Monday, February 15, 2016

Are Part 15 Stations Considered "Radio Stations" By The FCC?

About five years ago I became involved in a brief debate with Bill and others at on whether the FCC actually considered Part 15 stations as Radio Stations.
I had argued, much to the disagreement of others, that of course they consider our flea-powered operations as radio stations! To me, it was a matter of common sense..

Under FCC laws, a provision had been long established which enabled us a position in which we may publicly air most any form of audio programming we desire, providing that we adhere to the specific power and antenna limitations outlined in the applicable sections of part 15 -- or, in other words, we legally broadcast on the public airways, a selection of music, talk shows, commentaries, commercials, and whatever else, and the FCC is well aware of it and, under law, permits it..
So it just stood to reason, of course the FCC considers us radio stations!

I was a little in awe that others considered my view to be nonsense.

The debate that ensued ranked up there as one of my favorites, -- not just because ultimately my point was proved true, but because during that unplanned, impromptu debate, it became evident that what was initially nothing more than just my casual expression of opinion on the matter, was actually backed by some very legitimate facts... I learned something.

Are Part 15 Stations Considered "Radio Stations" By The FCC?

One of the opposing views was "If this were true we'd be treated the same way with licensing, fees, logging requirements, etc. Sorry, but I have to respectfully disagree with that."

The facts:
If you are publicly broadcasting licensed, copyrighted music, regardless if yours is a licensed station, a Part 15 unlicensed station, or a bar room jukebox, you are required to obtain a license, pay the fees for the rights, and provide periodic logs (this is a touchy subject for some who disagree).

For Part 15 stations, a license is obtainable from BMI at; The contract is predominately displayed on the right menu, entitled "BMI Part 15 Station Radio License".  It is a 5 page contract which you are required to fill out and return with payment.
A few excerpts from the BMI Contract:

Part 1C: "Part 15 radio broadcasting shall mean audio "over-the-air" broadcasting in all of it's forms that is exempt by the Federal Communications Commission under section... ..Part 15 radio broadcasting does not include internet, cable or other online transmissions"
Part 3A: "The annual license fee for the  Term is $249 and is payable upon execution of this License Agreement..."
Part 4: As long as Part 15 Radio Broadcaster is not in default or arrears in payment under this Agreement, BMI agrees to indemnify, save and hold harmless and to defend Part 15 Radio Broadcaster, its advertisers and their advertising agencies, it's officers, employees, and artist, from and against all claims, demands and suits that may be made or brought against them or any of them with respect to the public performance under this Agreement of any material licensed hereunder;..."
Part 8: Upon reasonable notice, Part 15 Radio Broadcaster agrees to furnish BMI list and certain required information concerning its performances of all musical works on forms provided by BMI..."
Direct link to contract in it's entirety here:

OK, so that's all very well and good, but it doesn't answer the question;
Are Part 15 Stations Considered "Radio Stations" By The FCC?
So let's answer that..

True, within the Part 15 rules and regulations, nowhere is our audio transmissions on the public AM and FM bands specifically referred as "radio stations".  The way the FCC does define our transmitters under Part 15 is "intentional radiators".
However, it is just as accurate to define a licensed station as an "intentional radiator"; the primary difference is it that they have much more power, and thus require a license and more rules to abide by.
Part15 - Call it intentional radiating, call it public broadcasting, or call it a radio station...
A rose by any other name is still a rose.
The point being that the terms "intentional radiator" and "transmitter" (as in radio stations) are interchangeable, so in that respect, it's clear, the FCC does indeed consider our operations as radio stations.

It's also evident he FCC also considers ours as radio stations when they investigate the source of any form of unlicensed broadcast, they already know it's not licensed, so next they seek to determine whether its an illegal pirate, or a legal unlicensed part 15.
Got it?.. Licensed, pirate, or legal unlicensed.. They're all public broadcasting facilities.. So clearly, again, the FCC does consider a Part 15 broadcast as a radio station.

In most cases the NOUO's themselves state (in variations) the FCC's view of our operations as follows;
"..The Commission's records show that no license was issued for operation of a broadcast station on [frequency] at this location.. The only exception to this licensing requirement is for certain transmitters using or operating at a power level that complies with the standards established in Part 15 of the Commission's rules,.."

Now, lets take look at some other of the FCC's notices and bulletins, How do they define our Part 15 operations in this more public arena?..
The answer is that the FCC repeatably refer to Part 15 operations as "radio stations" "radio facilities" and "broadcasters":

A few examples:

Low Power Broadcast Radio Stations (
The Commission receives tens of thousands of inquiries annually from individuals and groups wishing to start a "low power" or "micro power" radio station for local broadcasts (AM or FM). The Audio Division has assembled this general information to answer some of the more commonly received questions on this subject....
Unlicensed operation on the AM and FM radio broadcast bands is permitted for some extremely low powered devices covered under Part 15 of the FCC's rules.... etc. etc....... Presently, the maximum penalty for operating an unlicensed or "pirate" broadcast station (one which is not permitted under Part 15 or is not a Carrier Current Station) .....etc.... There are also criminal penalties (fine and/or imprisonment) for "willfully and knowingly" operating a radio station without a license.

Here again, part15'ers are referred to as radio stations..:

  ( "...generally, in order to use or operate a radio station, the Communications Act requires that you first obtain a license by the FCC. There are certain limited exceptions. For example, .......the Commission has authorized the operation of certain low power radios pursuant to Part 15 of the Commission's Rules. Thus, operators of these radio facilities are not required to have individual licenses. However, these operators are required to operate their stations in a manner consistent with the Commission's operational and technical rules for those services.

And again...

"FCC's Inspection Fact Sheet"
The Enforcement Bureau conducts inspections of radio installations as part of the Bureau's function to "[e]nforce the Commission's Rules and Regulations." 47 CFR 0.111(a).
Both licensees and non-licensees must allow an FCC Agent to inspect their radio equipment. Along with the privilege of possessing a license come responsibilities such as knowing the applicable rules, including allowing the station to be inspected. Licensees should be aware of the Commission's right to inspect. Equally important, FCC Agents are allowed to inspect the radio equipment of non-licensees. Non-licensees include those individuals or entities operating in accordance with Part 15 of the Rules. Non-licensees also include those who should have a license to operate their equipment but have not obtained a license and are operating without authority.
Radio equipment is generally used in a commercial setting (e.g., commercial broadcast station, land mobile station, commercial delivery service) or a residential setting (e.g., amateur, citizen's band (CB) radio). Home-based businesses may also operate radio stations. This fact sheet addresses inspection of radio stations in both the commercial and residential settings."

And a little bit further down the same document in the Q&A section..

Q: Well then, if I am a low-power broadcaster and don't have an FCC license, they need a search warrant, right?
A: Wrong again. The FCC agents have the authority to inspect all radio equipment; even if you do not have a license, the FCC can still inspect your equipment. Section 03(n) of the Act gives the FCC the right to inspect all "stations required to be licensed." This language covers your low-power radio station. The FCC agents are inspecting the equipment, not searching your house.

How may references does one need to be convinced that that the FCC considers Part 15 facilities as radio stations? If the FCC did not consider us as radio stations, they would not repeatably use the terminology while referencing our operations.

I rest my case.

By the way, you can read the original debate at:

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