SBE 24 October 1998 Newsletter


Contents for this Newsletter
About This Newsletter
Meeting Announcement
Upcoming Meeting Schedule
Meeting Minutes
Upcoming Chapter 24 Events
Broadband Networks- Part 25
Auctions To Decide Broadcast Winners and Losers
3rd Annual Chapter 24 Bake Off!!!
Research Volunteers Needed for the SBE's DTV Study
Amateur Radio News
SBE's Short Circuits
Chapter Sustaining Members

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The Chapter 24 Newsletter is published monthly by Chapter 24 of the Society of Broadcast Engineers; Madison, Wisconsin. Original hard copy edited by Mike Norton on Pagemaker 5.0. Submissions of interest to the broadcast technical community are welcome. You can make your submissions by e-mail to:

Information and/or articles are also accepted by US Mail. Please address them to:
SBE Chapter 24 Newsletter Editor
5174 Anton Dr. #15
Madison, WI 53719-4201

Please submit text file on DOS or Windows 3.5" floppy diskette if possible.

Steve Paugh is the editor for the Electronic Version of this Newsletter uploaded monthly onto SBE Chapter 24's web page.

Thanks to Chris Cain for his work on the Chapter 24 WWW page and electronic newsletter.

Contributors this month:

Lloyd Berg
Kevin Ruppert
Neal McLain
Tom Smith
Tom Weeden
Fred Sperry
John Poray

© 1998 by SBE Chapter 24. Views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the official positions of the Society, its officers, or its members. SBE Chapter 24 regrets, but is not liable for, any omissions or errors. The Chapter 24 Newsletter is published twelve times per year. Other SBE Chapters are permitted to use excerpts if attributed to the original author, sources, and SBE Chapter 24.

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Wednesday, October 21, 1998

Broadcasters Clinic: Preparing For The Year 2000

This month's program will begin with a meeting of the Upper Midwest SBE Chapters.

Following the meeting, John Reuter of Odetics will have a presentation on "Preparing for the Year 2000," and how this issue may relate to broadcast systems and facilities.

The meeting and program are being held in conjunction with the Broadcaster Clinic. You do not have to be registered for the Broadcasters Clinic to attend this program. We will be staring earlier than normal, beginning at 6:30 PM.

Marriott - Madison West
1313 John Q. Hammonds Drive
(formally the Holiday Inn - West)
Middleton, WI

Visitors and guests are welcome at all of our SBE meetings!

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Thursday, November 19th, 1998
Youth Night

If you have any suggestions for program topics you'd like to see, please contact one of the Chapter 24 Program Committee Members: Kerry Maki 833-0047, Denise Maney 277-8001, Steve Zimmerman 274-1234 and Mark Croom 271-1025.

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Submitted by Lloyd Berg, Secretary

Chapter 24 of the society of Broadcast Engineers met on Wednesday, September 16, 1998 at Fitzgerald's of Middleton, In Middleton, Wisconsin. There were 18 members and two guests present. 13 were certified.

The meeting was called to order by Chair Fred Sperry at 7:10 PM. Minutes of the August meeting, as published in the September newsletter, were approved as written.

Thanks were given to Herb Van Driel / Panasonic for supplying liquid refreshments. Stan Scharch, Treasurer, reported that our chapter account is in the black.

New Business: Newsletter deadlines: Oct 9 for material, Oct 14 folding party. Denise Maney, Program, announced plans for a November youth meeting to be held at WKOW-TV.

Kevin Ruppert, Vice Chair, reminded everyone about the special DTV Express meeting on September 22nd

Jim Hermanson, Certification, announced the deadline for applying to take SBE certification exams in November is just a few days away.

Tom Smith, Frequency Coordinator, announced that he is researching the FCC database for our area. He also warned of coordination concerns with the NFL & FOX. Wireless headset & microphone manufacturer Telex refuses to give out frequencies, so they can not be coordinated. Tom also mentioned a recent interference case in Minneapolis where visitor using European cellular phones caused interference to 900 MHz radio STL Links

Fred Sperry, Chair, announced that the SBE is looking for information to preserve (save) the remaining 2 GHz broadcast Aux band. Also, National SBE has invited Ch 24 to apply for Hosting of the 1999 Convention. He also announced that former Chapter 24 member Terry Baumgartner, now in Milwaukee Chapter 28, is being inducted as a Fellow in SBE. Finally, national SBE is looking for research volunteers for a DTV project, see their web site for details.

Steve Paugh, spoke about a possible DTV demonstration at next years UW Engineering Expo, and the need to obtain equipment and shoot material in a high definition format.

Our originally scheduled program was replaced by a discussion of concerns and ongoing problems of Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) viewers seeking local reception waivers from the Madison TV stations in order to qualify to receive network programming directly from satellite.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:10 PM

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By Fred Sperry

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight Chapter 24's next two scheduled meetings and programs.

As has been the case for the past five years, Chapter 24, in conjunction with the Upper Midwest Region SBE Chapters, is hosting the Wednesday evening (October 21st) program at this years Broadcasters Clinic. We will start with the meeting of the Upper Midwest SBE Chapters at 6:30 PM. Following the meeting will be a presentation by Mr. John Reuter from Odetics entitled "Preparing for the Year 2000." Many of you may remember John as a former member of Chapter 24.

