FM Translator Abuse Creates Ownership Loophole

Nearly a year ago it came to light that radio broadcasters were using FM translator stations as a sort of “back door” to provide more exposure for their HD Radio signals.
Ironically, these translators do not broadcast in digital; rather, many HD-capable radio stations are rebroadcasting their digital-only (“multicast”) programming via analog translator as a way to recoup their investment in a technology which has no meaningful audience.
Some radio conglomerates have purchased or signed lease agreements with FM translator owners to create ostensibly “new” stations in markets around the country in this manner. The practice has caused difficulty for independent broadcasters. Continue reading “FM Translator Abuse Creates Ownership Loophole”

AM-to-FM Simulcasters Top 400

From the didn’t-have-time-to-mention-last-year department: Radio World reports that more than 400 FM translator stations are now on the air simulcasting AM radio programming.
This is the result of a 2009 FCC decision allowing AM stations to apply for FM repeaters in a quest to find “relief” from the increasing noise floor on the AM dial. Spectrally, it’s a duplicative waste. Continue reading “AM-to-FM Simulcasters Top 400”

Translators: The Back Up Plan to HD?

Pity the poor FM translator: a book could be written about the way it has been used – and abused – over the years. Primarily just in this last decade. First, there was the religious broadcaster-led Great Translator Invasion; then, AM broadcasters asked for (and received) permission from the FCC to operate their own FM translator stations. Finally, some full-power FM stations that also happen to be running HD multicast streams are finding the analog translator a lucrative outlet for its previously digital-only content.
It is the latter two developments which concern us here, because both are direct offshoots of HD Radio. AM stations petitioned the FCC (via the NAB) to allow them to assemble clusters, if necessary, of FM translators to at least replicate their primary (protected) service coverage areas. Among the reasons given for this was the increasing level of interference on the AM band, part of which has been caused by the implementation of HD Radio. Continue reading “Translators: The Back Up Plan to HD?”

FCC: AM Stations Get FM Translators

Yesterday the FCC issued a Report and Order formally allowing AM radio stations to use FM translators to rebroadcast their signals.
The idea was first proposed nearly three years ago, and over the last 18 months or so the FCC’s quietly been allowing AM stations to apply for translators to “fill in” existing gaps in their coverage areas. These gaps have been caused by the general degradation of the AM band, due to electromagnetic or radio-frequency interference (RFI) from a growing myriad of electronic devices and skywave signals from stronger co- or adjacent-channel stations. Continue reading “FCC: AM Stations Get FM Translators”

FCC Begs Off on Translator-Expansion (for now)

A pleasant surprise: last week, during the FCC’s monthly meeting, the Commission was to vote on a disastrous plan to give all AM stations a buttload of FM translators, gratis. However – and somewhat true to form for Chairman Kevin Martin’s tenure – the item was pulled from consideration at the last minute. An unnamed source within the FCC reportedly says this is not just a short-term delay; the FM translator giveaway is not slated to be on October’s agenda, either.
Some trade publication, whose name escapes me now (because I didn’t bookmark to their miniscule blurb on the subject), claims that it is the “forces of LPFM” which have delayed the translator giveaway. Not sure what that’s supposed to mean: the “forces of LPFM” are not nearly as organized as they were just a few short months ago, when they lost their most talented and driven public-interest lobbyist for greener pastures. This is a loss that, frankly, cannot be adequately replaced. Continue reading “FCC Begs Off on Translator-Expansion (for now)”

Translator-Mongers and AM Stations Eye Expanded FM Band

Two suspicious proposals to expand the FM spectrum have surfaced at the FCC. While on its face the idea seems promising, the devil, as always, is in the details.
The first proposal was filed in late July by the Educational Media Foundation – parent company of the K-LOVE and AIR-1 Christian music radio networks, which can already be heard on more than 150 full-power, low-power, and FM translator stations.
A second, new group, called the “Broadcast Maximization Committee,” which represents the interests of AM broadcasters, followed up with its own proposal within days of EMF’s filing. It is difficult to believe the timing of the filings were coincidental. Continue reading “Translator-Mongers and AM Stations Eye Expanded FM Band”

Hiatus Ahoy: Notes While Away

My work online here will significantly slow down over the next couple of months, as I enter the most critical phase of my graduate studies to-date. Once I hopefully become ABD (“all but dissertation”) in early May, some of the pressure ease. But then I’m immediately leaving the country for an exploratory workshop hosted by the European Science Foundation on the impact of digitalization with regard to community media. As one a handful of non-EU “experts” invited to the event, I expect my role will primarily be to warn other countries in the midst of formulating, adopting, or modifying digital radio standards to stay as far away from iBiquity’s HD protocol as they possibly can.
Expect “regular” content-generation to resume sometime in late May or so. I made updates to the Schnazz, Truthful Translations, and Enforcement Action Database over the weekend, so those are up to date, at least in the near term.
In the meantime, keep an eye on these stories: Continue reading “Hiatus Ahoy: Notes While Away”

Interesting Notes of Miscellany

Sporadic news-updates will continue for the next month and a half, as I tackle my last preliminary exam. But the rest of the site is current (save for a batch-check of the links library for broken stuff). So, in the meantime here are some updates on a few of my favorite things:
HD Radio: Industry skepticism of and resistance to the technology is growing. Oppositional broadcast engineers, who used to be considered on the “fringes” are now getting at least a semblance of respect in the trades dialogue. Much of this has to do with the real-world impact of HD-related interference, most notable now on the AM band but soon coming to an FM dial near you, especially when stations are given permission to boost the power of their digital sidebands (at the expense of analog signal quality). Results of an HD signal-related interference analysis commissioned by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting – the first of its kind to really go into detail about FM-HD-related interference – should have been released by now, but hasn’t yet. Continue reading “Interesting Notes of Miscellany”

Comments Filed in NAB Translator Fallacy

I filed some comments today in the FCC’s proposed rulemaking that would give AM radio stations access to FM translators. The comments essentially boil down all the random thoughts I’ve posted here in the past about the matter, and present them in a more formal and constructive, and slightly less caustic manner.
Not like they’ll amount to anything, though: after re-reading the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking more closely, it’s obvious the agency’s really leaning in the direction of the NAB’s desire. In addition, a cursory check of the FCC’s Consolidated Data Base System reveals that more than a dozen AM radio stations have already applied for special temporary authority to run an FM translator, and at least one has been formally approved. Many of these applications cite the ongoing proceeding as justification for operation. Talk about creating “facts on the ground,” eh?

Back Door to AM Station/FM Translator Incest Wide Open

At last month’s NAB Radio Show, a representative of the Audio Services Division of the FCC’s Media Bureau disclosed that, even though the agency hasn’t yet taken action on a proposed rulemaking that would allow AM radio stations to utilize FM translators to supplement their coverage areas (a terrible idea, for several reasons), FCC staff are already implementing this “policy.”
How is this possible? The unnamed staffer revealed that all AM broadcasters must do is apply for special temporary authority to run FM translator stations, and, after cursory review, the FCC will let them go ahead and invade the FM dial. Continue reading “Back Door to AM Station/FM Translator Incest Wide Open”