The evangelical message of the Rev. Jerry Falwell is crackling out of the radios and televisions of dozens of Virginia residents who made no effort to tune him in, and their complaints have prompted a Federal Communications Commission inquiry.
Broadcasts from the new 100,000-watt radio station WRVL-FM, operated in Lynchburg by Falwell's Liberty Baptist College, have been interfering with television and radio reception in the central Virginia area.
While "only about 10 or 15 people have really been irate about it," about 135 people have told WRVL that its inspirational broadcasts have impaired their reception of Richmond television channel 6, Roanoke channel 7 or a Roanoke radio station, according to WRVL station manager Al Snyder.
Some of the callers to WRVL, which went on the air June 17, have pronounced themselves in essential sympathy with the Falwell message, according to Snyder.
"There have been a lot who said they liked the show [and who said] 'We like your programming, but we like to get the TV signal clearly,'" the station manager said.
In addition, Snyder said, there have been a "handful of others who said 'We don't like that religious stuff coming into our homes.'"
WRVL has not yet received a permanent license and, "if the complaints turn out to be valid, something will have to be done" before one is granted, James C. McKinney, an FCC official, said last week. He said that FCC engineers will go to Lynchburg this week to make measurements.
Whether the unwanted message is religious or secular, broadcast interference is not uncommon, and the WRVL problems probably can be resolved, McKinney said, adding: "The question is, at what expense and to whom?"
For his part, Snyder said WRVL would "make every effort" to solve the problem.