American Association of Information Radio Operators AAIRO

AAIRO American Association of Information Radio Operators
  answers to frequently asked questions         related links  
 
  1. Why are most low-power Information Stations AM instead of FM?
  2. Do I have to be a governmental entity to get a license for an Information Station?
  3. What are the limitations on the broadcast content of licensed Information Stations?
  4. What are other technical limitations on Information Stations?
  5. What about unlicensed stations?
  6. What does an Information Station call sign mean and can I choose it; why are there seven characters, three of them numbers; how often must I broadcast it?
  1. Why are most low-power radio stations AM instead of FM?

    At present, the FCC is not taking applications for a low power FM service (LPFM), though it did as recently as 2001. At that time, the Commission granted a handful of FM low power stations, each with about 100 watts of power (about 5 miles of range). The FCC has not indicated that it will again offer the service for another round of applications. Of special note: first-round grantees discovered that LPFM stations are not ideal as pure information sources because of FCC-imposed operating parameters, which, for example, mandate that LPFM station operation be more like commercial FM stations in terms of hours of operation, content restrictions and equipment requirements.
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  1. Do I have to be a governmental entity to get a license for an Information Station?

    Yes. The only exception is if you perform emergency medical services. Private hospitals, health clinics, emergency response teams can be licensed if they can show the support of a governmental entity.
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  1. What are the limitations on the broadcast content of licensed Information Stations?

    Messages are to be noncommercial (no business names) and voice only. When emergencies are not in progress, content is to be relevant to the traveling public and can include descriptions of points of interest, travel advisories, traffic hazards, directions, locations where lodging is available, etc. Learn more about FCC-permitted content.
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  1. What are other technical limitations on Information Stations?

    The license is valid for 10 years and can be renewed. The stations are secondary to regular broadcast stations and must make way if a new broadcast station comes on the air. Information Stations' antennas must be vertical and can be only 15 meters (49 feet) above ground; transmitters must be type accepted and can only broadcast with a maximum of 10 watts, as long as a field intensity of 2.0 mV/ is not exceeded at 1.5 km (0.93 miles) away. The transmitters have a filter to limit their bandwidth to 6 kHz and their dynamic range to 3000 Hz. They may only operate on a given AM frequency if separated from the signals of co-channel and adjacent broadcast stations by specified distances spelled out in FCC Rules Part 90.242.
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  1. What about unlicensed stations?

    Unlicensed stations are similar to Information Stations, but have much less power and much less range – typically a fraction of a mile. Their antennas are limited to 3 meters, and they have no protection from licensed stations and can give licensed operators no interference. But unlicensed stations can broadcast a wider array of content, including music and commercials. Unlicensed stations still require transmitter certification to operate legally.

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  1. What does an Information Station call sign mean and can I choose it? Why are there seven characters, three of them numbers? How often must I broadcast it?

    Federal Communication Commission Rules (part 90) govern the licensing of Information Stations (TIS) issued to local government entities such as states, cities and counties. The Commission assigns 7-character call signs to all - 4 alpha letters, followed by 3 numbers.

    Only the first character (the "W") has any particular significance,
    however.* The next 3 letters and 3 numbers are sequential, based on when the Commission grants each license.

    Although the Commission does not permit applicants to request specific call signs, in a few instances (when licensees indicated certain call signs were objectionable), the FCC granted changes.

    The FCC requires that the full 7-character call sign be broadcast every 30 minutes (or more) in English. Sometimes station operators inadvertently drop off the three numbers of the call sign, probably because standard broadcast stations (licensed under FCC Part 73 Rules) don't have numbers in their call signs and have only three or four characters (WGN, WABC, etc.).

    Information Stations operated by federal government agencies are licensed through the NTIA (National Telecommunication Information Agency) rather than the FCC and do not necessarily follow the same format. In some instances, these call signs may begin with a "K," may have only three letters or may have no numbers.

    Information Stations authorized by branches of the military are not issued call signs.
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