Settlement Reached in Calvary Satellite Network Split

The parties in the nasty power-struggle over control of the multimillion-dollar Calvary Satellite Network have come to a settlement agreement.
In a nutshell, the “Idaho faction” (Mike Kestler et al.) walks away with close to half the full-power FM stations in the CSN inventory and the overwhelming majority of translator stations (400+). The “California faction” (Chuck & Jeff Smith et al.) retains control of 29 full-power stations and just two translators, as well as most of those currently wending their way through the application- and construction-approval process at the FCC (with whom a copy of this settlement agreement has already been filed). The Idaho faction will make a symbolic payment of $200,000 to the California faction for the media empire it’s wangled out of the deal, as well as bear the costs of doing the necessary FCC paperwork to formalize this schism. Continue reading “Settlement Reached in Calvary Satellite Network Split”

CSN Exposé Finally Published

The long-awaited L.A. Times piece on the problems at the Calvary Satellite Network was published today. It doesn’t include much more than we already knew, save for a few interesting factoids:
1. The CSN network is valued at $250 million, most of that in the form of the licenses for the 450+ full-power FM and translator stations it owns.
2. Calvary Chapel founder Chuck Smith poured some $13 million into network construction, and Chuck’s son, Jeff, siphoned money from his dad’s radio ministry to finance CSN in troubled times. Continue reading “CSN Exposé Finally Published”

Translator Licensees Spike, Get Cited

The FCC has released year-end broadcast station totals. Of the 17,968 licensed radio stations in the nation, 4,131 (23%) are translator stations. FM translators may outnumber the number of AM stations by the end of this year; if the NAB’s proposal to give away translators to AM stations gains traction, the number of translators could quintuple.
Interestingly, the year-to-year totals of translators don’t seem to reflect the flood of new translators that have gone on the air since 2003. A recent slew of Notices of Apparent Liability released by the FCC for failure to timely renew station licenses somewhat does. Stations have been threatened with fines ranging between $1,500 and $8,500 for the infraction, with penalties inflated for those stations that technically operated without a license when their present one expired. In every case, the FCC has renewed each station’s license without further question.

Calvary Satellite Network Lawsuits Near Settlement

The Phoenix Preacher blog reports that discussions between Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, CA (the founding church of the Calvary Chapel phenomenon) and Calvary Chapel of Twin Falls, ID may avoid acrimonious litigation and instead end with a partial breakup of CSN. The scuttlebutt says the Idaho-based operation will end up keeping the network’s uplink, several full-power FM stations, and an undetermined number of FM translator repeater-stations. Continue reading “Calvary Satellite Network Lawsuits Near Settlement”

Guy Wire Pimps NAB Translator Invasion

I’ve long respected the opinion of Guy Wire, the pseudonym for a “veteran radio broadcast engineer” who writes regularly for Radio World, an excellent source of industry news. Hiding behind a pen name has given Guy Wire the balls over time to speak unpopular truths about the radio industry.
Which is why I was somewhat disappointed in his latest column, where he praises the National Association of Broadcasters’ plans to flood the FM dial with more translator stations that will do nothing more than simulcast AM radio stations.
Guy paints the plan as prudent, allowing neglected and beleaguered AM broadcasters to finally have “real relief” from increased interference and noise on the AM band. He says AM radio is “under siege,” with “far too many marginal stations with dwindling audiences and revenues.” Continue reading “Guy Wire Pimps NAB Translator Invasion”

Translator Tidbits of Note

Recently found two documents of interest related to the impact of translator station proliferation on the potential for LPFM station expansion. The first two are contained as appendices to late-filed reply comments tendered by the Prometheus Radio Project in the FCC’s still-open LPFM proceeding last September. Continue reading “Translator Tidbits of Note”

NAB Seeks FM Translator-Grab for AM Stations

A very intriguing Petition for Rulemaking was recently filed by the National Association of Broadcasters. It asks the FCC to let the owners of AM stations apply for FM translators, so that they may rebroadcast their AM signals to provide better service, especially at night, when many AM stations must operate at reduced power or go off the air completely. NAB believes the FCC needs to give a much-needed “boost” to the lot of these beleaguered stations.
The FCC has considered and rejected this very notion twice in the last 25 years, but NAB thinks the third time is the charm because of new sources of interference to the AM band. What new sources? Computers and traffic signals are mentioned, but a footnote otherwise plugging digital radio casually drops the comment that AM broadcasters are “encountering ever more interference problems as a result of an increase in ambient noise.” Continue reading “NAB Seeks FM Translator-Grab for AM Stations”

Translator-Traffickers Mint Another Million

Since 2003, the unscrupulous folks at Radio Assist Ministry/Edgewater Broadcasting/World Radio Link have sold hundreds of FM translator station construction permits scarfed up in a questionable fashion to mostly-religious broadcasters looking to establish or extend turnkey radio networks on the cheap.
Horizon Christian Fellowship was one of RAM/EB/WRL’s biggest early clients. It bought 20 FM translator construction permits along the West Coast from Radio Assist and Edgewater in a series of deals worth $219,000 in early 2004. Horizon has loose ties to the Calvary Chapel fellowship of churches, and many Calvary Chapels are well-known for their abuse of FM spectrum. Horizon, like Calvary, grew from a single church in California to a network of churches throughout the U.S., Mexico, Japan, and Russia. Continue reading “Translator-Traffickers Mint Another Million”

Translator-Monger Runs Afoul of Piracy

Earlier this month the FCC issued three Notices of Apparent Liability to a “Best Media, Inc.,” whose primary business model involves throwing up FM translator stations and then leasing them out to interested broadcasters. It would seem that Best Media is relatively new to this game: the licenses of three of the translators it received permits to operate in 2003 expired in 2004, and the company forgot to renew them for more than a year.
When the FCC twigged to the problem and opened an inquiry, Best Media sheepishly filed for license renewals. Not quick enough to avoid $21,000 in judgments – of which $9k is for muffing the paperwork and the balance for technically running pirate translators. Operating three unlicensed translator stations, therefore, is somewhat less egregious than running a single live-and-local pirate station, for which the FCC’s base fine begins at $10,000.