Perhaps one day in the near future, all radio will be streamed online, but as of 2018, radio stations still carry their signals over the airwaves. Peter Stebbins, founder of the nonprofit Shake 108, has been reminded of this fact the hard way.
In the months before he started the station in 2014, he would randomly check the frequency and hear only static. "Then, once we launched, we'd start to catch interference from Sunny 107.9 up in Palm Beach," Stebbins says. "I couldn't prove anything, but it seemed like two weeks after they started, they increased their range."
After growing comfortable that Shake's frequency would be carried strongly through the 3.5-mile range its low-power FM-station status allows under FCC rules, it has suffered increased interference over the past two weeks. "We've gone from a three-mile radius to a two-mile radius. We used to reach Hialeah; now it only goes to Allapattah."
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For many listeners who have tuned into 107.9 in the past two weeks, this has meant that instead of hearing Faith No More or Bob Marley songs, there would be talk radio. The interference stems from a new antenna installed in Davie for WAVS 1170 AM that is also transmitting at 107.9 on FM. "The new antenna was only supposed to go east and west. They said it wouldn't interfere with us, but with the geography being all flatlands, it does."
Stebbins has been in contact with WAVS, which bills itself as "the longest running and most listened to Caribbean radio station in the nation." Stebbins says, "They claimed they'd fix it. It still hasn't happened. According to FCC law, we have first dibs. A booster station like they're using can't operate if it causes any interference with an authorized broadcaster like us. I wish their station the best, but not at the expense of our station."
WAVS station engineer Ralph Chambers emailed New Times that the interference is unintentional and being studied. "WAVS is genuinely concerned about resolving the issue and finding a solution to the problem so that each broadcaster can peacefully occupy the airwaves over each of its communities that they are licensed to cover according to the FCC Rules & Regulations."
The whole experience has been wearing on Stebbins, to the point he's looking to switch 107.9's digits in the hope that the station could cover all of Miami-Dade County. He concedes there would be one downside to the change: "Shake 104 doesn't have the same ring to it."