There’s a lot of good things in the latest Report and Order. LPFM stations have finally achieved something close to technical and legal parity with FM translator stations. LPFM rules have been refined to provide a substantive preference for those who actually plan to focus on live and local programming. And the next filing window for new LPFM stations will open in the fall of next year.
Since 2003, the unscrupulous folks at Radio Assist Ministry/Edgewater Broadcasting/World Radio Link have sold hundreds of FM translator station construction permits scarfed up in a questionable fashion to mostly-religious broadcasters looking to establish or extend turnkey radio networks on the cheap.
Horizon Christian Fellowship was one of RAM/EB/WRL’s biggest early clients. It bought 20 FM translator construction permits along the West Coast from Radio Assist and Edgewater in a series of deals worth $219,000 in early 2004. Horizon has loose ties to the Calvary Chapel fellowship of churches, and many Calvary Chapels are well-known for their abuse of FM spectrum. Horizon, like Calvary, grew from a single church in California to a network of churches throughout the U.S., Mexico, Japan, and Russia.
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.