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.
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).
The New York Times has just published a piece on the trend of evangelical broadcasters forcing smaller non-commercial stations off the air in order to squeeze more proselytizing-nodes on the dial. It demonstrates increasing interest in the proliferation of translator stations by religious broadcasters.
On the translator front, the FCC’s temporary freeze on processing the avalanche of applications from 2003 has had no effect on the selling of translator construction permits: REC’s Traffic Report shows deals every month throughout the summer and fall.
Free Radio Berkeley’s 75-watt transmitter arrived safe and sound. It’s been re-tuned to 88.7 FM and is presently putting out about 80-90 watts. A shed’s been cleared out to serve as a full-time studio space; a military surplus mast has been procured and assembled; and a new antenna sits on top of it. Soon the station will be webcasting as well. The vibe is increasingly active as more and more people return to the city: there is much to do and many stories to tell.