A Few Thoughts From The Translator Window Filings

With the 1,081 pending applications (now 1,045 after the first batch of dismissals) made for Class C & Class D AM stations now public, I had a chance to dig through the applications and a few key themes became apparent.

  • There’s little spectrum left to bring a new translator to a big market.

    One application filed in the New York and Los Angeles markets, two in San Francisco, one in Philadelphia for a frequency that already contested in the 250 mile waiver period, and one in Dallas and Houston. The Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, and one of the San Francisco filings were made by Multicultural Broadcasting after that company sat out the 250 mile waiver moves last year.

  • Of the big operators some were active, while others were shockingly quiet.

    Salem Communications, which was very active in the 250 mile period, made only a handful of filings. iHeartMedia filed for just 4 new translators.

    Among the busier applicants were Townsquare Media, which has filed for 17 translators Saga Communications applied for 8 translators and Cumulus Media was the most active with 32 applications between its two license holding companies.

  • The most shocking participant (for lack thereof) was Alpha Media. By our unofficial count of 39 eligible stations, Alpha completely sat out the filing period.

    Say what you want about the flooding of the FM band with more signals, the addition of a translator does increase the value of an AM. If Alpha’s supposed financial issues lead to the company making divestments in the coming months, they have left money on the table by not increasing the stick value of having even just a pending Construction Permit for some of their AMs as the FM translator has been beneficial in bringing more ears to some of these weaker AM signals and making the station relevant in a market again.

  • The majority of the filings were for standalone AMs in small towns. Many of these translators will be lifelines with just enough coverage to allow the station to serve its COL and adjacent areas where the AM just cannot do at night.

    A station like 850 WYLF Penn Yan NY, which operates as a standalone with 1kW day/45w nights was not in a position to compete against the other media options in the region. The 250w FM signal will at least give it a fighting chance to be heard.

    We’ve followed the recent travails of 1580 WDQN Duquoin IL. It was the ability to add a translator that saved the station from being lost forever and keeping the only local radio voice in the area alive. If it is granted its application for 250 watts on 96.9, WDQN will have a relevance that its 170w day/6.6w night signal hasn’t had in decades.

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Lance Venta is the Owner and Publisher of RadioInsight.com and a consultant for RadioBB Networks specializing in integration of radio and the internet. Lance has two decades of experience tracking the audio industry and its use of digital platforms.

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