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FCC and Government Affairs

Defining an FM Subcarrier

Before a (subcarrier-based) system for broadcasting FM stereo had been devised, hidden subcarriers were introduced to create extra revenue streams for FM broadcasters. Because early SCA (Subsidiary Communications Authority) channels used proprietary content, mostly background music, the FCC decided early on to treat SCA channels as private, regulating them more like telephone communications than broadcasting.

This created a perfect framework for radio reading services, whose expansion into the subcarrier world in the 1970s helped stimulate new ideas and technology for using SCAs. Soon there were plans to use FM SCAs to regulate traffic lights, shed loads during periods of peak power demand, provide voice pagers, download software and more.

To protect reading services, the FCC announced (Docket 82-1) that any non-commercial station selling an SCA channel must also provide one to a reading service upon request.

Link: FCC info on subcarrier use

The Commission revisited this issue five years later, to address the issue of high fees being charged by main channel providers. "Incremental Costs" may be passed on to the radio reading services, and no more. This is widely interpreted to mean the station can only charge what it actually costs to provide electricity to the equipment and for the time the engineer spends on it. These costs are so low that in actual practice, almost all RRS SCA stations provide the SCA channel for free. Here you can read how the Commission ruled , in Docket 87-9:

Link: Allowable Costs for Noncommercial Educational FM Licensees to Charge Radio Reading Services


Government Affairs

Mike Duke, Chair

IAAIS Comments on NRSC-5, the new Digital Radio standard (Word .doc file)
Copyright Law (Word .doc file)
Free Matter for the Blind/USPS Information (Acrobat PDF)


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