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Schenectady DTV Abruptly Closes Its Backdoor to FM Dial

To some it may seem like I’ve been beating a dead horse over the TV channel 6 on FM issue, but I can’t help but be fascinated with TV broadcasters taking such pains to be on what so many observers say is the dying medium of radio.

In my second missive on the channel 6 radio phenomenon back in June I took note of Schenectady New York’s WRGB-TV. That station’s director of engineering made clear his intention to keep WRGB’s analog audio signal going even after the digital transition.

Now some ten weeks after the June 12 analog shutoff WRGB’s little experiment has come to an end. According to a brief statement posted to the station’s website dated August 24, general manager Robert Furlong acknowledges that this digital TV station has no authorization from the FCC to continue an analog broadcast on the FM dial, and announces the FM broadcast has been turned off, “effective immediately.”

I’ve not turned up any additional explanation for killing it so suddenly. My guess is that the station got a pretty firm message from the FCC reminding them that the license to broadcast an analog signal of any kind expired on June 12. I can’t see how WRGB continuing its 87.7 FM broadcast can be seen as anything but unlicensed operation, which would earn any other unlicensed broadcaster an FCC nastygram, at the very least.

Furlong also says that the station management “reviewing our options,” though I can’t really imagine what those options might be. They could petition the FCC to let them resume the analog broadcast, but that’s a very long longshot. Or perhaps they could reach an arrangement for simulcast with a desperate local radio station. Yet that option quickly gets complex, since I’m certain all of WRGB’s network affiliation and syndication agreements are for TV broadcast only. Adding a real radio simulcast would likely require renegotiating all of those contracts.

The appearance of analog TV’s channel 6 on the far left end of the FM dial was not designed in. Rather it was a happy accident which provided some listeners with an extra channel of programming and some other broadcasters an opportunity to sneak onto the FM dial. Like many such accidents, it might have been good while it lasted, but the sun seems to be setting for channel 6 on FM.

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