John's presentation will focus on the issues facing broadcast facilities as we approach the year 2000. This should prove to be an interesting and informative presentation on this hot topic. Please note that you do not have to be registered for the Broadcaster's Clinic to attend this meeting and program.

In November, Chapter 24 will host its first annual Youth Night. This project began at the National SBE level as a way to get high school students interested in the broadcast field as a possible career path. The National office has requested that each Chapter hold an annual meeting geared towards this initiative. We have planned our Youth Night meeting for Thursday evening November 19th at WKOW-TV. The program will be comprised of a presentation on broadcast engineering, our regular Chapter 24 meeting, and finally a tour of the WKOW-TV facilities. Chapter 24 will also provide dinner. Invitations have been sent out to area high school counselors inviting students that have expressed an interest in the broadcasting or related field. If you know of a high school student that fits into this category, please encourage them to attend. It is important that any students planning on attending RSVP to Denise Maney at 277-8001 or via e-mail at by November 12th so she knows how many students to anticipate. I would also encourage Chapter members to attend this program and show support to the students in attendance. Finally, a big thank-you to Denise Maney who is coordinating this event and has already put in a lot of time creating and sending out invitations to the schools.

I hope we will see you at both the October and November Chapter 24 meetings!

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By Neal McLain

This is Part 25 in a series of articles about broadband networks. In this article, we'll continue our discussion of the FCC rules governing signal egress from broadband networks.


FCC rules regulating egress from broadband networks are contained in Part 76, Subpart K, of the Code of Federal Regulations. Part 76 covers Cable Television Service generally; the technical standards set forth in Subpart K apply to all broadband networks, CATV or otherwise.

The specific rules affecting egress are:

   §76.605(a)(13)  Maximum Permissible Leakage Level
   §76.609(h)      Leakage Measurement Procedures
   §76.610         Operation in Aeronautical Frequency Bands
   §76.611         Basic Leakage Performance Criteria
   §76.612         Frequency Separation Standards
   §76.613         Interference from a Cable Television System
   §76.614         Regular Monitoring
   §76.615         Notification Requirements
   §76.616         Operation near Critical Frequencies

Last month we discussed four rules which apply to all cable television systems: §76.605(a)(13), §76.609(h), §76.613, and §76.616.

The remaining rules apply only to cable systems which carry any carrier which meets two criteria:

Operates at a frequency which falls in the aeronautical-frequency bands.

Operates at a level exceeding +38.25 dBmV (10-4 watts) at any point in the distribution system.

In this article, we'll discuss four of the these remaining rules: §76.610, §76.612, §76.614, and §76.615. We'll hold §76.611 (Basic Leakage Performance Criteria) until November.


This rule is a "trigger rule": it specifies that if a cable television system carries any carrier which falls in any aeronautical band, rules §76.611, §76.612, §76.614, and §76.615 also apply.

This rule specifies the boundaries of the aeronautical frequency bands as follows:

         108-137 MHz
         225-400 MHz

These frequencies are assigned to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA uses these frequency bands for three services:

Aeronautical Mobile Two-way communications, mostly voice, with some digital data. Most communications occur between aircraft and ground-based control towers, although communications among aircraft are also permitted. Note that this service occupies three bands. 118.0 - 137.0
225.0 - 328.6
335.4 - 400.0
VHF Omnidirectional Range (VOR) VOR transmitters act as radio beacons, allowing pilots to navigate from one VOR transmitter to another by following VOR "radials." 108.0 - 118.0
Instrument Landing System (ILS) ILS transmitters guide landing aircraft to runways and heliport landing areas. 328.6 - 335.4

Given the importance of these bands to aviation safety, it's certainly no surprise that the FCC has established special rules to protect them from interference.


This rule specifies that, if a cable television system carries any carriers in any aeronautical band, all such carriers must be offset from carriers used by the FAA. The following table lists the offset requirements:

Aeronautical Mobile 118.0 - 137.0 14-16 ± 12.5 KHz
225.0 - 328.6 24-41 ± 12.5 KHz
335.4 - 400.0 43-53 ± 12.5 KHz
VHF Omnidirectional Range (VOR) 108.0 - 118.0 98-99 ± 25.0 KHz
Instrument Landing System (ILS) 328.6 - 335.4 42 ± 25.0 KHz

The FCC rules do not specify whether the offsets must be positive or negative. However, by common cable industry practice, positive offsets are almost universally used.

To illustrate these requirements, here are three examples: Cable Channel 14 (120-126 MHz): The nominal visual carrier frequency is 121.25 MHz; therefore, it falls in the Aeronautical Mobile band. Applying the required offset yields 121.25 + 0.0125 = 121.2625 MHz, halfway between Aeronautical Mobile frequencies at 121.2500 and 121.2750 MHz.

Cable Channel 42 (330-336 MHz): The nominal visual carrier frequency is 331.25 MHz; therefore, it falls in the ILS band. Applying the required offset yields 331.25 + 0.0250 = 331.2750 MHz, halfway between ILS frequencies at 331.2500 and 331.3000 MHz.

Cable Channel 98 (108-114 MHz): The nominal visual carrier frequency is 109.25 MHz; therefore, it falls in the VOR band. Applying the required offset yields 109.25 + 0.0250 = 109.2750, halfway between VOR frequencies at 109.2500 and 109.3000 MHz.

The allowable frequency tolerance in all cases is ±5 KHz.

