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The Mystery of the Changing FCC Seal

If you look carefully at the 2 photos above, you can see that the FCC seal in the Commission meeting room has changed during Chmn. Genachowski’s tenure.

The FCC seal dates from the beginning of the Commission in 1935 and was an updating of the Federal Radio Commission’s seal to show the addition of telephone and telegraph jurisdiction to the previous FRC role. (This jurisdiction was a transfer from the Interstate Commerce Commission.) The FRC’s seal showed 2 towers with a horizontal antenna between them that was fed with a sloping transmission line. I can’t find a detailed enough picture on the web, but I believe that the horizontal antenna had 3 parallel lines. The FCC seal add two rows of telephone/telegraph poles to the FRC seal symbolizing the telephone and telegraph industries that were important at that time.

Dane Eriksen, a fellow FCC/FOB alum and a prominent broadcast engineering consultant, has sent the following note to the Chairman:

April 8, 2011

Dear Chairman Genachowski:

Congratulations on the new FCC web site. I couldn't help noticing, though, that there appears to be a wiring error on the antenna array shown in the FCC seal on the lower left-hand corner of the web pages. Indeed, it's on most versions of the FCC seal that I could find. The attached PDF file shows the problem. What puzzles me is that a few versions of the seal have the wiring correct; for example, the FCC seal in the main meeting room of the FCC, as shown in the last picture in the PDF file.

Not that you don't have more pressing issues, but my suggestion for the FCC "Reboot" project is therefore to hunt down and replace all of the incorrect versions of the FCC seal.

(Dane’s .pdf attachment)

Here is the “wiring error” that Dane is talking about:
In the traditional FCC seal, the feed line splits and goes to all 3 horizontal antenna wires. In the new version, one of the 3 wires after the split goes to the bottom wire and 2 go to the top wire.

The web site seal Dane was talking about is the one shown at the left from the new beta site. A close inspection shows the same “wiring error” as the more visible one on the Meeting Room seal. But let me make a more modest proposal. The seal in the Commission Meeting Room may not bother lawyers, but drives engineers crazy and may be a symbol of the state of technical things at FCC.

But replacing such a large seal with a new custom one will no doubt cost hundreds of dollars that FCC can ill afford at the moment. However, fixing the electronic files used on the website can be done in a few minutes with Photoshop and can stop this error from propagating. When resources permit, the Meeting Room seal should be replaced. Who knows, maybe it can even be repaired at an affordable cost?

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