A plan to close up to 16 Federal Communications Commission field offices, including the office in Boston, has many in the radio and television industry worried. Broadcasters fear that the FCC’s ability to investigate and solve interference disputes as well as combat pirate radio stations will be greatly slowed and diminished if the proposed changes go through.
As reported in Radio World, the FCC not only plans to close two thirds of its field offices but also reduce the number of field agents almost in half, from 63 to 33, the number of directors from 21 to five and cut other support staff. A “tiger team” of agents would be centered in Maryland. This team would be sent out to respond to high value initiatives of the Enforcement Bureau. Equipment used to do field work would be strategically placed throughout the country.
With an increasingly crowded spectrum, television operators are increasingly susceptible to interference. Electronic newsgathering operations as well as the licensed wireless microphones for television and radio will be asked to share spectrum with other unlicensed devices and interference will be more prevalent.
In order to resolve interference issues, the FCC has to take measurements. With the closest team being in Maryland (if they’re not already assigned elsewhere in the country) the response time for interference complaints will be likely to hurt broadcasters.
The second problem is keeping illegal pirate radio stations off the air. Despite the action taken last year against Touch106 and other Boston-area pirates, the FCC has often been slow to act on pirate stations with current staffing levels. The prospect of shutting a pirate down in the future, with fewer offices and field agents dims considerably. The MBA has weighed hiring someone to help track down pirate broadcasters but in order to take action against a pirate the FCC still has to collect its own data.
The MBA plans to work with many of the other state broadcasters associations to address this closure situation. If you have something to add to this issue or if a pirate radio station is affecting your signal, please email [email protected].