Last month the Pew Research Center published a short report on the growth of the LPFM radio service, following the conclusion of a 10-year legislative battle to expand it back to near the scope originally hoped by the FCC when it was first proposed in 1999-2000.
According to the report, since the passage of the Local Community Radio Act in 2011 and subequent filing windows for new LPFM construction permits, the number of licensed stations has nearly doubled, to more than 1,500 nationwide (including U.S territories and protectorates). Most states have more than 20 LPFM licensees, while California, Florida, and Texas clock in with the most (100+). Continue reading “LPFM Expands…But Translators Still Dominate FM Crumbs”
It’s still more than two months away, but in late November Americans will sit down with their families/friends and gorge themselves on food, then satedly lounge around giving thanks for their bounty. The U.S. radio industry’s going through that process presently, having spent most of the year scarfing up and then trading around FM translator stations.
In quick summary: FM translators are a class of radio station limited to a broadcast power of 250 watts but unlimited in antenna height (the key factor for good FM coverage). They are considered secondary services, in that they must rebroadcast another radio station. For decades, translators have been used as stand-in broadcast nodes by interests who wanted to build out radio networks on the cheap — by and large, these have been religious and public broadcasters who pipe in programming via satellite to air on a translator. Translators don’t require any staff and since they don’t originate their own programming all they need is a shack for the RF-boxes and a tower nearby.
This all began to change last decade when, after a multi-year freeze on new translator stations in order to implement the LPFM radio service, the FCC opened a filing window for new translators in 2003. Several cunning parties were well-prepared for this opportunity, flooding the agency with tens of thousands of translator applications — a 250-watt FM spectrum gold rush. Out of these came thousands of new translator stations, which in the intervening years have been fodder for speculative development of the FM dial around the country. Continue reading “Thanks to Translator-Mongering, AM Broadcasters Now Openly Advocating Band's Abandonment”
While moving my site over to the WordPress platform, I had several trips down memory lane regarding past stories I’ve told. One of them, published 10 years ago this month, broke down just how lucrative it is to run a religious broadcast syndicate.
Back then, the explosion in FM translators was a relatively new development, and the millions of dollars harvested unethically from the public airwaves was yet but a pipe dream in many minds.
Even so, in 2004 salaries for religious broadcast executives were pretty damn lucrative, ranging from $117,000 to $250,000 per year. How have those numbers changed over the course of a decade, with the windfall of FM translators extending their business-models? Turns out it’s been a rocket ride (data courtesy of Charity Navigator). Continue reading “Religious Broadcast Executive Pay: 10 Years Later”
Eleven years ago, one wily guy made a spectrum-grab on the FM dial of unprecedented proportions. Using a custom program and a bank of computers, Clark Parrish filed for more than 4,000 FM translator construction permits during a short application window for translators in 2003.
Operating under two corporate identities, Edgewater Broadcasting and Radio Assist Ministry, Parrish put the permits on the market. In fact, his gambit created an entirely new market for FM translator stations. Over the last decade, that’s netted RAM/EB and other religious broadcasters who got in on the game millons of dollars from hundreds of sales, many involving the nation’s largest broadcasters, who deploy FM translators as automated outlets typically fed by out-of-market or HD2/3 programming. Since translator stations are considered a secondary broadcast service, they don’t count against the FCC’s radio ownership caps. Continue reading “Translator-mongers Brag About Gaming System”
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”
Major-league bad blood is now gushing over at the Calvary Satellite Network, the Clear Channel of godcasting. A couple of months ago a civil suit surfaced, filed by Michael Kestler, pastor of Calvary Chapel of Twin Falls, Idaho, against Jeff Smith – son of Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel fellowship itself. Kestler accused Smith and several anonymous accomplices of siphoning money from CSN to finance other projects, like Chuck Smith’s syndicated radio program, The Word for Today.
Smith et al. have now responded – big time. In a 112-page counter-complaint, it is as if Kestler’s accusations are thrown back at him, amplified. Before getting into the dirty details, though, a bit of back-story is required. Continue reading “Glass Houses, Etc.”
Very interesting dirty laundry now flaps in the wind.
Until about two years ago, the translator station-mongering Calvary Satellite Network (CSN) was apparently run by a two-person board of directors. Now, one director is suing the other, alleging all manner of fiscal and managerial impropriety, among other misdeeds.
The accused is one Jeff Smith – son of Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel brand of megachurch and media empire. Continue reading “Calvary Satellite Network Lawsuit Schism”
The Columbia Journalism Review has just published “Out of Thin Air,” which is without a doubt the most comprehensive treatment done by a mainstream media outlet to date on the on the speculation and trafficking of FM translator stations. The 3,600-word piece does an admirable job of unpacking some of the technically-challenging aspects of this complicated story.
However, it is not without its share of mistakes, some of which are big enough to somewhat obscure the real nature of the story at hand. Continue reading “CJR On Godcasting Invasion”