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Update on the Radio Towers: It's Over. We Won!

An update on the “towers” issue that I first wrote about almost exactly two years ago and last blogged on back in November of last year: On December 1st the saga ended. In late October, Washington State’s Superior Court ruled against BBC Broadcasting (a local company with no links to the UK’s BBC). When the November 30th deadline for an appeal passed it was over. We won. There will be no array of AM broadcasting towers erected in Point Roberts.

This battle took quite a toll out of our band of “elderly activists.” Roughly a dozen of us, mostly retired folks living on the Tsawwassen - Point Roberts peninsula where the Lower Mainland of British Columbia abuts the northwestern corner of Washington State, have been engaged in this effort for two and a half years. It’s cost us countless hours with lawyers, land-use specialists, government agencies in both Canada and the US including the FCC, FAA, Homeland Security, Industry Canada and the CRTC (Canada’s FCC), the border patrols of both countries, experts in radio frequency emissions, surveyors, engineers and, of course, politicians on both sides of the border.

The legal expenses ran a tad over a quarter of a million(!) and we still owe our legal team some $20k. We’re holding a big fundraiser in February and hope to be able to retire the debt then.

But even after that the fat lady won’t be singing quite yet. There are four more related tasks, ones that we never anticipated when this all began. First is the matter of the renewal of BBC’s license to operate station KRPI. Over a dozen formal Petitions to Deny and Informal Objections to renewal have been filed with the FCC. They tell a powerful story of an American radio station totally under the control of a foreign broadcasting company (Sher-E-Punjab Radio, Inc.) that not only provided all the contents of every program but collected all advertising revenue and owned parts of both BBC Broadcasting and BBC Holdings (a land-holding company).

BBC’s lawyers recently submitted a “Supplementary Filing” with the FCC stating that, since they are abandoning the Point Roberts towers and will continue to broadcast from their current site, they want their license renewed — and all Petitions and Objections stricken from the record.

This is unlikely. It would be a violation of basic protocol to renew the license without first taking into consideration the many objections voiced which include the fact that BBC has been in violation of FCC regulations regarding “alien control and ownership” of an American radio facility for over a decade and that they repeatedly misrepresented matters on their applications to both the FCC and Whatcom County’s Planning Department.

We await FCC’s decision.

Second is the matter of the 1984 Ottawa Accord, the US-Canadian treaty that governs radio and TV broadcasting near the border. The treaty focuses on “frequency” interference. It requires each country to ensure that any new facility will not interfere with the signal of an existing station on the other side of the border.

But the 1984 agreement does not touch on “blanketing” interference which occurs to electronic equipment proximate to the towers. This kind of interference disrupts devices like computers, cordless phones, radios, TVs — anything with speakers or a receiver. Had the towers been built they would have caused interference to some 300 or residents in Point Roberts (which was within the FCC limits) but they would also have affected over 8,000 homes, businesses and organizations in Tsawwassen which is roughly 20 times the FCC threshold. The treaty doesn’t require that a broadcaster take the residents on the other side of the border into account. BBC didn’t. In fact, they redacted Tsawwassen from all maps submitted in their applications hoping, one can only assume, that no one would notice. The FCC didn’t. We did.

The treaty also makes no mention of health. There is growing evidence that long-term exposure to high-powered radio signals has serious health consequences, particularly in children, particularly cancer. The Canadian government has begun examining this issue and will likely revise the official limits on exposure to radio frequency emissions. The US needs to as well.

Any updating of the Ottawa treaty needs to take both blanketing interference and health issues into account. Our coalition will stay together to work with both the US Congress and Canada’s House of Commons to help in drafting a new treaty.

Third, we are working on a “text amendment” to the local zoning and land-use codes to set sharp limits on the height of any antenna or transmission tower that can be built in the Point Roberts. This is a relatively straightforward, if tedious, process and we hope to have the new regulations in place by late 2016.

Finally, there is the matter of Sher-E-Punjab Radio which has notified the CRTC of plans to apply for a licence to operate an AM station in Metro Vancouver. We and several other Punjabi language stations in Canada will likely file “Interventions” (CRTC’s version of an “Informal Objection”). Sher-E-Punjab has been operating in violation of the regulations of both the FCC and CRTC for over a decade. In addition they have been siphoning off advertising revenue from the legitimate, licenced stations. The hearings will likely be held in the Spring, 2016.

I’ll get back when these other issues are resolved.

Reader Comments (5)

Thank you for the update and all the work you did.

December 14, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterCarol Woodman

Are the details out about the fund-raising dinner?

December 14, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMary-Rose Rasmussen

also add the expertise:
wildlife experts in Herons and Eagles
surveyors and visibility
hi tech mapping
Tsawwassen 1st Nation

December 14, 2015 | Unregistered Commentersteve wolff

The (final! -- we hope) fundraiser will be held on February 20 starting at 7 PM at Kin Village in Tsawwassen. There will be several bands and several kinds of music to dance to, wine, beer and soda, a silent auction and lots of toasts and cheering.

December 21, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterArthur Reber

Update on Fund Raiser: Forget that Feb 20th date and the venue. Planning still going on.

December 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterArthur Reber

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