As it happens, cable television operators also have another reason for offsetting visual carriers: distortion control. By applying appropriate offsets, distortion products resulting from the interaction among visual carriers can be forced to fall precisely on top of other visual carriers, effectively masking them.

Unfortunately, the offsets required by the FCC and the offsets necessary for distortion control aren't the same. In an effort to resolve these conflicting demands, three different frequency-assignment plans have evolved over the years:

"STANDARD": Under this plan, offsets are applied only where required by FCC frequency-separation rules. Non-offset visual carriers operate at the same nominal frequencies used in the VHF television broadcast band:
		F(c) = 6*n+1.25
where n is an integer.

IRC (Incrementally Related-Carriers): Under this plan, all visual carriers are phaselocked to harmonics of a single master oscillator in accordance with the following relationship:
		F(c) = 6*n+1.2625
where n indicates the harmonic of a master oscillator operating at 6.000 MHz. This technique was devised to control a type of distortion known as "third order distortion," which results from the interaction among groups of three carriers. Channels 5 and 6 are shifted upwards by 2 MHz; the resulting 6-MHz gap between Channels 4 and 5 is designated Channel 1.

HRC (Harmonically Related Carriers): Under this plan, all visual carriers are phaselocked to harmonics of a single master oscillator in accordance with the following relationship:
		F(c) = 6*n
where n indicates the harmonic of a master oscillator operating at 6.0003 MHz ±1 Hz. Note that frequency tolerance: plus-or-minus one Hertz. This technique was devised to control a type of distortion known as "second order distortion," which results from the interaction between pairs of carriers. All channels are shifted down by about 1.25 MHz except for Channels 5 and 6 which are shifted up by 0.75 MHz; the resulting 6-MHz gap between Channels 4 and 5 is designated Channel 1.

The resulting carrier assignments are listed in the following table. Every frequency listed in this table meets three criteria: It complies with applicable FCC rules.

It has been accepted by the FAA as providing sufficient offset.

It complies with the distortion-control offset requirement.

Gaps in the table indicate frequencies which do not comply with all three criteria. Cable operators cannot use these channels for video services.

