End Run

Jack Hannold passes along word on what he calls the “consolidators” — companies like Clear Channel and Cumulus, who aim to make their money by buying up stations and selling them for a profit (not by actually offering a good product) — are doing now with what’s called translators. Translators can be used to extend the reach of a radio station — ostensibly within their allowed range. But, Jack says:

It should be clear by now that the consolidators’ real reason for clinging to Iniquity’s technologically impractical and commercially failed “HD” system is that the FCC has formally countenanced that fanciful notion that HD-2 and -3 signals can be considered primary stations for feeding translators. No matter what the FCC said in the Saga case, the consolidators are indeed “using the [HD-2] Station as ‘main signal’ to circumvent the local radio ownership rules” (paraphrased from a response to a written protest filed with the FCC, courtesy J. J. McVeigh).

But we shouldn’t be surprised. If the FCC can so cavalierly disregard the laws of physics in approving the use of IBOC, why shouldn’t they take a similar approach to their own regs?

Jack references the following stories appearing on the site insideradio.com:

From http://www.insideradio.com//Article.asp?id=1891151&spid=32061:

Cumulus buys 99X new signal.

For the past two years the alternative rock station branded as “99X” has mainly been heard by Atlanta listeners tuning to a translator at 97.9 FM.  That could change now that Cumulus has found it another translator home — this one at 99.5.
The company has struck a $150,000 deal to buy the Tallapoosa, GA-licensed signal from Edgewater Broadcasting. The second translator will help fill in parts of the sprawling Atlanta metro that aren’t covered by the first translator.   The revived heritage brand is technically the HD2 format to CHR “Q-100” WWWQ (99.7). In the June Arbitron PPM ratings, 99X managed only a 0.7 share (6+) and cumed 201,200 people.

And from http://www.radio-info.com/newsletter/html/tri-07272010.html this morning:

Did Cumulus just buy the new “99X” translator?

It’s been playing Sudoku-like translator games in its home market of Atlanta, adding up the right number of signals to maximize its outreach. Recently it’s scored in the Arbitron ratings with alternative rock “99X at 97.7”, using an HD-2 signal to feed an FM translator at 97.9 that’s often pulling a 1-share in the PPMs. But now Cumulus has just filed to pay $150,000 for a translator that’s actually at 99.1 – a real “99.” It may have less power than 97.9, just 99 watts, so perhaps Cumulus will leave the current arrangement alone. But what else will they do with 99.1? For sure, this translator’s going through enough changes to spin its little head around.  It’s currently a far-western signal at 88.9 licensed to Tallapoosa, GA, just a short drive from Alabama. But owner Edgewater Broadcasting’s already filed to relicense it at the current site to 99.5, making it suitable for a commercial broadcaster. But reading further into the Cumulus sale agreement, Cumulus proposes a “second modification” from 99.5 to 99.1. And it would now be diplexed to W250BC – which is the translator that carries the “99X at 97.9” flag. Cumulus says the new 99.1 would simulcast its “Q100” CHR WWWQ (99.7), and it will share its tower. But you can always change the originating station, and you wonder if Cumulus will use 99.1 for something else — like giving all-sports WCNN *680” an FM presence.

And in a later email, Jack wrote the following, referring to this Inside Radio post:

Everything’s update to date in Kansas City, including translator chicanery.  In this case, the analog translator repeating an HD-2 has nearly halved a targeted competitor’s share of Men 18-34.

If using a translator for an IBOC side channel can yield results like this, you know the consolidators aren’t going to give up the practice without a fight — regardless of what IBOC does to the host primary station’s electric bill, or for that matter to its fringe-area analog signal quality (IBOC, when added to adjacents’ signals, can seriously degrade analog reception on cheap receivers with poor adjacent rejection).

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