March 2012
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This is just wrong

My apologies to all those who think that translators are more than relay points, a way to fill in coverage from the main FM station they are relaying.  They are not.  I read this bit of information on this morning:

Townsquare Media bought the Albany-licensed translator from Bud Williamson’s Digital Radio Broadcasting last year for $245,000, and the signs were that it would go soft AC as “Sunny.”

The translator is going on the air as a soft AC?  WHAT?  Further down in the article it goes on to say that the translator will actually be relaying an HD-2 channel from WQSH, 105.7, a station 22 miles away.  Oh, well, that makes it okay, right?

Lets start with FCC 74.1231(a), which states:

FM translators provide a means whereby the signals of AM or FM broadcast stations may be retransmitted to areas in which direct reception of such AM or FM broadcast stations is unsatisfactory due to distance or intervening terrain barriers, and a means for AM Class D stations to continue operating at night

Notice it says “FM” or “AM.”  Since we all know that FM stands for Frequency Modulation and AM stands for Amplitude Modulation, where does that leave HD Radio®, which is neither.  As a point of technicality, HD radio uses a OFDM modulation scheme.  It may seem stupid or simple to point that out, but that is the way the rules are written and HD Radio® is not AM or FM no matter which frequency band it is using.

The second point is that translators are not supposed to originate local programming.  Again, this is a simple work around.  By putting the programming on some HD2 channel from somewhere, it is legal.  They are not even trying to hide the fact that the translator is the main market signal, calling the station “Hot 99.1,” which is the frequency of W256BU, not the so called originating station, 105.7.

Blatant, blatant, blatant disregard for the intent of translator regulations and ownership regulations.  This is something that the FCC can address in its broadcast ownership review, but of course, they won’t.  This whole, wink, wink, nod, nod business is getting a little bit difficult to stomach.  The question is what can be done about it?

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6 comments to This is just wrong

  • Gary

    Since we all know that FM stands for Frequency Modulation and AM stands for Amplitude Modulation, where does that leave HD Radio®, which is neither. As a point of technicality, HD radio uses a OFDM modulation scheme.

    Correct, and there are three (and only three) ways in which to modulate a sine wave in order to pass information, those three being AM, FM and PM (phase modulation). And OFDM is an offshoot of PM since it uses multiple carriers, each one modulated using some flavor of either phase-shift keying or a combination of AM and PM, which is quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM). Soooooo,

    what can be done about it?

    You’ve taken the first step. You’ve brought it to a wider audience. That audience can then either (a) ignore it or (b) begin sending messages (e-mail, actual snail mail letters, etc) to the FCC and Congress saying, “This is BS. Knock it off!” The nice thing, Paul, is that you actually want to do something about it, as opposed to many blogs which just whine, “Oh, no one listens to me. There’s nothing I can do about it!”

  • Dealing in translators is a vibrant shadow industry, and sickening:

  • Paul Thurst

    John, I read that information, thanks for the work and research that you do. I know that the translator rules are being flaunted, I am trying to puzzle together any possible recourse.

  • There’s an AM that’s in a metro area north of me that acquired an FM translator some month ago. The owners rebranded the entire station by changing the call letters of the AM to brand the operation using the FM translator’s frequency and slogan similar to a former station in the market. I find this less than genuine and wonder about the entire legality of it all. Along those same lines, especially with a translator for an AM station, when I hear programming in stereo it makes me wonder just how legal things are – aren’t translators suppose to be receiving their signals OFF-AIR and not by wire or STL?

    The entire thing drives me absolutely nuts, especially when I see all sorts of what I would consider translator when I’m unable to get my high school radio students anything more than a campus-limited signal while both non-comms and commercial stations abuse translator rules left and right.

  • I’d love to go in on something to the FCC that pretty much lays this entire saga wide open. At least then it’ll be on the record. If only the agency cared about broadcast regulation….

  • Timaaay

    Paul Thurst has some great points here. The FCC isn’t what it used to be. The recent decisions to put all kinds of “junk” transmitters, (medical, telemetry, etc) on the ham bands is just another sign of the almighty dollar. It seem as if IBOC may be a victim of mother nature, not the blatant, overwhelming disregard for rule of law by the commission.
    I’m with Bill DeFelice here also. Although the FCC has announced a new round of LPFM licenses applications may soon be reviewed; schools and such institutions will likely not be the recipients.

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