Clear Channel Christianity

Forwarded as a Public Service of Austin Airwaves

God likes Natural Male Enhancement?

Listeners in Austin, TX who tune to 103.1 FM are in for a bit of a surprise. The FCC records show that a translator is on that frequency belonging to Educational Media Foundation (EMF), the California-based mega-ministry that operates the “K-Love” and “Air 1” radio networks on hundreds of full power FM radio stations and FM translators nationwide. However, on 103.1 in Austin, listeners do not hear inspiring Christian contemporary music or the reading of scripture. Instead, they hear promotions for gentlemen’s clubs and “natural male enhancement”.

Due to the recent rule changes that allow AM radio stations to be carried on FM translators, EMF is seizing the opportunity by entering into an agreement with commercial mega-broadcaster Clear Channel to carry the signal of AM 1300 KVET, an all-sports format on FM using the facility on 103.1 FM.

This is upsetting the residents in a nearby community who listen to low power radio station, KDRP-LP.

Just to the west of Austin in the small town of Dripping Springs, there is KDRP-LP, a full service LPFM station for the community of Dripping Springs. This is your typical LPFM station that features local community events, high school sports, church services and some of the local talent from former college station formats. This is what a local radio station should be about. KDRP also operates on 103.1 FM.

After two facility moves, allowed under loopholes in the FCC regulations, EMF’s translator in San Marcos was able to move to a prime location in Austin. As a result, KDRP is receiving substantial co-channel interference from the translator. This was upsetting KDRP’s listeners who were thinking that their small town community station is now promoting strip clubs. KDRP experienced a substantial loss in listenership and donations.

EMF’s translator in question, K276EL was applied for during the Great Translator Invasion of 2003, a filing window for new FM Translator construction permits that was marred by excessive speculative filing by two co-owned mega-ministries who at the time, had no full power FM broadcast holdings. The behavior of these speculative filers is being addressed in a current rulemaking docket before the Federal Communications Commission.

The translator was originally filed for in San Marcos, TX, a suburb nearly halfway between Austin and San Antonio and was approved in 2004. On June 14, 2011, EMF received approval to move the translator further north to Mountain City, an area located halfway between San Marcos and Austin. Then just over two weeks later, the FCC approved another move for this translator to a location in the hills just west of Austin. These changes were made using the FCC’s “minor change” application process, a process where broadcasters can make certain types of changes to their facilities without waiting for a major filing window including shorter distance facility moves.

In a recent case in Florida, Broadcast Towers, Inc., was sanctioned by the FCC for taking an FM translator facility that was licensed during the Great Translator Invasion and through multiple minor change applications moved the translator from a point just north of the Florida Keys to a location just outside of Miami Beach. The FCC and Broadcast Towers reached a consent decree in this case where the licensee would divest of their Florida licenses. The case in Florida was much more egregious than what EMF is doing in Austin but they are using similar loopholes in the rules to move their station.

KDRP started to experience the interference when the translator was moved to Mountain City. A story about the situation was carried on Austin NBC affiliate KXAN. Shortly afterwards, K276EL was taken off the air and then moved to their current site in Austin where the interference continues.

According to the story on KXAN, both EMF and Clear Channel is suggesting that KDRP have listeners tune to a translator on 100.1 FM instead of 103.1 FM. In a press release on June 29, Clear Channel stated:

This is much ado about nothing. As KDRP-LP well knows, the translator is in complete compliance with the FCC’s rules which were established specifically to eliminate these kinds of disputes. Simply stated, KDRP-LP is seeking to claim rights to coverage which is outside of their FCC protected area. Moreover, their listeners in our protected area can simply re-tune their radios to 101.1 [ed: should be 100.1] to hear KDRP.

The 100.1 they are referring to is K261DW in nearby Henly. This translator is owned by Rio Bravo Entertainment, Inc., a third party who is not affiliated with KDRP-LP but who has agreed to carry KDRP programming. Because the translator is now owned by KDRP, the translator is through an agreement with Rio Bravo. In fact, LPFM stations are not allowed to own their own translators. Addressing Clear Channel’s press release, KDRP’s general manager Ryan Schuh told KXAN-TV, “Our signal, the one that we own and must protect is the 103.1. That’s our bread and butter; that’s what makes the community tune in.”

Despite media coverage, the FCC Enforcement Bureau’s response to this issue has not been very supportive. Going to Congress and the Senate may be the only possibility for KDRP-LP. Schuh told REC, “We still have hope the folks at EMF will do the right thing and either move their dial position, give us one of their frequencies, or turn it off completely.”

In 2003, REC Networks exposed the filing abuses that took place by speculative filers during the Auction 83 FM Translator filing window, which we coined “The Great Translator Invasion”. Abuses during this filing window have resulted in over a million dollars in transferred un-built construction permits, all handed out to these mega-ministries and other speculators free of charge by the FCC. In a recent letter from REC to Senators McCain and Cantwell, the primary sponsors of the Local Community Radio Act, we explained the abuses by the mega-ministries in station ownership and the practices of trafficking construction permits for profit.

In a statement, REC Networks’ Michi Eyre questions the ethics of EMF in this transaction to allow KVET to be rebroadcasted over one of their translators:

These Christian organizations continue to preach the immorality of abortion, homosexuality, premarital sex and contraception, yet that doctrine seems to get thrown out the window when it involves making a quick buck. In 2003, we saw a number of supposed Christian ministries violating “thou shalt not steal” [in reference to the trafficking and profiting from unbuilt construction permits given to them free of charge by the government] and in 2011, we are seeing EMF violating many things that Christianity is supposed to stand for, or at least in the eyes of the mega-ministries. I wonder how the underwriters of K-Love and Air 1 would feel knowing that their funding for Christian radio is being mixed in with what some may refer to as ‘dirty money’?

REC is continuing to follow the situation at KDRP-LP and we are engaging our allies to provide as much support and assistance possible. KDRP has told REC that they are planning more awareness events in the future. REC is asking the entire LPFM and media justice community to join KDRP in their fight against encroachment and encourage the FCC to strengthen up enforcement of interference between the secondary band users. We must also prevent further AM expansion to the FM band to assure that these channels remain available for new local secular and faith based voices.

EMF has proven in Austin that money speaks louder than doctrine and these mega-ministries will stop at nothing, including violating their own morals to profit from the public broadcast spectrum.

KDRP’s website is at: http://kdrplive.org

Some material for this article can be attributed to KXAN-TV: http://www.kxan.com/dpp/news/small-town-radio-station-fights-back

This article released under Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0.

REC Media Contact: Michi Eyre 415 407-6221.

Austin Chronicle’s website is at: http://www.austinchronicle.com/
http://www.austinchronicle.com/food/2011-07-15/radio-snack/

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2 Responses

  1. […] Texas, this “partnership” is causing interference to an LPFM station. EMF used similarly fancy footwork to move one of its translators to a prime spot in the capital […]

  2. As the author notes, KDRP is exactly what a local station should be. It participates in all manner of local fund drives, community events & gives a forum for local issues. Clear Channel and EMF are multimillion-dollar entities with no interest in the area that they are encroaching on other than that they want their signals out there exclusively. KDRP has been a welcome addition to the Hill Country radio dial but it now faces having to pay legal fees to try and protect the coverage area it was provided by the FCC. Penalties & fees should be forthcoming from the FCC but I sure wouldn’t hold my breath while waiting.

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