Lost in Translation

Jack Hannold sent along the following information in regards to the use of translators. A layman’s understanding of the use of translators by radio giants might go something like this: “A station running HD channels can use translators as if they were another station. In other words, this allows them to essentially ‘add’ another station, circumventing the number of stations they’re allowed in the market. So they not only have a station that Arbitron can pick up (allowing them to monetize it by showing advertisers some kind of return on investment); they also can clog the airwaves further in a crowded market like, say, NYC. Putting a further squeeze on any LPFMs that might want to start up.” From Jack:

Here’s an interesting report about established stations trying to ride the coattails of the LPFM movement.

Now that the Low Power FM bill is law, some commercial broadcasters urge the FCC to act on granting FM translators.

Let the processing begin, says a group of owners including Bud Walters of the Cromwell Group and K95.5 Inc.’s Bill Payne. Seven years have passed since this issue was iced, and that’s long enough. The new Local Community Radio Act, they say, removes the uncertainty about the relative status of translators and 100-watt LPFMs. Attorney John Garziglia says the FCC should be free to “immediately license a new Auction #83 FM translator station in communities that have spectrum space for [both] a Low Power FM and an FM booster license.” His filing says the Commission no further rulemakings – and there are a lot of “signal-deficient AM stations” that want FM translators. 21 broadcasters supported the filing in MM Docket No. 99-25, hoping to get action soon.

And for what purpose?  Well, this is only the latest example of what’s probably behind that:

“Hippie Radio” is Chattanooga’s new HD-2/FM Translator combo, appealing to boomers with music centered on the British Invasion (1964) through 1973. So lots of Beatles, Stones, Stevie Wonder and the Guess Who. Brewer Media’s using the HD-2 channel of its news/talk WPLZ (9.3) to feed an FM translator at 106.9. The Chattanoogan says they’ll brand it as “Hippie Radio 106.9”, using the translator frequency as the main identifier. The paper also lists Brewer’s extensive local media interests – radio stations, a traffic reporting network that supplies 19 radio stations and three TV outlets, a publishing division, video production services and website services, and “a growing portfolio of websites designed to reach distinct market segments.” So look at “Hippie Radio 106.9” as another targeted effort, this one using the market’s first HD-2-fed translator. Hippie Radio is a syndicated service, and you can see it at HippieRadio.net.

(The two items above are from Tom Taylor’s “Taylor on Radio-Info” newsletter for Jan. 10: http://www.radio-info.com/newsletter/html/tri-01102011.html )

Here are some earlier examples:

It’s a new ‘River’, and another case of an HD-2 channel supplying an FM translator.” http://www.radio-info.com/newsletter/pdf/TRI10022008.pdf

“Cumulus adds Kansas City translator.”  http://www.insideradio.com//Article.asp?id=1892727&spid=32061

With some translators rebroadcasting HD-2’s featuring niche formats having already shown up in the Arbitrons, I think we can assume that using HD-2’s as primary stations for translators is the principal reason, perhaps the only real reason, that some commercial broadcasters continue to support Iniquity’s junk technology when there’s no ROI!

(And what about the notion of an HD-2 as a primary station?  It seems illogical, considering that you couldn’t broadcast a secondary channel without a primary channel. But then, does anything the FCC is doing these days make much sense?)

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3 Responses

  1. […] plans to circumvent FCC rules and monetize their woebegone HD channels (reported on here): Cumulus finds an FM translator to buy near Kalamazoo, and it’s yet another spin by San […]

  2. As noted on the Facebook page of the Fans of Folk Radio WUMB: The WUMB empire is replete with translators. Its “home” broadcast transmitter is a mere 600 watts, but the empire has translators covering about half of the state, plus portions of New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island – see http://www.wumb.org/about/reception_map.php (note the map does not include WAVM, the Maynard high school station that it uses when school is not in session).

    At one point it also controlled an AM station literally in the back yard of the UMass flagship Amherst campus, home of student-run independent college radio station WMUA.

  3. This just goes to show how deeply the FCC is in the tank for iBiquity. All rules have allowed to be broken by iBiquity, including the distorting of the NRSC standards. I remember reading a while ago that this had been spun by HD proponents that an HD2 had made Arbitron, but it was quickly discovered that it was a translator. I expected more spin from Struble.

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