  NOMINAL                STANDARD     IRC          HRC        MASTER

  54-60           2      55.2500      55.2625      54.0027             9
  60-66           3      61.2500      61.2625      60.0030            10
  66-72           4      67.2500      67.2625      66.0033            11
  72-76           1                   73.2625      72.0036            12
  76-82           5      77.2500      79.2625      78.0039            13
  82-88           6      83.2500      85.2625      84.0042            14
  90-96          95      91.2500      91.2625      90.0045            15
  96-102         96      97.2500      97.2625      96.0048            16
 102-108         97     103.2500     103.2625     102.0051            17
 108-114         98     109.2750                                      18
 114-120         99     115.2750                                      19
 120-126         14     121.2625     121.2625     120.0060            20
 126-132         15     127.2625     127.2625     126.0063            21
 132-138         16     133.2625     133.2625     132.0066            22
 138-144         17     139.2500     139.2625     138.0069            23
 144-150         18     145.2500     145.2625     144.0072            24
 150-156         19     151.2500     151.2625     150.0075            25
 156-162         20     157.2500     157.2625     156.0078            26
 162-168         21     163.2500     163.2625     162.0081            27
 168-174         22     169.2500     169.2625     168.0084            28
 174-180          7     175.2500     175.2625     174.0087            29
 180-186          8     181.2500     181.2625     180.0090            30
 186-192          9     187.2500     187.2625     186.0093            31
 192-198         10     193.2500     193.2625     192.0096            32
 198-204         11     199.2500     199.2625     198.0099            33
 204-210         12     205.2500     205.2625     204.0102            34
 210-216         13     211.2500     211.2625     210.0105            35
 216-222         23     217.2500     217.2625     216.0108            36
 222-228         24     223.2500     223.2625     222.0111            37
 228-234         25     229.2625     229.2625     228.0114            38
 234-240         26     235.2625     235.2625     234.0117            39
 240-246         27     241.2625     241.2625     240.0120            40
 246-252         28     247.2625     247.2625     246.0123            41
 252-258         29     253.2625     253.2625     252.0126            42
 258-264         30     259.2625     259.2625     258.0129            43
 264-270         31     265.2625     265.2625     264.0132            44
 270-276         32     271.2625     271.2625     270.0135            45
 276-282         33     277.2625     277.2625     276.0138            46
 282-288         34     283.2625     283.2625     282.0141            47
 288-294         35     289.2625     289.2625     288.0144            48
 294-300         36     295.2625     295.2625     294.0147            49
 300-306         37     301.2625     301.2625     300.0150            50
 306-312         38     307.2625     307.2625     306.0153            51
 312-318         39     313.2625     313.2625     312.0156            52
 318-324         40     319.2625     319.2625     318.0159            53
 324-330         41     325.2625     325.2625     324.0162            54
 330-336         42     331.2750                  330.0165            55
 336-342         43     337.2625     337.2625     336.0168            56
 342-348         44     343.2625     343.2625     342.0171            57
 348-354         45     349.2625     349.2625     348.0174            58
 354-360         46     355.2625     355.2625     354.0177            59
 360-366         47     361.2625     361.2625     360.0180            60
 366-372         48     367.2625     367.2625     366.0183            61
 372-378         49     373.2625     373.2625     372.0186            62
 378-384         50     379.2625     379.2625     378.0189            63
 384-390         51     385.2625     385.2625     384.0192            64
 390-396         52     391.2625     391.2625     390.0195            65
 396-402         53     397.2625     397.2625     396.0198            66
 402-408         54     403.2500     403.2625     402.0201            67
 408-414         55     409.2500     409.2625     408.0204            68
 414-420         56     415.2500     415.2625     414.0207            69
 420-426         57     421.2500     421.2625     420.0210            70
 426-432         58     427.2500     427.2625     426.0213            71
 432-438         59     433.2500     433.2625     432.0216            72
 438-444         60     439.2500     439.2625     438.0219            73
 444-450         61     445.2500     445.2625     444.0222            74
 450-456         62     451.2500     451.2625     450.0225            75
 456-462         63     457.2500     457.2625     456.0228            76
 462-468         64     463.2500     463.2625     462.0231            77
 468-474         65     469.2500     469.2625     468.0234            78
 474-480         66     475.2500     475.2625     474.0237            79
 480-486         67     481.2500     481.2625     480.0240            80
 486-492         68     487.2500     487.2625     486.0243            81
 492-498         69     493.2500     493.2625     492.0246            82
 498-504         70     499.2500     499.2625     498.0249            83
 504-510         71     505.2500     505.2625     504.0252            84
 510-516         72     511.2500     511.2625     510.0255            85
 516-522         73     517.2500     517.2625     516.0258            86
 522-528         74     523.2500     523.2625     522.0261            87
 528-534         75     529.2500     529.2625     528.0264            88
 534-540         76     535.2500     535.2625     534.0267            89
 540-546         77     541.2500     541.2625     540.0270            90
 546-552         78     547.2500     547.2625     546.0273            91
 552-558         79     553.2500     553.2625     552.0276            92
 558-564         80     559.2500     559.2625     558.0279            93
 564-570         81     565.2500     565.2625     564.0282            94
 570-576         82     571.2500     571.2625     570.0285            95
 576-582         83     577.2500     577.2625     576.0288            96
 582-588         84     583.2500     583.2625     582.0291            97
 588-594         85     589.2500     589.2625     588.0294            98
 594-600         86     595.2500     595.2625     594.0297            99
 600-606         87     601.2500     601.2625     600.0300           100
 606-612         88     607.2500     607.2625     606.0303           101
 612-618         89     613.2500     613.2625     612.0306           102
 618-624         90     619.2500     619.2625     618.0309           103
 624-630         91     625.2500     625.2625     624.0312           104
 630-636         92     631.2500     631.2625     630.0315           105
 636-642         93     637.2500     637.2625     636.0318           106
 642-648         94     643.2500     643.2625     642.0321           107
 648-654        100     649.2500     649.2625     648.0324           108
 654-660        101     655.2500     655.2625     654.0327           109
 660-666        102     661.2500     661.2625     660.0330           110
 666-672        103     667.2500     667.2625     666.0333           111
 672-678        104     673.2500     673.2625     672.0336           112
 678-684        105     679.2500     679.2625     678.0339           113
 684-690        106     685.2500     685.2625     684.0342           114
 690-696        107     691.2500     691.2625     690.0345           115
 696-702        108     697.2500     697.2625     696.0348           116
 702-708        109     703.2500     703.2625     702.0351           117
 708-714        110     709.2500     709.2625     708.0354           118
 714-720        111     715.2500     715.2625     714.0357           119
 720-726        112     721.2500     721.2625     720.0360           120
 726-732        113     727.2500     727.2625     726.0363           121
 732-738        114     733.2500     733.2625     732.0366           122
 738-744        115     739.2500     739.2625     738.0369           123
 744-750        116     745.2500     745.2625     744.0372           124
 750-756        117     751.2500     751.2625     750.0375           125
 756-762        118     757.2500     757.2625     756.0378           126
 762-768        119     763.2500     763.2625     762.0381           127
 768-774        120     769.2500     769.2625     768.0384           128
 774-780        121     775.2500     775.2625     774.0387           129
 780-786        122     781.2500     781.2625     780.0390           130
 786-792        123     787.2500     787.2625     786.0393           131
 792-798        124     793.2500     793.2625     792.0396           132
 798-804        125     799.2500     799.2625     798.0399           133

Many, but certainly not all, so-called "cable-ready" TV sets can accommodate the IRC and HRC frequency plans, although many older sets cannot properly tune Channels 1, 5, 6, and 95-99. Compatible sets include a provision for specifying the plan to be used: either a switch or an option in the setup menu. If the TV set cannot tune to all frequencies, a settop converter is usually required.

We should note at this juncture that most modern cable television systems now use the standard frequency plan. When IRC and HRC systems were first introduced in the late 70s, many new cable television systems were being designed to carry 50 or 60 channels; in those days, IRC and HRC were the only feasible means of controlling distortion. However, the rise of fiber optics during the past decade has greatly reduced the need for long amplifier cascades, thus dramatically improving the distortion performance of cable television distribution networks. As a result, offsets for distortion control are no longer necessary. Thanks to fiber optics, IRC and HRC are now nothing more than interesting historical relics.


