Cheap Tricks

Lord knows, there are enough reasons in this country for regular citizens to go Egypt on the powers-that-be, à la Wisconsin, but within the purview of the radio world alone, reasons abound. Jack Hannold sent along his post from the discussion board, highlighting another facet of the creeping consolidation posted on yesterday. The FCC, ever the subservient lapdog, has turned a blind eye to this latest subterfuge from radio consolidators doing an end run around existing regulations:

Thanks, local oscillator, for telling us just how powerful that translator is.  If the “HD” signal were dependable, there’d be absolutely no excuse for any translator, much less one that’s more powerful than many marginal, less-than-maximum-powered Class A’s.

I had no idea that this was such an egregious example when I sent out an email blast on Tuesday (2/15) saying:


The proliferation of these things, I think, confirms my suspicion that the only reason some commercial broadcasters cling to “HD” when the market penetration of “HD” receivers is minuscule is that the FCC is now allowing them to simulcast the HD-2’s on analog translators. It’s just a clever way to circumvent per-market ownership caps.

Obviously, syndicators like it, too, since it gets them into markets they otherwise couldn’t penetrate, if only in a small way.

In this case, the syndicator is Bill Bungeroth’s 24/7 Comedy service. I might have added that NPR and other pubradio program vendors like “HD” for exactly the same reason. But this ruse is nothing new.  See “Neat trick: Cumulus is using an HD-2 channel to feed an FM translator.”  Go to (bottom of page 2 of the PDF).

Yes, that was Tom Taylor’s TRI for August 27, 2008

Jack had also sent along this post from the Tom Taylor newsletter:

Neat trick: Cumulus is using an HD-2 channel to feed an FM translator.

The FCC rules say you must supply a translator from “a station” – so does an HD-2 signal (say, of Cumulus-owned WNNK, Harrisburg) qualify as a station? The FCC staff batted that one around like a beach ball at Ocean City, MD, but decided to let it pass, informally. Here’s the history: Cumulus previously got permission, via STA, to supply its urban AC “Touch” format based at WTCY (1400) to an in-city translator at 95.3. It’s been marketing the station as “Touch 95.3” and the signal (60 watts at 656 feet) does a decent job of hitting the city itself. Cumulus has also been offering the WTCY service (“Today’s R&B and old school”, with Tom Joyner) on the HD-2 signal of its WNNK (104.1). No problem so far, nothing unusual. The question then becomes — can you pull the 1400 signal out of the three-way mix, so the thing that’s supplying the FM translator is an HD-2 multicast channel? That’s new ground, I think. So far, it appears the FCC’s going to allow it, though there’s no rulemaking and its attitude could change. If Cumulus can push the envelope, bet on others to follow. And now Cumulus is free to flip formats on 1400, where it’s already changed call letters from WTCY to WHGB. One last question: if this thing gets ratings in Arbitron, who would get the credit? Answer: the HD-2 channel. Not the translator.

Situation normal, from what Jack calls the Federal Cookie Company . . .


One Response

  1. “If this thing gets ratings in Arbitron, who would get the credit? Answer: the HD-2 channel. Not the translator.”

    “HD-2/FM translator combos acting like real stations”

    “Now we’re seeing the latest crop of FM stations — translators with less power and less coverage than a full-power Class A — accumulate enough of a listening base to promote concerts. These stations are typically fed from the HD-2 channel of a big sister station, since a commercial radio translator can’t originate its own programming under the FCC rules… In fact, the August PPMs for Atlanta show that WWWQ-FM HD-2 has a 1.0-share and a cume of 217,300 people. Given the small number of HD Radio receivers out there, it’s likely that what Atlantans are really listening to is the translator at 97.9.”

    This has happened before where HD2s are fed to a translator and show up in Arbitron. Look for a huge spin from Struble. Will have to keep on top of this so Struble doesn’t get credit. My bet is that the FCC will allow anything HD Radio.

    “HD Radio milepost is actually an Internet Radio milepost”

    “What Inside Radio does not say, of course, is that — for Z100’s channel at least — the web stream is easily accessible on Z100’s website, meaning that what advertisers for Z’s HD-2 channel are really buying is web traffic — which undoubtably dwarfs any radio traffic for Z’s HD-2 version.”

    It’s also happened with Internet Radio.

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