three, Four, Five, and Six because those complainants either no longer reside at the site, complaints have been withdrawn, or complainants did not cooperate in remediation efforts. We also have no evidence that, as alleged by WKNG, Mr. Padgett or Mr. Hart felt physically intimidated by Cumulus representatives. However, we have determined that interference at Site One remains unresolved. Although Cumulus attempts to deflect the issue by arguing that an unidentified cochannel station was heard during the testing, the relevant inquiry is whether the translator is causing actual interference to an authorized broadcast station. The on-off air testing results submitted by both WKNG and Cumulus demonstrate that WWGA’s signal strength presented a better listening availability when W255CJ was turned off at Site One. Moreover, Cumulus has not remediated the interference. For these reasons, we conclude that Cumulus has failed to eliminate the interference to co-channel station WWGA, and W255CJ must suspend operations.
On October 4, 2017 representatives from WWGA and W255CJ conducted tests at each of the six locations where a complaint was submitted with the translator running at 250w, 100w, or off to see if interference was caused. At five of the six locations the complainants either no longer reside at the site, were withdrawn, or did not cooperate in remediation efforts by Cumulus. At the final location Cumulus argued that the interference was caused by another station and intends to appeal the FCC decision. W255CJ cannot resume operations until the interference at that location is permanently rectified.
In the interim the 99X programming will only be available on 99.7 WWWQ-HD2 Atlanta and online.