This rule imposes the following requirement: the operator of every cable television system must monitor the entire distribution system for egress leakage on a quarterly basis, and repair all leaks identified. The results of this monitoring effort must be logged, and the log must be placed in the system's public inspection file. The log does not have to be submitted to the FCC; however, it must be made available to an FCC inspector on request.

Complying with this rule generally means that the cable operator must establish a formal search-and-repair program. In the ideal situation, one or more service trucks are dedicated full-time to locating and repairing leaks.

This rule also allows the operator to do the monitoring during the course of normal daily activities. Many operators follow this practice: leakage detection equipment and log forms are carried in every service truck. Leaks, when detected, are measured, logged, and repaired.

For each leak, the log must contain the following information:

Date the leak was detected.

Location of the leak. This information can be specified by street address, by utility pole number, or by a description such as "South Side of Main Street 6 poles west of First Street."

Field intensity of the leak, in microvolts per meter at 3 meters. Leaks lower that 20 microvolts per meter need not be logged (but, of course, they should still be repaired!).

Date the leak was repaired.

Probable cause of the leak. This information can be specified with a short phrase such as "cracked cable," "loose amplifier cover," or "animal damage." Many cable operators utilize a standardized list of causes so that the cause can be identified by number.

The obvious goal of this rule is this: find the leaks and fix them!

A question could logically be asked at this point: if the objective is to find and repair leaks, why keep a log? Why not just fix them?

From the FCC's perspective, the answer is this: the FCC wants the cable operator to establish an audit trail of every leak in case a question should arise later. Suppose, for example, that the FCC receives several complaints from amateur-radio operators about interference. In such cases, the FCC expects that the cable operator will be able to document the location and cause of every leak, and to state what, if anything, was done to repair it.

There's also an operational reason for keeping the log: sometimes there's a delay of a few days between finding a leak and fixing it. In a common situation, a technician may detect a leak during the normal course of driving around town, but he may not have time to stop and fix it on the spot. The log records this situation as an "open leak," to be repaired as soon as possible.

If I were an inspector inspecting a cable system's leakage log, I would look for three things:

Groupings of log entries having similar dates and locations. These entries would confirm that the system maintains a diligent search-and-repair activity.

Random unrelated entries sprinkled in among the groupings. These entries would confirm that system technicians are conscientious about logging leaks detected during the normal course of daily activities.

Open leaks. Any open leak more than a week old would be cause for concern.


This rule imposes the following requirement: the operator of every cable television system must notify the FCC annually of every carrier carried on the distribution system. The notification must be made before a new carrier is added to the distribution system, and annually thereafter. The notification may be made by either of the following procedures:

By letter. This procedure is usually followed when new carriers are to be added.

By Form 325. This is an annual report required of all cable operators. Schedule 2 of this report requires a list of carrier frequencies. The "timely filing" of this form satisfies the annual-notification requirement.

The following information is required:

Legal name and address of the cable operator.

FCC "Community Unit Identification Number" of the cable system. This number is assigned by the FCC the first time a notification is made; it must be used on all subsequent notifications.

The names and telephone numbers of local system officials who are responsible for compliance with rules §76.610 through §76.616.

The frequency, frequency tolerance, type of modulation, and maximum average power level of every carrier and subcarrier carried anywhere in the distribution system.

The geographic coordinates of a point near the center of the distribution system, and the distance, in kilometers, from the center to the most remote point on the distribution system. This information describes a circle which contains the entire distribution system.

A description of the monitoring procedure. This description identify the measurement equipment used, and the procedures followed, during the course of the monitoring required by §76.614.

The results of the measurements and calculations made in compliance with §76.611 (Basic Leakage Performance Criteria).

The FCC compiles this information into a computerized database. While the FCC doesn't specify what it does with this information, it's safe to assume that employees of the Field Operations Bureau have access it when they inspect a cable system. In my experience, by the time an FCC inspector shows up at the cable system's front door, he already has a list of things to talk about. He already knows where the worst leaks are; he already knows which carriers are out of frequency tolerance; and he's even checked the tower lights.

Next month we'll continue this leakage discussion with a detailed look at a single rule: §76.611, Basic Leakage Performance Criteria.

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By Tom Smith

On August 6, 1998, the FCC issued new rules on how broadcast licenses are selected. New licenses will now be granted to the highest bidder in a multi-round electronic auction. These rules are a complete departure from the way the FCC has selected new broadcast licenses in the past. This action is a result of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Congress ordered the FCC to settle pending and future mutually exclusive applications for construction permits by auction for both broadcast and Instructional Television Fixed Service (ITFS). This follows the previous actions by Congress that required auctions for the issuing of licenses for new services such as Personal Communications Services (PCS), Interactive Digital Video Service (IDVS), and Wireless Communications Service. Congress also ordered auctions for existing services such as Direct Broadcast Satellite, Multi-point Microwave Distribution Service (MMDS), and Specialized Mobile Radio (SMR) and now for broadcast radio and television.

This article will cover the history and methods of applying for broadcast and other licenses in the past and how the process has evolved into the use of auctions today. The process has been changing over the years as regulation was reduced and new services were created.

For many years, the FCC chose new license winners based on the qualifications of the applicant and proposed service that they promised. The application process changed over the years until it became difficult to determine the most qualified applicant.

