DMS Broadcasting reduced the transmission power of its three radio stations on Friday to 20 per cent of what its licence authorises as complaints of interference were filed with the Information and Communications Technology Authority (ICTA).
Controversy has erupted over alleged radio signal interference on the FM frequencies since DMS began transmitting two weeks ago.
Some radio listeners were having trouble tuning into Radio Cayman because of the stronger DMS signals.
DMS transmits three FM stations at the frequencies of 104.1, 106.1 and 107.1. Radio Cayman transmits at 105.3.
Radio Cayman, which is owned by the Government, led the complainants, which included government departments, members of the public and at least one other radio licensee, said ICTA head of licensing and compliance and general counsel Greg van Koughnett.
Had DMS not reduced the transmission power to the level they did, the ICTA was prepared to order them to do it, said Mr. van Koughnett.
‘They were absolutely co-operative,’ he said of DMS. ‘They couldn’t have been better.’
After receiving complaints from Radio Cayman and others, the ICTA sent DMS a letter on 14 April stating the Telecommunications Office had completed a study of the matter and had come to the conclusion that there were two problems with DMS’s transmission, Mr. van Koughnett said.
One problem dealt with the wavelength spacing of DMS’s antenna and the other involved the frequency isolation of its transmitter.
Mr. van Koughnett said the configurations of those elements were different from what DMS was licensed to use.
DMS, however, does not agree with the ICTA’s decision, or the findings of the Telecommunications Office.
‘We disagree with their findings in the strongest of terms, but we will comply,’ said Don Seymour, owner of DMS Broadcasting.
Mr. Seymour hopes, however, that the reduction of transmission strength is just temporary.
‘We hope (the ICTA) moves forward quickly with bringing in of an independent consultant to investigate the problem.’
Mr. Seymour said his company brought in a consultant from the United States at its own expense to determine the problem.
The consultant’s eight-page report was filed with the ICTA on Saturday to refute the Telecommunication Office’s findings.
‘He found that it wasn’t so much a transmission issue as it was a reception issue.’
Mr. Seymour said that some radios cast a ‘wider net’ in trying to pick up a signal, which allow for interference, especially if other stations at nearby frequencies are broadcasting at much lower power.
Many of the radios on ‘deportee’ cars coming from Asia have to be recalibrated to receive signals here in the Cayman Islands, Mr. Seymour said, adding that some of those radios do not work properly.
‘The vast majority of radios in Cayman will not have a problem with this,’ he said, noting that his company bought many radios last week- the most expensive being $9 – and they all picked up the Radio Cayman signal perfectly.
The ICTA’s Mr. van Koughnett indicated the problem is more complex.
‘Radio broadcasting is not all science,’ he said. ‘There’s some art to it as well.’
Radio Cayman’s Loxley Banks spoke about the location of the signals being a problem.
‘In George Town, you have a fairly saturated area of transmitters,’ he said. ‘When you have all of those signals in one area, you’re going to have problems without the proper planning and monitoring,’ he said.
Mr. Banks said he was not sure what the problem was, but he was sure of its source.
‘This level of interference was not there before (DMS) went on the air,’ he said.
Rooster 101 and Z-99 listeners have also complained about the interference, said Hurley’s Entertainment operations manager Keith Michaels.
‘We have had multiple complaints from listeners,’ he said. ‘The phone rings all the time.’
Mr. Michaels proffered his own opinion on the interference. ‘The problem is the new signals don’t have the proper filter system,’ he said. ‘Before coming on line, the ICTA should ensure the proper equipment and filter system are in place before allowing a new station to go on the air.’
Mr. van Koughnett said neither the ICTA nor the Telecommunications Office had the specialised equipment to analyse the signal problem properly.
After looking carefully at the DMS consultant’s report, Mr. van Koughnett said the ICTA would concentrate on finding an independent consultant to study the problem.
Mr. Seymour said he hopes the consultant gets here soon because he does not think having DMS reduce the transmission power will solve the problem.
‘I think they will find they still have a problem,’ he said. ‘I think they will find Radio Cayman needs the proper equipment. Maybe they’ll figure out DMS isn’t the problem after all.’