Things are in a somewhat strange state of flux at the FCC regarding the controversy involving speculation and trafficking in FM translator stations, at the expense of spectrum for more LPFM outlets. On March 18 the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) which seeks to expand the LPFM service; it also included a six-month freeze on the processing of any more translator applications from the flood dumped on the agency in 2003. However, the rulemaking itself has yet to be formally published in the Federal Register.
Publication in the Register is an important step in the regulatory process. Typically, agencies do not start the clock on a regulatory proceeding until it has been formally published in the Register. In this case, it would formally start the FCC’s comment and reply-comment period, which is supposed to run for up to 45 days following Register publication. Continue reading “Translator Crusades: D.C. Update”
A couple of noteworthy but skewed articles published this week. USA Today picked up on the FM translator spectrum trafficking scandal and, like the caricature of journalism that it is, talked with “both sides” for “equal time.” This allowed Radio Assist Ministry/Edgewater Broadcasting president Clark Parrish the chance to tell some tall tales unchallenged.
Parrish claims the call for an investigation into his trafficking operation is “sour grapes.” He says he plans to start a new nationwide religious broadcast network via FM translator, which may rebroadcast American Family Radio (another translator-monger). And, most importantly, the small number of construction permits he’s sold to others (for $800,000+) were just chaff – leftover permits he’s since decided not to build as part of his network. Continue reading “Press Corrections: Pod/Godcasting”
Looks like the Edgewater/RAM cabal found out that they’ve been found out. Yesterday they filed an “emergency motion to dismiss” the public petition calling for a freeze on the processing of FM translator applications due to allegations of spectrum speculation and trafficking. It’s an arrogant document wherein they mince no words:
The Petition cites no wrongdoing whatsoever by the Ministries. It resorts instead to wild speculation impugning the character, motives, and methods of the Ministries and their principals. Continue reading “Translator-Mongers Fire Back”
Today REC Networks, Prometheus Radio Project, and a gaggle of D.C. media advocacy groups filed an emergency petition with the FCC for a freeze on the processing of translator applications from 2003. That was the application window in which 13,000+ applications were filed, of which 4,000+ were part of a scheme to provide turnkey radio networks to religious broadcasters.
The petition reports that World Radio Link, Inc. is apparently the marketing arm of the scheme. It advertised prominently at the National Religious Broadcasters annual convention last month that it
[r]epresents the two largest filers of FM translator applications in the FCC’s most recent FM filing window. These two applicants, Radio Assist Ministry and Edgewater Broadcasting, are making available for acquisition hundreds of these FM translator station construction permits to existing or new entrant Christian broadcasters throughout the country. Continue reading “Translator Invasion Freeze Petition Filed”
While the proliferation of FM translator stations by religious broadcast groups arguably constitutes spectrum abuse, it’s just one perspective on a larger problem. Religious broadcasters are not only snapping up translator channels on which real community LPFM stations might have been sited, they’re also engaged in LPFM broadcasting.
A recent SF Chronicle story illustrates how Calvary Chapel organizes LPFM station affiliate growth:
This month, the Calvary Chapel Radio Ministry of Costa Mesa in Orange County hosted 170 mostly Christian low-power broadcasters, offering them operational tips as well as up to “16 hours per day, seven days a week” of programming beamed in via satellite, according to its Web site. Continue reading “Religious Broadcasting As Franchise Operation”
REC Networks makes some remarkable math: the entity doing business as translator-mongers Edgewater Broadcasting and Radio Assist Ministries is cleaning up on the FM dial. Combined, Edgewater/RAM currently hold 1,026 construction permits for translator stations. This is of more than 4,200 license applications filed (~2,300 applications still pending).
Of these, REC then lists (in an e-mail) 83 sales or transfers of Edgewater/RAM construction permits – the recipients of whom just happen to be other translator-mongers, like the American Family Association and Calvary Chapel Church, Inc.
Three multi-translator transactions involved Edgewater/RAM handing over 26 construction permits in Florida to “Reach Communications (Calvary Chapel Church, Inc.)” for $326,500. The total revenue generated by the 83 transactions is just over $800,000. Continue reading “Moneychangers In the Temple”
This article was initially written for/published in the Wisconsinite, a now-defunct alt-biweekly newspaper in Madison, WI.
Under the guise of evangelism several religious broadcasting entities are mounting a full-scale invasion of the FM dial. This invasion exploits a couple of little-known provisions in FCC regulations that provide these broadcasters the opportunity to flood open frequencies with low-power transmitters. In very real terms these “godcasters” are crowding out the potential growth of new community radio stations.
Key to this ploy is a type of FM radio station known as a translator. Translator stations range in power levels from 1 to 250 watts and cannot air locally-produced programming. The FCC created the translator class of FM radio station initially to serve as a booster for full-power FM stations that operate in areas where terrain (like mountains) may block their signals.
Over the years many individual radio stations have applied for and received licenses to operate translators to extend or fill in gaps in their primary coverage area. In Madison, for example, Wisconsin Public Radio maintains a 10-watt FM translator station on 90.9 since WHAD-FM, The Ideas Network’s primary FM outlet (based in Milwaukee), does not provide adequate coverage to the Madison area and the next-closest nearest Ideas Network FM outpost, in Highland, cannot be reliably heard in Madison at all. Similar translators help boost or extend the reach of other WPR stations around the state. Continue reading “March of the Low-Band God Squad”
The final total on the number of FM translator station applications filed in March is 13,345. Of those, nearly one-third were tendered by just two groups – Radio Assist Ministry and Edgewater Broadcasting, Inc. – who filed more than 4,200 translator applications between them.
Other known abusers of the translator service are also in on this, like the Educational Media Foundation (875) and the Calvary Chapel syndicate, who applied for 385 stations under at least two names (Calvary Chapel of Twin Falls and CSN International). Continue reading “Translator Crusades Update”