To file an application in the 1970's and before, one had to follow the following process: The first step was to find a frequency for the new station for the town you wanted to build in, whether it be an AM, FM or TV. With an AM station, the applicant filed an application for the frequency they wished at anytime on a first-come, first-served basis. For FM and TV stations, one would look for a frequency for a particular community from a table issued by the FCC and also apply on a first come, first served basis. At one time, an applicant would select their own frequency for a new FM or TV station, but the FCC issued allocation tables for applicants to follow with TV starting in the early fifties and with FM in the early sixties.

If there was not a FM or TV frequency available in that particular community, then the applicant had to find one and ask the FCC to issue a new rule that would add that frequency to the allocation table. The FCC would issue a Notice of Rule Making, asking for comments for a period of time, and then issue the new allocation, if it met all the separation requirements. The application could then be filed any time after the effective date of the new allocation.

After the application was filed, the FCC would issue a Public Notice that it had received the application, and again when it accepted the application, and would issue a cut-off date for accepting any competing application. Besides the required technical information, each applicant was required to supply information concerning its finances, showing that it could operate the station for a year without any revenue. Other information that the FCC asked for included questions on legal qualifications, such as "Are the applicants citizens of the United States," and if they were within the FCC ownership limits. The FCC also asked for information on the character of the applicant which included questions on any convictions of the law and public service, such as holding public office and membership in civic organizations. Applicants were required to do an ascertainment or survey of the public to determine their needs and give a statement on how the programming of the new station would meet those needs. In the 70's, the FCC started asking if any of the owners were female or minority, if they lived in the community, and if they would be involved in the daily operation of the station.

If the applicant meet the FCC qualifications, they would be issued a construction permit. If there were more then one applicant or if there were questions about the applicants qualifications, the FCC would hold a hearing. To determine the most qualified of multiple applicants, the hearing examiner would compare the financial and legal qualifications, the character of the applicants, and the proposed programming plan to determine the winner. The examiner would also consider and give extra credit for female, minority and local ownership, and integration into daily management.

This system of awarding licenses worked more or less until the late 70's and early 80's. During this time, there was an increased interest in the construction of FM stations, followed by an increase in UHF-TV stations. Many allocations that laid unused for many years were now attracting numerous applicants. It was becoming more difficult for the FCC to sort out, as applicants increased and differences between applicants decreased. Applicants started to go to court to appeal the FCC decisions and ask courts to declare the standards concerning finances and preferences for female, minority, local ownership, and integration in daily management illegal.

If this wasn't enough, the FCC created the low-power TV service and shortly after created almost 700 new FM allocations with docket 80-90. The FCC was deluged with thousands of applications for low-power TV. The number of applications was increased by the appearance of so-called application mills. These were technical consultants that solicited parties to file for these new low-power stations and later for the new FM stations. Some of these consultants would file applications for a number of parties seeking the same frequency.

After seeing the problems with low-power TV, the FCC came up with another plan for issuing new FM licenses. Applicants would have to wait for the FCC to open a filing window for accepting new applications for a particular community. The window would be opened for 30 to 45 days. If no one filed during the filing window, the FCC would open the allocation to first-come, first-serve by granting the license to the first qualified applicant. The FCC eventually created a window filing system for low-power TV. At various times of the year, the FCC would announce a filing window that would last for a few days and accept low-power TV applications during that time only.

During this time, the FCC started to deregulate and, as part of the deregulation, changed the application so that less detailed information was required. Some questions concerning financial and legal information were reduced to a check off box stating that the applicant meet the qualifications. The FCC also reduced the financial requirements to requiring the applicant to be able to operate for three months without revenue. This made it more difficult to create criteria to determine the qualifications of the applicants. To offset some of the problems and cost from the increase of applications, the FCC got the right to charge fees of thousands of dollars depending on the service. If the application went to a hearing the FCC charged a fee of more than $6000. Fees for filing an application for a new station had been only a couple of hundred dollars in the early 70's and a court action suspended fees for a number of years from the late 70's into the late 80's after the FCC tried in 1975 to adopt fees from several hundred dollars for a small AM station to tens of thousands for a big market TV station.

By 1993, the courts had ruled that the most of the criteria concerning female, minority, local ownership and integration of ownership were illegal. At that time, comparative hearings ground to a halt. The only mutually-exclusive applications being settled were those that came to an agreement between themselves. The applicants would either merge together or buy out each other and thus settle who receives the license after approval from the FCC.

In 1993, Congress, as part of the Omnibus Budget Act of 1993, decided to transfer 200 megahertz of spectrum from government use to civilian use, of which 100 megahertz was below 3,000 megahertz. As part of this transfer, Congress decided the spectrum should be auctioned to raise money to pay for the National debt. Congress extended the auctions to some existing spectrum. In the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Congress extended auctions to broadcast and Instruction Television Fixed Service.

Earlier this year, the FCC issued a Notice of Rulemaking and ask for comment on how to implement the wishes of Congress and create an auction procedure for broadcast licenses. At the same time the FCC froze the application process by not taking any new applications and ceasing to process any mutually-exclusive applications. An auction procedure for determining new licenses was created and the FCC made a decision that it would also include existing applicants already in comparative hearing process and decide their future with the use of auctions.

