FCC Technological Advisory Council Opens Noise Floor Technical Inquiry

The SBE’s often-stated concerns about increases in ambient noise, especially in the AM broadcast band, have received a response from the FCC. On June 15, 2016, the Commission issued public notice DA 16-676 announcing that its Technological Advisory Council (TAC), an FCC advisory group, will investigate changes and trends to the radio spectrum noise floor to determine if there is an increasing noise problem. If it finds that there is such an increasing problem, the TAC will investigate its scope and the quantitative evidence available. Initially, the FCC on behalf of the TAC is asking how a noise study should be performed.

Comments from the public are due by Aug. 11, 2016. The SBE will file comments prepared with the assistance of its Government Relations Committee and its Executive Committee.

The comments from the public are intended to help the TAC determine the scope of the study. The TAC will seek to determine changes to the spectrum noise floor over the past 20 years. It is not frequency-limited, though most of the complaints in SBE’s experience typically concern ambient, man-made noise in the medium-frequency, high-frequency and VHF bands. Noise in this context denotes unwanted radio frequency (RF) energy from man-made sources. The FCC Public Notice indicates that the expectation of the TAC is a finding that the noise floor in the radio spectrum is rising. This assumption is based on the fact that the number of unlicensed, intentional and unintentional RF radiators and industrial, scientific and medical devices in use that emit radio energy increase. However, FCC cites a dearth of what it terms “concrete evidence” of increased noise floors and a lack of quantitative data to support the presumption. The TAC asks for help in strategizing how the available data can be added to, in order to advise FCC.

In the SBE’s view, this study is long overdue. SBE General Counsel Chris Imlay says, “The FCC does not have a working knowledge of ambient RF levels in different environments and has not had such for years. Without this, it is impossible to know whether the Part 15 radiated and conducted emissions limits for intentional, unintentional and incidental radiators are adequate. Because FCC has neither the resources nor the inclination to address individual cases of interference attributable to, for example, RF devices, power lines, switching power supplies, RF lighting systems and the vast array of other noise contributors in the field, it is critical that ambient RF be regulated prior to the point of retail sale. The results of this study will clearly help evaluate the adequacy of the current Part 15 and Part 18 regulations.”

The TAC is asking a very wide-ranging series of specific and general questions and many sub-questions about how an ambient noise study should be conducted and how noise should be evaluated, including the following:

1. Is there a noise problem?
• If so, what are the expected major sources of noise that are of concern?
• What services are being most impacted by a rising spectrum noise floor?

2. Where does the problem exist?
• What frequency bands are of the most interest?
• In what environments?

3. Is there quantitative evidence of the overall increase in the noise floor across various segments of the radio frequency spectrum?
• At what levels does the noise floor cause harmful interference to particular radio services?
• What RF environment data from the past 20 years is available, showing the contribution of the major sources of noise?

4. How should a noise study be performed?
• Would receiver noise measurements commonly logged by certain users (e.g. radio astronomers, cellular, and broadcast auxiliary licensees) be available and useful for noise floor studies?
• How much data must be collected to reach a conclusion?

The broadcast engineering community is both uniquely affected by increases in ambient noise, and uniquely qualified to participate in this study. The geographic distribution of SBE members in all RF environments makes SBE an asset to the TAC in the conduct of this study. All broadcast licensees, especially AM broadcast licensees, have a stake in this study. SBE members with input on this subject are urged to contact the SBE Government Relations Committeewith your thoughts on the issues listed in the public notice.

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FCC Launches EAS Test Reporting System

The FCC EAS Test Reporting System (ETRS) is up and running. The system is for EAS participants to file identifying information, day of test data, and post-test data related to a nationwide test. The ETRS provides several new features that ease the data-entry burden on EAS participants, encourage timely filings, and minimize input errors. The ETRS also offers new data fields that are responsive to stakeholder comments.

Access the ETRS

The FCC will use this system for the September National EAS Test and future EAS regional and national tests. There are multiple steps involved in the reporting process. The first step is to complete Form One, which must be done Aug. 26, 2016. To complete the form, participants must register on the ETRS site using the station’s FRN number and a password. Once registered, the FCC will send ETRS account credentials and a link to the ETRS login page.

Adrienne Abbott, SBE member and Nevada EAS chair, compiled some details about the system. Every station will need to complete a Form One. Station groups have the option of designating a coordinator to handle the filings. The coordinator will have the ability to batch file the forms. The form requires call letters as they appear on the license, the facility number for each station and the name of the station’s legal owner. As information is entered, some information will automatically populate the form from the FCC’s CDBS. It is advised to verify the CDBS information is correct.

The transmitter coordinates will not self-populate and must be entered directly. Use decimal form and NAD 83. Licenses are issued with NAD 27, so those numbers cannot be used. The FCC provides a conversion tool, and some consulting engineers offer the station info. If a tower is registered, the coordinates on the registration are in NAD 83. A Google map should appear if the coordinates are close. Check the map for your exact tower location. It should be within one second of the location on your license. If not, correct the location on the license.

The form will ask for the station’s monitoring assignments, but there is no need to include the NWS NOAA Weather Radio frequency. Enter the broadcast stations. The form will also ask for the brand of EAS equipment being used and the firmware/software version. Check the manufacturer’s website to make sure you have the latest update before you enter that information.

