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FCC denies petition from radio exec to renew licenses

The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday denied an urgent petition for reconsideration filed by Puerto Rico radio executive Wilfredo Blanco-Pi to renew the licenses for three experimental AM stations for a six-month period.

The agency denied the petition for licenses for WA2XPA in Arecibo, WI2XSO in Mayagüez, and WI3SO in Aguadilla.

“The stations are AM synchronous boosters licensed to Wifredo Blanco-Pi, and designed to test the operation of such boosters on the same channels as two of Blanco-Pi’s full-power AM stations, WAPA (AM), San Juan, Puerto Rico (WAPA), and WISO (AM), Ponce, Puerto Rico (WISO),” the agency said.

The FCC based its decision on what it called “untimely,” or improperly filed petitions for the renewals.

Background of the case
The FCC explained that between 1999 and 2003, the stations were first licensed to Blanco-Pi as Experimental Broadcast Stations pursuant to FCC rules. Blanco-Pi sought to experiment with AM synchronous booster technology, to determine among other things whether such same-channel booster stations could operate alongside full-power AM broadcast stations without causing harmful interference. To that end, Blanco-Pi successfully sought modification of WAPA’s main facility, reducing power to accommodate operation of WA2XPA, the FCC explained.

“Blanco-Pi sought and received annual renewals for the stations’ licenses, albeit often without the required reports of his experimental progress. In 2009, he sought to add a third synchronous booster to the two he was already operating in conjunction with station WISO,” the FCC explained.

“After initially denying the application based on an erroneous interpretation of the rules, the staff denied reconsideration based on Blanco-Pi’s failure to demonstrate any further experimental benefit of adding a third AM synchronous booster, at Guayama, Puerto Rico, to WISO and the two existing AM synchronous boosters,” the regulator further noted.

“In seeking review, Blanco-Pi attempted, for the first time, to justify the addition of a new AM booster station on technical and experimental grounds; the FCC disregarded these new arguments, but considered and rejected Blanco-Pi’s originally proffered justification for the additional booster, namely, that it would allow him to extend WISO’s program service to Guayama, more efficiently and inexpensively than he could by conventional means. The proposed experimental booster station was to be used to ‘rebroadcast entirely WISO-AM programming [from] merely unattended transmitter sites’,” the FCC explained.

Ultimately, the FCC rejected the justifications saying licensing a broadcast experimental radio station showed no apparent benefit. Blanco-Pi did not seek reconsideration of the Guayama decision, the FCC said.

After the Guayama decision, the FCC determined that the local radio executive had successfully concluded his experimentation with AM synchronous boosters. Each of the stations had been licensed for more than six years, and because Blanco-Pi allegedly suggested his experimentation had ended, the staff renewed the station licenses for six months, ordering that at the end of that period they would be canceled and call signs deleted.

Blanco-Pi subsequently attempted to convince the FCC to allow him to retain the stations, but for a number of reasons — including untimely pleadings — the agency denied the petition.

“Blanco-Pi’s arguments evidence basic misunderstandings regarding the rules, the conditions on the stations’ experimental licenses, and the nature of the experimental service generally,” the FCC said.

“These misinterpretations of the law governing the stations lead Blanco-Pi to the erroneous conclusion that he is entitled to permanent operation of the stations,” the FCC added in its decision released Wednesday.

The regulator said Blanco-Pi sought the Guayama booster primarily to extend WISO’s service into an area it previously could not reach. Similarly, he opposed the loss of the stations because they extend WISO and WAPA’s service to other parts of the island of Puerto Rico.

“Blanco-Pi argues that he should be allowed to have a greater coverage area for the programming broadcast over his existing full-power stations, in part because he believes his programming to be superior to his competitors’,” the FCC said. “However, no broadcaster can simply transform experimental stations into full-time program services, much less extend those services to other communities in order to program against its competitors.”

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 27 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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