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Reply Comment Smackdown Over the Channel 6 Backdoor to FM

CPR vs. WLFM-LP - Round 2

A couple of  weeks ago I reported on Chicago Public Radio taking a glancing swipe against LPTV channel 6 stations that are effectively functioning like radio stations, taking advantage of their audio channel’s proximity to 87.7 FM. Now the owner of the Chicago smooth-jazz LPTV “radio” station WLFM-LP is striking back at CPR in both reply comments to the FCC and a press release, which I received via email [.doc file].

In its FCC comments WFLM’s owner, Venture Technologies Group, takes the gloves off, charging that Chicago Public Radio’s “attempt to characterize these LPTV stations as ‘invaders’ of NCE spectrum is ridiculous,” although CPR never specifically names WLFM-LP. VTG goes on to accuse that,

WBEZ appears to be arguing that non-commercial stations should have the right to approve the programming of their commercial neighbors merely because they are adjacent to each other and a listener may hear commercial matter while scrolling through the radio dial looking for a non·commercial station. This is an absurd argument!

WBEZ is Chicago Public Radio’s flagship station.

In the press release Paul Koplin, VTG’s chief executive officer, questions WBEZ’s motivation, claiming, “We believe that WBEZ’s position is not due to any technical issues but rather due to WLFM-LP’s ratings success.” VTG reports a 1.2 share in the December ratings book. By comparison WBEZ had 1.9 in the October book, which is the most recent publicly available ranking.

As I noted before, I tend to think that the channel 6 “radio” stations are standing on shaky ground, taking advantage of a loophole. Thus, the best they can hope for from the FCC is a blind-eye in the interim before the Commission requires all LPTV stations to go digital, ending their backdoor into the FM dial. I don’t think an official blessing from the FCC is in the cards.

Since VTG supports the NPR plan to remove channel 6 protection and CPR is so far the only commenter to complain about the channel 6 LPTVs, I also don’t think the FCC is likely to take up CPR’s concern, either. It’s ancillary to the proposal in question. Nevertheless, VTG couldn’t afford to ignore CPR’s complaints, and they’re probably hoping to get a little publicity out of the deal, too.

Meanwhile, I’ll be waiting to read CPR’s reply comments and to watch the sparks fly. Stay tuned for round 3.

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One Response to Reply Comment Smackdown Over the Channel 6 Backdoor to FM

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