Franken-FM’s To Get Temporary Stay; Potentially Permanent One

FCC 87.7 LPTV Channel 6 Analog Digital ConvervsionThe LPTV stations on Channel 6 that operate as radio stations on 87.7 have gotten a stay of execution from the FCC.

The September 1, 2015 deadline that would’ve forced all of the remaining analog LPTV’s to convert to digital operation has been suspended indefinitely until a new date is decided upon in an upcoming rulemaking.

In the proposed rulemaking, the so-called “Franken-FM’s” may be granted a way to continue operating after the television portion of its license goes digital. The FCC has opened a comment period asking “whether to allow LPTV stations on digital television channel 6 (82-88 MHz) to operate analog FM radio-type services on an ancillary or supplementary basis”. As the commission states, “a station has proposed using a single transmitter that allows a digital visual and audio stream, as well as a separate analog audio transmission, to simultaneously operate a digital LPTV station on channel 6 and an analog FM radio-type service at 87.76 MHz”.

The proposal also seeks comment on on the potential for a digital LPTV station’s analog FM radio-type service to interfere with or disrupt the LPTV station’s digital TV service and potential of interference to other primary licensees such as existing FM’s at 88.1 or 88.3 MHz. It also is looking to see whether these new audio signals should be subject to the same Part 73 rules applicable to all other radio stations including having to “maintain a main studio and public inspection file, and that the use of such frequencies in border areas be coordinated with Canada and Mexico.”

Among the stations currently operating on 87.7 in this manner are Tribune Media Sports “87.7 The Game” WGWG-LP Chicago, Signal Above Media Spanish CHR “La Nueva 87.7” WDCN Fairfax/Washington DC, Spanish CHR “Mega 87.7” WLFM-LP Cleveland, Sports “87.7 WHBQ” WPGF-LP Memphis, Christian “Love Radio” WVOA-LP Syracuse, and Country “Mustang 87.7” KXKW-LP Lafayette, LA.

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  1. Destructor says

    The FM simulcast of KEDA 1540 in San Antonio is also at 87.7.

    1. richardjdalton says

      The San Antonio 87.7 is Class A. The above article applies to LPTV only.

  2. Doug Smith says

    I will be very surprised if this becomes permanent. (but the FCC has been surprising me lately, you never know!)

    The hybrid thing — transmitting a DTV signal and an 87.76MHz analog FM signal at the same time — seems VERY unlikely to work. (would love to see some actual field tests) I’m thinking the FM side would be fine, but the TV side would have some serious trouble in decoding.

    Sure, the stations could care less if anyone could decode the TV signal. The FCC will likely feel otherwise. Or maybe not. Who knows?!

  3. Steve Varholy says

    In some senses, the Commission may be using this as a stalking horse for analog FM band expansion down into the Channel 6 spectrum. If these Franken-FM’s are ensconced, there’s less pressure to auction off Channel 6 to the wireless interests. If continued operations don’t pose interference issues, the next step would then be to issue a rulemaking regarding band expansion and AM migration to the new spectrum.

    1. dave73 says

      The FCC has said that channels 5 & 6 will remain TV spectrum. So that’s not going to change. For these stations in the digital era, they’re (LPTV/Class A stations, since full power channel 6 stations are already digital ) simply wanting to keep running channel 6 TV stations in analog, & run them as radio stations. As much as they’d like to keep them on, newer car radios don’t tune below 87.9 (or even 88.1 on some radios). The Ford Tempo I used to have, it didn’t tune below 88.1. What few portable radios there are, mot many are tuning to 87.7 (I have one that tunes down to 87.5, but that was from 2003). I believe it’s time that these stations convert to digital if they plan to stay on the air, & actually become a TV station. I am one of a few that has an outdoor antenna that is optimized to pick up any station on VHF-Lo. For WGWG-LP, they have a CP to flash-cut to digital at the same 3kw, & 3kw will travel out further in digital than in analog. Since I’m only about 30 miles from Chicago, I will have no problems getting them at 3kw on digital channel 6, since I got WBBM-TV in the pre-transitional days on channel 3 at 2.8kw with no pre-amp.

      1. Steve Varholy says

        With all due respect, this Rulemaking proposes allowing an analog audio-only service for these stations. The Commission is already allowing (if not enouraging) TV licensees to turn in their analog and digital allocations for auction to wireless, so to say that the Commission has stated that analog 5 & 6 will be TV service spectrum forever is a stretch, at best. Anything is possible and this rulemaking hints at the Commission making some regulatory moves that are afield from their historical stances. While no one can read the tea-leaves, the outcome of this rulemaking presages other policy changes. As to your Ford Tempo radio, how and what a 30+ year old car radio tunes to is not indicative of current nor future technology particularly when Asian manufacturers already build radio that tune below 88.1. Remember that the installed base of millions of analog TVs went obsolete almost immediately with few difficulties in the marketplace.

  4. airplane777 says

    Need more radio services: Why not develop some of these ideas?

    The FCC should start licensing adjacent channels…
    It will work with the right filtering in place. I know broadcasters will scream, but I have seen it done when it is in their favor.

    Use HD radio as a way to actually offer additional radio stations rather than a loop hole to gain a translator.

    Convert unused spectrum for creating a low-cost internet service solely for streaming audio into cars.

    Petition Sirius XM to offer a few free channels that are always in the clear.

  5. Anthony Belle says

    We will also have to wait for the spectrum auction that is now on hold. The is talk that some stations will have to relocate back to their old VHF channel. So let’s wait and see.

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