What applicants are included in the auctions? All applicants for new AM, FM, and TV full-power stations and applicants for low-power TV, FM and TV translators and ITFS stations. The only applicants that are exempt are those applicants for reserved non-commercial frequencies and the second channels given to existing TV stations for DTV. Existing station licenses could also be involved in auctions. If there is a conflict between two stations filing for upgraded facilities, the FCC would conduct an auction to determine which station gets the upgrade. This would happen when the upgrade creates a prohibited signal overlap. Because Congress did not expressly exempt ITFS from auctions, like it did for non-commercial radio and TV, the FCC will proceed with auctions for mutually-exclusive ITFS applications, but they will wait to allow for Congress to provide guidance on the issue.

There are a number of steps in the auction procedure with short intervals between steps. The first step, after an applicant finds a open frequency to apply for, depends on the service. For FM and TV, if there is no open frequency on the table of allocations, the potential applicant must file to the amend the table and wait for a Rulemaking. For AM, low-power TV and translator services, frequency selection is part of the application process. The application process begins with the filing of FCC Form 175, which is an application to participate in an auction. This application is filed during a filing window which the FCC will announce at various times of the year. This is a 2 or 3 page application that is to be filed electronically. The program for filing Form 175 fills three high-density floppy discs and can be downloaded from the FCC web site before the auction. Page one asks for: applicants name, address, phone number, e-mail address, taxpayer identification number which is either an IRS business tax number or a social security number; and the markets and frequencies that the applicant wishes to bid on. Page one also asks for names of those allowed to bid and if the applicant is eligible for any bidding credits. There is an certification for the applicant to affirm that they meet the legal requirements and are financially able to construct the station. The second page is the instruction sheet and the third page is a supplemental sheet for listing additional markets and frequencies. A copy can be downloaded from the forms page on the FCC web site. Electronic connection to the FCC is made on a "900" number for $2.30 per minute. TV and FM stations do not have to file any other information. AM, low-power TV, translators, and stations making major changes, have to file an engineering section that is similar to the one in the current applications for that particular service. This is for the FCC to determine conflicts between applications. A week after the filing period ends, the FCC will notify the applicants if there application is accepted or incomplete. A week later, those with incomplete applications must be refiled. All applicants must pay the up front or minimum bid payment. The traditional amount has been $0.02 per pop (person) per megahertz in each market that the applicant is bidding within. The amount under this formula for a TV station in a market of 1,000,000 people would be 1,000,000 people times $0.02 times 6 megahertz for a total of $120,000. This is one method the FCC has used and the FCC could chose to use other methods. A week later, the FCC will issue a Public Notice listing the bidders and in what markets they are bidding for. The bidders are then registered and a package is sent by overnight delivery containing the bidding information, which includes a copy of the Public Notice, bidding software, access codes, information on a mock auction and other needed materials. A couple of days later a mock auction is held and then 5 days later the auction starts.

The auction is conducted with multi-rounds of bidding until there is no bidder that is willing to increase the previous high bid. The FCC will set a minimum bid per round and an amount bidding activity. No bidders will be allowed to sit out until the closing rounds.

Once a winner is determined, the winner must be notified; a full application must be filed; and the remainder of the winning bid must be paid. The winner must make a 20 percent down payment within ten business days of the being notified and must file a long form application within 30 days of the notification date. The rest of the bid must be paid within ten business days following a Public Notice that the FCC will award the license to the winning bidder. The FCC will accept petitions to deny for ten days following the Public Notice that the Commission has accepted the long form application for filing. The applicant has five days from the petition to deny's filing date to file their opposition and petitioner has another five days to reply.

To enable small business to better compete in the auctions, the FCC offers a bidding credit or discount so that they can increase their bid in relation to larger businesses with higher bank accounts. A bidder with no other media interest ( more than 50 % interest or defacto control ) will get a 35 percent bidding credit. A bidder with no more than 3 media outlets and none in the same area of the proposed station will be able to receive a 25 percent bidding credit. Media interests include broadcast stations, cable TV systems and newspapers. The "same area" includes relevant contours for broadcast stations or the community that a cable system operates in or a newspaper publishes in. A bidder who receives a credit will have to repay all or part of the credit if they sell the station within 5 years to someone who would not qualify for the credit.

The FCC still plans on making some adjustments to the auction procedure to adapt for some needs that may be special to broadcast auction. The FCC originally wrote a new set of rules for each auction when they first started the auction process. The FCC now has a basic set of rules for all auctions located in Part One of the FCC Rules. The FCC makes additional rules for each auction's needs, such as minimum bids and bid increments and some adjustments in the timelines.

The FCC holds seminars before the start of auctions to explain the procedures ( in Washington, D.C. ) and has information on the auction page of its web site. Before attempting to apply to participate in an auction: read all rulemakings concerning the particular auction; the sections of Part One of the Rules concerning auctions; and any information on the FCC web site concerning auctions. Attending an FCC seminar and retaining an attorney versed in auctions may be required for the best understanding of the process. The timelines for auctions are short and electronic filing and bidding systems are complex enough that errors could easily occur and could be costly in either the placing too high a bid or losing the opportunity to place a bid.

The rules become effective on November 10th. The full notice is available on the FCC web site and the rules were published on the FEDERAL REGISTER on September 11, 1998 on pages 48,615-48,633. The FCC planned to start the first broadcast auctions this fall, but that could be delayed by the need for additional rulemaking and legal challenges. There is a lawsuit against the FCC in a Boston Federal Court that claims economic injury. An applicant that was involved in an existing comparative hearing is claiming that he has been economically injured because he has paid a substantial amount of legal fees in preparing for and appearing in a hearing and now the rules are changed and additional costs are imposed by having to participate in a auction.

