Baja Broadcasters Power Down

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A pair of Baja stations causing major interference to U.S. broadcasters have powered down and changed frequencies, according to the State Department.

State, along with the FCC, had been working with Mexican communications officials to resolve interference to U.S. stations from overpowered outlets south of the border. A third station turned out not to be a source of harmful interference.

The interference had hit some L.A. and San Francisco stations hard and at night had stretched as far north as Oregon and as far west as Chicago.

The deal came following meetings at the State Department this week that included FCC Chairman Michael Powell and Commissioners Michael Copps and Kathleen Abernathy. In fact, Copps had to miss a localism hearing in Albuquerque Wednesday to attend the meetings.

Gross credited the FCC with helping broker the technical fixes. No U.S. stations had to modify their signals.

The U.S. has been pushing the Baja stations to back off their power, which had been boosted by as much as 80 times their previous levels in violation of a long-standing treaty. Mexican officials had been uncooperative.

As important as rescuing the stations, Gross suggested, was building a bridge between the two countries given the frequency congestion in the area and looming DTV conversion issues. "Going forward, we have mutually promised to provide increased information on licensing so that both sides know what the others are doing," Gross told B&C.

He cited for example a fourth station that had yet to be built. "It would have caused major interference," he says, but will now launch on another frequency.

Mexico's reluctance to power down had suggested troubles ahead for the transition to digital TV. In the next few years, critical discussions will be required to untangle interference issues as TV stations in both countries switch to all-digital operations.

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