The Acting Secretary of State to the American Delegation to the North and Central American Radio Conference10

Sirs: The North and Central American Radio Conference, to which you have been appointed as delegates on the part of the United States of America by the President, by commissions already delivered to you, has as its primary purpose the solution of existing problems of interference between radio stations in territories of different participating governments and the determination of methods to prevent such interference in the future.

The most pressing problem at this time is in connection with interference to broadcasting stations in the United States by broadcasting stations in Mexico and Cuba. This problem will prove difficult of adjustment. There has been general agreement on the part of all interests concerned in the United States that some surrender of frequencies in the present broadcast band must be made. Broadcasting interests in this country wish this surrender to be compensated for by the widening of the broadcast band below 550 kilocycles. Such extension of broadcasting below 550 kilocycles has been strongly opposed by the services already occupying those bands.

Following the hearings in the preparatory committee on this proposed extension, the chairman of the delegation informed the Department [Page 588] in his letter of June 13, 1933,11 that the hearings had shown that the bands below 550 kilocycles are at present so used by the Army, Navy and other government services and marine interests that it would not be advisable to extend the broadcast band below 550 kilocycles (except that the right of Canada to use 540 kilocycles for a broadcasting station in Saskatchewan as provided in the exchange of notes of May 5, 1932,12 between the United States and Canada be recognized). The chairman of the delegation recommended that the delegation be authorized within its discretion to agree to the extension of broadcasting to 1600 kilocycles without limitation of power and from 1600 to 1640 kilocycles with a limitation of power to about 100 watts. The recommendation with respect to the extension of the broadcast band is approved by the Department and the delegation is instructed to act accordingly. In connection with the extension of the broadcast band above 1500 kilocycles, however, it should be borne in mind that such extension is to be agreed to only as compensation to broadcasting for frequencies given up in the authorized broadcast band and is not to be used solely for an increase of the facilities available for broadcasting in the United States.

The decision not to extend the broadcast band below 500 kilocycles has not been concurred in by the broadcasters of the United States. Since the decision was made after full hearings, however, the delegation should not ask for authority to agree to permit broadcasting in North America otherwise than as indicated in these instructions, unless it has reason to believe that such extension can be made in a manner acceptable to the services now occupying the band which is desired for broadcasting.

The Department understands that the preparatory committee was in unanimous agreement with respect to frequencies above 1500 kilocycles. The Delegation will be guided by that agreement, a copy of which has been furnished to each of you. In particular the delegation should endeavor to have the bands assigned to amateurs under the present agreement respecting high frequencies in North America signed at Ottawa in 1929 continued as exclusive amateur bands. Any effort to diminish these bands should be opposed by the delegation and should not be agreed to unless after specific authorization by the Department.

There are a number of frequencies above 1640 kilocycles assigned to various government departments by executive orders of the President. The interested departments desire the fullest protection for these frequencies, a protection which the Department understands [Page 589] is afforded by the proposals of the preparatory committee, on frequencies above 1500 kilocycles. In the event that the delegation is unable to obtain the adoption of that proposal, the frequencies assigned by the executive orders should be protected in any understandings which may be reached. This protection is essential. In reply to requests by the interested departments that members of their respective staffs be designated as advisers to the delegation, the Department has indicated that such appointments would be unnecessary as the frequencies involved would be fully protected by the delegation.

Within recent years several American citizens and others have constructed high power broadcasting stations in Mexico immediately across the border from the United States. In some instances these persons had been denied renewal of licenses by the Federal Radio Commission; in all cases it is believed that the stations are designed primarily to reach American audiences. The Department sympathizes with the desire of other countries to have available frequencies which will enable them to establish adequate national broadcasting services. It does not believe, however, that any government should license facilities which are obviously intended to serve an audience in another country. Likewise the Department considers that it is unfortunate that American citizens can evade the effects of the operation of American laws governing broadcasting by obtaining facilities in other countries which enable them to evade such effects. The delegation, therefore, should endeavor to reach an agreement with the other delegations that broadcasting facilities should be used only for national services. This agreement should make it impossible for American citizens to evade American laws as they have done in the case of certain of the broadcasting stations now on the Mexican border.

The invitation extended by the Mexican Government apparently does not contemplate that the conference will conclude its labors by the signing of a treaty. Full powers, therefore, have not been issued to the delegates. If the conference deliberations do lead to a substantial measure of agreement, however, the Department believes it advisable to make such agreement as definite as the circumstances permit. It may develop that it will be possible for the conference to draft a treaty. In that event, the Department will send full powers to the delegates; but before signing a treaty the delegation should inform the Department that a satisfactory convention has been agreed upon or is in sight and should request specific authorization to sign.

In view of the fact that most of the frequencies involved are within the jurisdiction of the Federal Radio Commission, and that the Commission is represented on the delegation, the Department does not feel it necessary to give more elaborate instructions to the delegation.

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The delegation should endeavor to obtain the elimination of interference to American stations with a minimum of sacrifice to the interests of this country and to do this in a manner to forestall the creation of additional interference in the future. The Department is confident that the delegation will exert every effort to accomplish this purpose.

Very truly yours,

William Phillips
  1. Eugene O. Sykes, Chairman; Schuyler Otis Bland; Roy T. Davis.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Foreign Relations, 1932, vol. ii, pp. 92 ff.