>From the FCC web site (, the FEDERAL REGISTER ( and the BROADCASTING YEARBOOK (1975,1991 Editions)

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By Kevin Ruppert

Yes! We are going to try it again! We do not want left overs, we really want everyone in Chapter 24 to bake fresh cookies once again for the Bake Off in conjunction with the Broadcaster's Clinic!

All chapter members are eligible to participate. What you have to do is to make two dozen home made cookies. (There will be nothing stale about it!)

All of the cookies from all of the members will be displayed (and eaten) in the chapter's booth at the Broadcaster's Clinic. A ballot box will provide Clinic goers a chance to vote for their favorite cookies!

The rules are the same as last year, and are simple! Any Chapter 24 member is eligible. The cookies must be made from scratch. No mixes! The Chapter member must be the one who actually bakes the cookies. No spouses! (You can get minimal assistance from your spouse, such as having him/her show you which end of the rolling pin should face the dough.)

Please bring your batch to the Chapter 24 booth at the Clinic exhibits floor by 4:30pm on Tuesday. One dozen will be displayed/available to eat on Tuesday, with the second dozen available Wednesday.

Even if you don't bake a batch, come to the booth, chat for a while, and have some home made cookies. A special prize will be given to the person with the most votes. And we promise that you will not have to watch any campaign commercials while you are there!

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Research volunteers are needed for a study on the competencies required of broadcast engineers to implement DTV. Steve Bauder, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Stout and Chief Engineer of Wisconsin Public Television/Radio station WHWC, is conducting the research on behalf of the SBE.

Volunteers are needed to complete a survey in which they will be asked to rate the importance of various skills, knowledge and abilities compiled from a panel of leaders in the field of digital television. The only pre-requisite for participation is a cursory understanding of the technologies of digital television.

Please e-mail your interest in the study to:

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By Tom Weeden, WJ9H

• New developments in amateur radio spread-spectrum technology were highlighted at the 17th Digital Communications Conference last month in Rolling Meadows, IL. Japanese hams showed experimental 2.4 GHz stations operating at data rates of about 800 kbit/s. Experiments using cable modems modified for use over the air on amateur frequencies are also underway in the San Francisco Bay area. These technological efforts did not escape the notice of conference keynote speaker Dale N. Hatfield, W0IFO, Chief of the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology. He expressed pleasure and approval at seeing the kind of experimental work that amateurs are engaged in, calling such efforts vital to the future of Amateur Radio. The conference was sponsored by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) and Tucson Amateur Packet Radio (TAPR).

• The FCC has levied a $2500 fine on a Florida ham for malicious interference on a business radio service frequency. Jeffrey G. Guss, KF4MWT, of Palm Bay, Florida, was cited by the Commission following an investigation of several months that also involved malicious interference to an amateur repeater.

(Excerpts from the October 9, 1998 "ARRL Letter")

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By John L. Poray, CAE
Executive Director


Led by President, Ed Miller, CPBE, SBE's message on BAS spectrum was delivered to 11 members of the House Telecommunications Sub-committee on October 1-2. Joining Miller were SBE General Counsel, Chris Imlay and Executive Director, John Poray.

SBE's message is that replacement spectrum must be allocated to broadcasters to make up for losses in the 2 GHz band. The group also asked the Congressmen to support compensating broadcasters for the costs incurred in any moves to new band locations. Eleven appointments were set with the congressmen or their key staff during the two day trip, including the office of Sub-committee Chairman, Billy Tauzin, R-Louisiana. A meeting was also arranged with the staff of Rep. Dan Burton, R-Indiana, whose district the National SBE Headquarters resides.

A letter to Chapter Chairmen from President Miller in August asked for input on what continuing role, if any, should SBE take on the BAS issue. SBE has a history dating back more than ten years in protecting the 2 GHz band from spectrum predators. The resounding message back was to keep fighting to insure that adequate spectrum was set aside for broadcaster's BAS use.


SBE Certification Chairman, Terry Baun, CPBE, announced last month that opportunities to take SBE Certification Exams will double in 1999. There will be four 10-day periods, instead of the usual two periods, when exams can be offered in local chapters. This will provide more flexibility and convenience to members wishing to become certified. Exams can also be taken during the NAB Convention in Las Vegas. For more information about SBE Certification, see your Chapter Certification Chair or contact Linda Godby-Emerick, Certification Director at the SBE National Office at (317) 253-1640 or


Some chapters have already started making plans to hold a "Student Night" Chapter Meeting later this fall or early in 1999. The SBE National Headquarters has a free special packet available to help chapters plan this special meeting. Just call us at (317) 253-1640 or e-mail Scott at and we'll mail one to you. Be sure to let our office know when you plan to hold your special meeting and, after it's over, drop us a line to tell us how it went.

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Alpha Video
Belden Wire and Cable
BCS Wireless
Clark Wire and Cable
Comark Communications
Harris Corporation
Louth Automation
National Tower Service
Niall Enterprises
Norlight Telecommunications
Panasonic Broadcast
Richardson Electronics
Roscor Wisconsin
Scharch Electronics
Skyline Communications
Sony Broadcast
Teleport Minnesota
Token Creek Productions
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