The impact a Connecticut station’s translator change is having on an FM signal on Long Island will apparently be the latest interference dispute facing the FCC on the increasingly congested FM dial. The problem is exacerbated by the Long Island Sound situated between the markets of New Haven, CT and eastern Long Island, over which FM signals carry further than on dry land.
The conundrum began when St. Thomas Seminary’s religious WJMJ Hartford (88.9) relocated its Hamden, CT-licensed FM translator W225DI to 92.9 and moved its non-directional antenna 20 feet up the tower to 460 feet, to give it better coverage of the New Haven market. The translator is located on the CHR “KC-101” WKCI-FM radio tower on Gaylord Mountain Road in Hamden.
The move up the tower and down the dial from 93.1 has reportedly caused interference with Long Island Radio Broadcasting adult alternative WEHM (92.9), a Class A licensed to Manorville, NY. Stefan Rybak, managing director for WEHM’s owner, claims that as a result of the changes, WEHM listeners on both sides of Long Island Sound are unable to hear that station due to interference from WJMJ’s relocated translator.
“Last week, we started getting inundated with phone calls and emails, not only from listeners in southern Connecticut, but from those on the north shore of Long Island as well,” Rybak told the New Haven Register. “This station enjoys quite a loyal and dedicated listenership because of the format that we have.” What’s more, the station, whose adult alternative format attracts a loyal listener base in the upscale Hamptons region of eastern Long Island, began getting complaints from advertisers on the north shore of Long Island, WEHM engineer Bud Williamson told the Register.
WEHM tried unsuccessfully to resolve the dispute directly with WJMJ. “We've tried nicely to communicate with them, but they’ve asked us to file a formal complaint,” Rybak told the Register. “What that means is that both stations are going to spend a lot of money, but in the end, they are not going to win.” No complaint had yet been filed with the FCC as of Tuesday.
Tom Ray, a veteran engineer who has worked with WOR New York and numerous Connecticut stations, including WJMJ, says there are several ways the issue can be resolved. “But in order for us to do that, we have to define the problem,” he told the Register. “And in order to do that, we have to see where their complaints are coming from.”
For its part, WHEM says it has info from more than 50 listeners that spell out when they experienced the interference, the type of radio they were using and other specifics.
The dispute illustrates the larger problem the FCC is facing with an FM dial jam-packed with thousands of FM translators. At its May meeting, the Commission launched a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would alter the current system for resolving interference complaints, which has been “nasty, brutish and long,” according to FCC chair Ajit Pai.