SYRACUSE — Cazenovia College’s WITC 88.9 is back on the air, following more than two weeks off-air due to a transmitter malfunction. The station is currently using a transmitter on-loan from WHWS at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva.
We heard about the outage by reading a post from WHWS General Manager Aaron Read, on the Syracuse/Utica board at Radio-Info.com. Read says it all had to do with WITC’s Armstrong transmitter: “something in the built-in fuse holder fried and fried hard.”
He went on to explain WHWS “had a near-identical Bext transmitter at the same power level that we weren’t using,” so he brought it out to Cazenovia and helped WITC’s Andrew Ó Baoill get WITC back on-air this past Tuesday night. Read expects WITC will be borrowing his transmitter “for a few months.”
Due to the length of the outage, WITC filed with the FCC for Special Temporary Authority (STA) to Remain Silent. In an accompanying letter dated March 29, Ó Baoill explained to the FCC that the malfunction took WITC off the air on March 20. He says, “specifically, a fuse casing in our transmitter is damaged and requires replacement.”
As per FCC regulations, any station that remains silent for 10 days must file a “Silent Notification” with the FCC. After 30 days of silence (or, as in this case, if the station anticipates the silence could possibly last 30 days), a station must file for an STA — basically to protect the station’s license during any prolonged period of silence.
STA applications require an explanation for the silence; according to the Broadcast Law Blog, silence caused by unavoidable technical problems are generally accepted by the FCC. By contrast, voluntary outages (for example, if a financially-struggling owner is simply looking to save money by shutting down while trying to sell a station) are not as likely to be approved. To avoid abuse of the STA policy, FCC rules include a clause that says a station’s license will automatically expire if it remains off-air for 12 consecutive months.
Read’s offer to loan WITC a spare transmitter from WHWS means that WITC won’t come anywhere near that 12-month deadline — and since the outage was less than 30 days, it no longer needs the STA.