FM Translator Abuse Creates Ownership Loophole

Nearly a year ago it came to light that radio broadcasters were using FM translator stations as a sort of “back door” to provide more exposure for their HD Radio signals.

Ironically, these translators do not broadcast in digital; rather, many HD-capable radio stations are rebroadcasting their digital-only (“multicast”) programming via analog translator as a way to recoup their investment in a technology which has no meaningful audience.

Some radio conglomerates have purchased or signed lease agreements with FM translator owners to create ostensibly “new” stations in markets around the country in this manner. The practice has caused difficulty for independent broadcasters. Read More

More Lumps for HD Radio

2011 has not started out well for advocates of HD Radio. Last week, Microsoft announced it would discontinue production of the Zune portable media player – one of only two portable devices that had built-in HD reception capability. Earlier in the year, at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, HD Radio’s presence was pretty underwhelming. Not good indicators for increasing uptake by listeners.

In addition, the political campaign to defund federal support of public broadcasting has HD squarely in its sights. Over the last decade or so, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has invested more than $50 million in HD Radio, through infrastructure “upgrade” subsidies to CPB-funded stations and support of National Public Radio’s in-house research division, NPR Labs. Read More

Striking Back At The Empire?

From the inestimable Jerry Del Colliano: a former employee of Cumulus Media is pursuing a class-action lawsuit against the company (common share stock price as of today: $2.55) alleging several violations of employment law. The suit is in the very preliminary stages now, but if any of Jerry’s other informants inside Cumulus (and other large radio conglomerates) can back up their “believe it or not” horror-stories, the company – and perhaps the entire industry – is in for some serious trouble.

A quick history recap: after the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the radio industry went on a station-buying binge. This led to massively inflated prices for stations across the nation. Flush with cash from investment banks, radio companies bought other radio companies, leading to a situation where less ten major broadcast conglomerates controlled some two-thirds of the industry’s total revenue. Read More

Quad Cities Pirate Takes FCC Head-On

Much in the spirit of Kantako, when the FCC paid a visit to Power 103.3 in Bettendorf, Iowa last week, the field agent was met at the door by a video camera. Two representatives of the station informed him that they were operating under the authority of 47 CFR 73.3542, which allows for emergency authorization of broadcasts in times of war or national emergency. The local paper’s article about the encounter does not note whether Power 103.3 has complied with the notification provision of the relevant Code.

As if that wasn’t enough, the station plans to preemptively strike in the courts, requesting its own injunction against the FCC to prevent a station raid. Not a lot of details on the grounds for this maneuver, but you have to admire the fight. Should things escalate, “we will probably move the station to buy more time. Then they have to start all over and come inspect that property and serve us another notice. We have back-up plans.” Read More

Commercial Stations Interfere With Airplanes

A couple of reports surfaced this month about a station in Louisiana changing frequencies due to interference to aviation radio channels. The 50,000-watt station in question broadcast on 107.9 FM and is owned by Cumulus Broadcasting, and the interference reportedly involved intermodulation between it and another station in east Texas.

Unlike last year’s hype of a pirate station in Florida interfering with aircraft communications, the Louisiana interference affected the instrument navigation signals of several airports, including the Barksdale Air Force Base. Read More