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Docket No. 17780




10 F.C.C.2d 881 (1967)




September 27, 1967 Adopted





[*881]  1.  Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the above-entitled matter is hereby given.


2.  The Commission has under consideration the revision of its rules as they pertain to the issuance of provisional radio operator certificates, in particular those issued for radiotelephone third-class operator permits endorsed for broadcast use.


3.  The Commission has been informed by the National Association of Broadcasters that there is a shortage of licensed commercial radio operators in small market broadcast areas and part of the difficulty appears to be due to the time required for a prospective operator to travel to the nearest FCC filed office and be examined, a distance which often is several hundred miles.  Although the Commission does schedule examinations at places away from the field office, such examinations in some cases are given infrequently because of the small number of applicants.  The station in the small market area has considerable difficulty in attracting and holding experienced operators as they cannot afford to pay the wage scale in effect in larger and more populated areas.  Therefore, it is incumbent upon them to employ and train inexperienced local people.


4.  At present, as a minimum requirement, a person holding a third-class radiotelephone operator permit which has been endorsed for broadcast operation may be responsible for routine operation of a standard broadcast station, with authorized operating power of 10 kw. or less and employing a nondirectional antenna; or an FM broadcast station with an output power not in excess of 25 kw.; or a noncommercial educational FM broadcast station of 25 kw. or less output power.  Such licenses are obtained only following successful completion of an examination before an authorized Commission employee.


5.  Section 13.8 of the rules currently provides for issuance of special  [*882]  temporary operator authorizations, provisional radio operator certificates, "in circumstances requiring immediate authority to operate a radio station pending submission of proof of eligibility or of qualifications or pending a determination by the Commission as to these matters." However, at present, the rules preclude issuance of such certificates if the applicant has not fulfilled the examination requirements.  The maximum term of the certificates is 6 months.


6.  The attached proposed amendments would provide for the issuance of provisional radio operator certificates to applicants for radiotelephone third-class operator permits endorsed for broadcast use prior to the fulfillment of the examination requirements and for a maximum term of 12 months.  The applicant would then be expected to appear at a regularly scheduled examination point within the term of the certificate in order to fulfill the examination requirements.  The provisional certificate is not renewable.


7.  It is believed that small business will benefit from the new procedure in that licensed radio operators should be more readily available and inexperienced persons may find employment in the broadcasting industry, as operators, without the immediate necessity of traveling long distances to a Commission field office in order to take an examination.  The applicant will be able to choose a later examination place and date which will be more convenient to him.


8.  It is believed this is a matter of pressing need and that a determination should be reached at an early date.  Accordingly, the times for filing comments and reply comments as hereinafter specified have been expedited.


9.  The proposed amendments to the rules, published in 32 F.R. 13821, are issued pursuant to the authority contained in section 303 (1) and (r) or the Communications Act of 1934, as amended.


10.  Pursuant to applicable procedures set forth in section 1.415 of the Commission's rules, interested persons may file comments on or before October 20, 1967, and reply comments on or before October 30, 1967.  All relevant and timely comments and reply comments will be considered by the Commission before final action is taken in this proceeding.  In reaching its decision in this proceeding, the Commission may also take into account other relevant information before it, in addition to the specific comments invited by this Notice.


11.  In accordance with the provisions of section 1.419 of the Commission's rules, an original and 14 copies of all statements or comments filed shall be furnished the Commission.







Today we endeavor to ease somewhat the burdens on the small market station-owners of this country.  The proposal is encouraging.  It is not enough.

The Communications Act, and FCC regulations, require that the operation of transmitters be carried on by licensed operators.  These  [*883]  requirements grow out of the FCC's responsibility to administer an integrated broadcasting system.  Such a system necessarily requires that transmitters be limited to predetermined powers, frequencies, and operating hours.  It requires that quality of audio and visual signals be maintained.  It would be administratively costly (if not impossible) to attempt to police a broadcasting system operated by individuals wholly ignorant of the technological limitations upon them.  Licensing of operators is designed to assure that transmitters will be in the hands of those capable of keeping their broadcast signals within the necessary bounds.


But it is a big jump from this underlying philosophy to the FCC's present regulations -- and, especially, their impact on broadcasters in the smaller markets.

Stationowners in major markets have access to a larger pool of manpower, can pay engineers more, can train personnel more easily at their stations or local schools, have access to local license examination centers of the FCC -- and are operating in the midst of extraordinarily heavy use of frequencies by others.

Small market broadcasters have few engineers available locally, difficulties in recruiting, training, paying, and licensing personnel.  Potential engineers must travel great distances to take FCC examinations.  And the consequences of operation in violation of Commission-imposed limitations, while serious, are far less significant.  Moreover, licensed engineers, once hired and trained, are often subject to being lured away to higher paying jobs in larger cities.

Given these differences, I believe the whole matter of operator requirements in smaller market stations is worthy of reevaluation -- not just the limited matter we address today: "provisional licenses" to permit unlicensed personnel to operate stations while receiving training.


Here is a sampling of the kind of questions I would like to see us address more generally.


What are our present "manning" requirements for broadcast stations?  What kind of training is required, for how many positions, at what different classes of stations (for example, those with directional antennas)?


Why are these requirements imposed?  What are examples of the kinds of consequences that would come about from lesser standards -- or present standards? What are the jobs that need to be performed by licensed personnel?  How much training does each take?  How much time?  Which require an engineer to be in constant attendance, and which merely require that trained personnel be on call?  What are the tradeoffs between technically trained personnel and new technology, automation, and mechanization -- past, present, and prospective?


What characteristics, training, and experience are necessary to qualify for the various licensed operator positions?  What is the potential supply of such persons -- in various regions of the country?  What are the difficulties in recruiting and holding such personnel?  What are the pay scales?  What are the competing sources of employment for them?  Must trained personnel be brought into the smaller markets, or can local people be trained for these positions?

 [*884]  What available alternatives are there to our current regulations?  Are different standards warranted for smaller markets and the large urbanized areas?  Could more training programs be provided for present personnel to qualify them for the jobs that need doing?  Is greater reliance upon shared personnel warranted in smaller markets?  Are there administrative ways of easing the burden of applicants traveling great distances to take irregularly scheduled FCC examinations?


The FCC -- and its licensees -- must maintain the integrity of our national broadcasting system, whatever the cost.  Its predecessor, the Radio Commission, was born out of the industry's insistence that the intolerable chaos of unregulated broadcasting signals be eliminated.  We must never allow those conditions to return.


But radio waves are not precise.  Like old generals, they do not die, they fade away.  Moreover, their coverage area changes with the weather, the time of day and year, atmospheric conditions, and soil conditions.  Nor are our measuring devices able to provide us more than mere approximations.  Whether or not a station is "on frequency" depends on how precisely one wishes to define, and then measure, "drift." We have chosen to create a national system of 7,000 commercial radio and television station transmitters (as a part of a larger total of 5 million transmitters nationally for all purposes).  We have chosen to accept a measure of signal interference in exchange for these large numbers, and this diversity of programming.  We have struck a pragmatic balance between engineering virginity and commercial chaos.


The same process must be applied to our licensed operator requirements.  Our engineering colleges could not turn out enough graduates to man every transmitter in America 24 hours a day.  And even if they could, that extreme could not assure the total elimination of occasional technical failure or malfunctioning.  Again, we must strike a balance.  There is nothing immutable about our present standards.  Perhaps, in some respects, they should be more rigorous.  Perhaps, in other respects, they should be less.


In any event, I feel intuitively that a thorough review is in order.  And I would personally welcome any comments that might be filed in this proceeding dealing with the more general issues before us.


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