Translator-mongers Brag About Gaming System

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. Read More

Completing the Cycle of Translator Abuse: Hopping Madness

The abuse of FM translators continues unabated, and may be more insidious than anyone realizes – including (and especially) the FCC.

First there was Clark Parrish, the mastermind who swamped the FCC’s license-application system during a 2003 filing window for new translators. He applied for thousands of stations under the guise of two shell corporations – Radio Assist Ministry and Edgewater Broadcasting – with the intent of selling them off to other broadcasters so that he could build his own full-power religious radio empire with the proceeds.

The FCC, in response to outcry over such blatant sentimentalizing, froze a goodly portion of his translator applications in 2005. The entire mess remains unresolved today, though the FCC must untangle it before moving forward with an expansion of the LPFM radio service. Read More

CJR On Godcasting Invasion

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. Read More

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. Read More

Translator Crusades: D.C. Update

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. Read More