FM Translator Speculators Become Millionaires

It’s a sickening benchmark to behold, and yet it represents only a fraction of an overall speculation and trafficking marketplace in-progress for FM spectrum ostensibly for noncommercial use.
Here is where our story left off last: Radio Assist Ministry and Edgewater Broadcasting (which are actually one and the same) filed more than 4,000 FM translator construction permit applications during a 2003 FCC filing window for new FM translator stations. In less than two years RAM/EB booked more than $800,000 in revenue by selling batches of translator construction permits to evangelistic mega-churches in the South and West (although a host of smaller transactions also took place).
These churches, in effect, bought permission to build state-wide or regional networks through speculators who snapped up the permits en masse, just for this very purpose.
Now, RAM/EB is billing well into the seven figures after booking several new deals with its biggest clients. According to REC Networks’ Traffick Report:
1. On August 2, 2005 the FCC approved the sale of an FM translator construction permit to serve Dunnellon, Florida from Edgewater Broadcasting to Reach Communications (otherwise known as Calvary Chapel of Fort Lauderdale) for $6,000.
2. On October 21, Reach bought five more translator construction permits in Florida from Edgewater for $80,000.
3. Three days later, Radio Assist Ministry sold Reach another 17 translator permits in Florida for a cool $234,000.
This is on top of more than $325,000 worth of FM spectrum throughout Florida that Reach Communications had previously purchased from RAM/EB. Cumulatively, RAM/EB has done more than $650,000 in business with Calvary Chapel of Fort Lauderdale alone.
On January 10 of this year, two more notable deals went down:
1. Edgewater Broadcasting closed on the sale of four translator permits to Horizon Christian Fellowship of San Diego, California. Horizon is a variant of the Calvary Chapel “brand” of evangelist Christianity and represents RAM/EB’s second biggest customer: Horizon purchased $219,000 worth of FM spectrum in California and Washington state in 2004. These new construction permits are also for towns in Washington. Cumulative sale price: $24,000.
2. Radio Assist Ministry also sold five translators to Horizon in three states – California, Idaho, and Washington – for $28,000.
In total, RAM/EB’s two biggest customers have dropped more than $917,000 for FM spectrum. These transactions, coupled with the flurry of the aforementioned minor deals, means RAM/EB has now booked combined revenues of more than $1.1 million. Not too shabby for permits that cost nothing to apply for.
Interestingly, some of these latest acquisitions will not be a part of their parent churches’ fledgling media empires. For example, five of Reach Communications’ new stations will actually rebroadcast programming from WAY-FM, another evangelistic translator network-monger. And all of Horizon Christian Fellowship’s latest purchases will relay something different, including several other religious broadcasters as well as the Seattle Public Schools and Spokane Public Radio.
I wonder if, just as they diluted the actual translator applications and transfers between each other, religious broadcasters are now diluting the chain of ownership of their networks themselves – growing them while simultaneously making it (at least on first listen) more difficult to know just who owns what station.
REC’s Traffick Report clearly shows how established evangelist godcasters and spectrum-speculators are trading construction permits so as to strategically target new growth territory and consolidate preexisting coverage areas. Since translators cover just a fraction of the area that a full-power station can, you need many translators to cover the same service area as a single full-power station. Making agreements to rebroadcast one another’s programming is simply the next step in solidifying these broadcasters’ well-entrenched beachhead on the FM dial while diffusing any scrutiny.
Please also keep in mind that this particular chicanery is just one plank in a much larger plan by a scary streak of zealots to transform America into a theocracy. If that sounds nuts, might I direct you to these links, where you can get some learn on. The level of finely-tuned organization and money behind the translator invasion is but one part of a larger and very real crusade that is getting little to no coverage. And my attempts to dig into it have only scratched the surface of this particular aspect.