FM translators for AM - are they really helping?
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Thread: FM translators for AM - are they really helping?

  1. #1

    FM translators for AM - are they really helping?

    The current translator windows for AMs to move them up to 250 miles has generated hundreds of sales and moves. Many AMs are now on the FM band with coverage areas similar to the AM, but how in the world does that help the AM? It may save a few financially but logic says that what will really happen is that most existing listeners will gravitate to the FM signal in short order, so how does that help AM? It seems that all it really accomplishes is moving listeners AWAY from the AM band, making it even less relevant moving forward. The other issue here is that the AMs who are struggling the most cannot afford a $40-80k expenditure to purchase, move and install a translator so much of the available spectrum is being taken by the ones that need the help the least. When the window opens next year for those stations who didn't or couldn't participate in the 2016 windows there will be very little left as far as frequency availability.

    I still feel the best way to fix AM is to inspect every one and enforce the existing rules. Many of the struggling AMs have a grocery list of violations - everything from major issues like no manned studio and towers and equipment that are not in compliance to easy to fix stuff like incomplete public files. This would eliminate many AMs who should be gone anyway and clean the band up by eliminating interference. There used to be a financial test to determine who was qualified to have a license as well as regular enforcement - now there is virtually nothing to police the license holders. The license holders don't own the license - the FCC does - so there is no argument here about fairness to the little guy. Follow the rules or lose your license.

    Thoughts?

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by ok walters View Post

    I still feel the best way to fix AM is to inspect every one and enforce the existing rules.

    Thoughts?
    I agree, but that would cost the FCC money, and it doesn't want to do that. Radio owners take a lot of crap for being cheap, but nothing compares to the FCC. In the last 30 years, it has completely changed its focus from being a regulatory agency to making money. The FCC loves the FM translator idea because they make $500 in license fees for each one sold. So they're making money, not spending it. One of the Commissioners has gone so far as saying he wants to turn over policing for pirates to station owners. They simply don't want to regulate. So their idea for AM revitalization is to give up on AM.

    Here's an article that confirms what you're saying:

    http://www.insideradio.com/free/desp...6df848818.html
    Last edited by TheBigA; 09-05-2016 at 12:26 PM.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by TheBigA View Post
    I agree, but that would cost the FCC money, and it doesn't want to do that. Radio owners take a lot of crap for being cheap, but nothing compares to the FCC. In the last 30 years, it has completely changed its focus from being a regulatory agency to making money. The FCC loves the FM translator idea because they make $500 in license fees for each one sold. So they're making money, not spending it. One of the Commissioners has gone so far as saying he wants to turn over policing for pirates to station owners. They simply don't want to regulate. So their idea for AM revitalization is to give up on AM.

    Here's an article that confirms what you're saying:

    http://www.insideradio.com/free/desp...6df848818.html
    Don't know about the part about it costing them money. Even if most of the big offenders turned in their license, many would pay fines of some sort. There would definitely be significant fine revenue and there could be a very significant thinning of the herd by doing nothing other than enforcing the regs on the books for years. I would think it may be at worst revenue neutral, where the enforcement pays for itself. All of us know of AM stations that are utter disasters and would go away without even a whimper if a FCC agent gave the place a thorough inspection. The dangerous tower structures that exist out there now are another situation altogether, and would lead to more closures or major repairs and fines.

    So who has benefited so far by the revitalization? The big AMs and those that are part of a cluster who could afford to buy and move one or more translators are now on FM, and the rural AMs and stand alone AMs who were struggling are still struggling and praying for something next year. The addition of a FM will only lead to the AM becoming secondary and may even make the deferred maintenance situation even worse in some places. If you have little capital, what are you going to do? Fix the AM that is not making money or get a FM and get it on air?

    WFLF 540 in Orlando is a 50,000 watt AM blowtorch owned by Clear Channel. They got a translator for it on 102.5 FM running 250 watts from a 450 stick in downtown Orlando. They get about 15 miles out of the translator and the AM signal is 100 miles, yet the station is now known as "News Talk 102.5 FM Orlando - also still on 540 AM". They have a big signal AM and don't even hardly acknowledge its presence anymore - it will be even worse if the AM signal is weak. And why wouldn't you do exactly what they are doing? The FM will eventually have almost all of your listeners on it anyway.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by ok walters View Post
    There would definitely be significant fine revenue and there could be a very significant thinning of the herd by doing nothing other than enforcing the regs on the books for years.
    There is absolutely no interest at the FCC in "thinning the herd." They want to keep adding stations, even if they're all run by EMF. More is better. This has been their agenda for 30 years. More stations translate to more money and democracy, and that translates to more of a justification to get their Congressional appropriation.

  5. #5

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    Getting people to the AM dial.....no. Helping some AM owners stay afloat, yes. The ability to run high school sports will save at least a couple that I know of locally, including the ine that plays unrecognizeable early 60s oldies mixed with unrecognizeable classic country. Doe WGTO and WLW need a translator? I
    go with no.

  6. #6
    Some people are buying dead 1kw AM stations strictly for the opportunity to qualify for an FM translator. The AM is the loss leader. What a way to revitalize AM! But the FCC can point to the fact that someone bought an AM signal. That counts as a win for them.

  7. #7
    In Portland, all the open spaces are filled by LPFM CPs but that didn't stop two religious groups from buying up translators and trying to move them. It seems to me that allowing religious groups to do so, prevents their use by stations that would gain an advantage from such an action.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by semoochie View Post
    It seems to me that allowing religious groups to do so, prevents their use by stations that would gain an advantage from such an action.
    The law doesn't allow the FCC to discriminate by programming. It's first come, first served. He with the most money wins.

    This is why I say that LPFMs should only be allowed in the noncommercial part of the spectrum. But the law wasn't written that way.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by ok walters View Post
    I still feel the best way to fix AM is to inspect every one and enforce the existing rules. Many of the struggling AMs have a grocery list of violations - everything from major issues like no manned studio and towers and equipment that are not in compliance to easy to fix stuff like incomplete public files. This would eliminate many AMs who should be gone anyway and clean the band up by eliminating interference. There used to be a financial test to determine who was qualified to have a license as well as regular enforcement - now there is virtually nothing to police the license holders. The license holders don't own the license - the FCC does - so there is no argument here about fairness to the little guy. Follow the rules or lose your license.
    Fining a few non-compliant AMs is not going to fix the band.

    The fact is that just about everyone under 55 grew up on FM. Some of those under 55 occasionally use AM for sports broadcasts and special programming. Even fewer use AM because it is where there is programming aimed at their ethnic group or religious convictions.

    But for the most part, AM listening is shrinking and now almost entirely concentrated in the age groups that don't represent revenue for radio. There is no way to fix that.

    The high levels of noise on AM just make that worse, coupled with the large number of AMs that were built before urban sprawl put much of the local population outside their coverage area.

    And it sounds bad.
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  10. #10
    I think we all know what the real solutions are, and the FCC is opposed to all of them. So it's a stalemate, and that's where it will remain.

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