After the test, complete Form Two with the initial results of how the test was received and rebroadcast. The FCC wants that information as soon as possible after the test. Form Three allows more time to add any details or other information about the test.

In the FCC announcement about the ETRS, there is mention of a new EAS Handbook. Read the complete FCC public notice.

SBE Launches Chapter Training Video Series

The SBE has produced the first in a series of videos designed to inform and orient new and aspiring chapter chairmen and other officers and leaders about local chapter operations. The first video, titled Structure and Responsibilities, is available on the Chapters/Administration page of the SBE website. It is based on information contained in the SBE Chapter Manual.

Chapters can also use the video to help potential chapter leaders understand chapter responsibilities and how a chapter works. View the video in the chapter administration section of the SBE website or on the SBE YouTube channel.

FCC Schedules Online Public File Webinar for June 13, 2016

Washinton, DC – In May 2016, the FCC announced the the first group of entities being added to the Commission’s expanded online public inspection file database must commence using the database on June 24, 2016. The database was initially established in 2012 for use by television broadcasters.

On June 24, 2016, cable systems with 1,000 or more subscribers, DBS providers, SDARS licensees, and commercial radio stations in the top 50 Nielsen Audio radio markets with five or more full-time employees must place their new public inspection file documents in the Commission-hosted online public file database. In addition, these entities must place their existing public file documents into the online public file within six months after the effective date (Dec. 24, 2016). Entities will not be required to place in the online public file existing political file material.

On June 13, 2016, the FCC will conduct a public demonstration of the expanded Online Public Inspection File (OPIF), which will replace the current Broadcast Public Inspection File (BPIF) process. The FCC will exhibit the interface that will be used by broadcast television and radio stations, cable systems, satellite television, and radio systems to file documents in the online public file database. The demonstration will inform users of the design, layout, and content of the OPIF site, discuss how to upload information and files, and present the new Application Program Interface (API) functionalities. The demonstration will also be available online.

The demonstration will take place on June 13 at 1 p.m. EDT in the Commission Meeting Room at FCC Headquarters, 445 12th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20554. It will also be streamed online. The link for the stream will be available at

https://www.fcc.gov/news-events/events/2016/06/demonstration-expanded-online-public-inspection-file-interface

The FCC’s helpdesk is available to answer questions regarding the OPIF database: 877-480-3201, 717-338-2824 (TTY) or https://esupport.fcc.gov/request.htm.

Additional info:
FCC Public Notice – June 2, 2016
Online Public Inspection File Demonstration Announced – June 13, 2016
https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-16-607A1.pdf

FCC Public Notice – May 12, 2016
Effective Date Announced for Expanded Online Public Inspection File Database
https://www.fcc.gov/document/effective-date-announced-expanded-online-public-file

SBE Officer, Director Candidates Announced for 2016 Election

Each year the SBE membership elects members to serve on the national Board of Directors; the governing body of the society. This includes all four officers for one-year terms and half the 12 directors for two-year terms. The slate of candidates assembled by the Nominations Committee includes:

Officers:
President – Jerry Massey, CPBE, 8-VSB, AMD, DRB, CBNT; Chapter 86, Greenville, SC
Vice President – James Leifer, CPBE; Chapter 53, South Florida
Secretary – Tim Anderson, CPBE, DRB, CBNE; Chapter 33, Southwestern Ohio
Treasurer – Andrea Cummis, CBT, CTO; Chapter 15, New York, NY

Directors:
(top six vote getters will be elected):
Jim Bernier, CPBE, CBNE; Chapter 5, Atlanta
Kirk Harnack, CBRE, CBNE; Chapter 103, Nashville, TN
Brian Oliger, CBT, CBNT; Chapter 37, District of Columbia
Jason Ornellas, Chapter 43, Sacramento
Wayne Pecena, CPBE, 8-VSB, AMD, DRB, CBNE; Chapter 99, Bryan, TX
Marcelo Sanchez, CPBE; Chapter 53, South Florida
Mark Simpson, CPBE, AMD, DRB, CBNE; Chapter 32, Tucson
Justin “JT” Tucker, CSRE, AMD, CBNE; Chapter 107, Charelston

Additional candidates may be nominated by the membership. Any eligible member proposed by at least ten members to the national Secretary by July 12 will be added to the ballot. The election will take place July 25 through August 25. Balloting will be via the election website, except for those members who have opted out of electronic voting this year or who have not provided the SBE national office with their email address. They will receive their ballots through the mail.
For more information about candidacy, contact Ted Hand at thand@sbe.org or Executive Director John Poray at jporay@sbe.org or 317-846-9000.

Sanchez Appointed to SBE Board of Directors

Marcelo SanchezSBE President Jerry Massey has announced that Carlos Marcelo Sanchez, CPBE, has been appointed to fill a vacancy on the national SBE Board of Directors. Sanchez is director of broadcast operations and engineering for WFOR-TV/WBFS-TV in Miami, FL. The Board ratified the appointment during its meeting held on May 13.

The Board vacancy was created as a result of the resignation of Kim Sacks, CBT, who resigned in March of this year. Sanchez will serve the remainder of the unexpired term, which runs through Oct. 27, 2016.