Tuesday, October 27, 2015


In yesterday’s column we talked about the dramatic increase in the number of FM translators from 2005 to 2015.  We also discussed the translator spectrum grab by religious noncoms benefiting from an earlier FM ruling allowing noncom translators to be fed programming via satellite (and I assume live streaming audio).

The demand for FM translators will increase soon because of the FCC’s proposed rulemaking that will encourage AM stations to acquire FM translators. This seems counter-intuitive to me: Is the way to revitalize AM to move it to FM? It seems to me that a couple of decades ago Rush Limbaugh demonstrated that the way to boost AM is with programming.

You can read the FCC’s First Report & Order here [link].  


Pending a final ruling after a 60 day comment period, the FCC is going to allow AM stations to get on FM by moving existing FM translators from locations up to 250 miles from the AM station.
Broadcasters must promise to carry the AM station on the FM translator for four years. Applications will be accepted in 2016 on a first-come, first-served basis. According to published report, in 2017 the FCC will open two windows for new FM translators for AM licensees and permittees only. The FCC says mutually exclusive applications will be settled by auction.
Let’s be clear about one thing: The FCC is proposing to revitalize AM by giving AM broadcasters a free FM station. When someone is listening to AM programming on FM, they are listening to FM, not AM.  The FCC’s action is a gift to big commercial broadcasters, perhaps at the expense of noncoms.

Last week it was announced that iHeartMedia is buying Denver’s K-BUD FM/AM for $950,000.

In June we reported on K-BUD, Denver’s new pot-rock station created by repeating an AM on an FM translator.  IHeartMedia is buying  AM 1550 and FM translator K231BQ – 94.1, a 250-watt translator transmits from 2,000 feet and covers a good slice of Metro Denver:

iHeart plans to have 94.1 repeat Denver’s NewsRadio 850 KOA by way of the HD3 channel of KBCO. K-BUD is owned by Marco Broadcasting whose major investor is Marc Paskin, a San Diego millionaire real estate developer best known for being part of ABC-TV’s Secret Millionaire reality show. Paskin is an on-air host at K-BUD using the name Gary Ganja.

Gary Ganja

No doubt Paskin aka Ganja is celebrating his almost million dollar windfall. The sale price brings up the question: Was K-BUD a stunt to demonstrate the coverage of 94.1 to the folks at iHeart?


Up until a few years ago, FM translators were primarily used by FM broadcasters to expand their reach or fill in gaps in their coverage areas caused by terrain. Now FM translators are in demand and changing hands for big money. Consider this translator, W231CU 94.1FM that is for sale in Miami for a cool million bucks:

The record amount paid for a FM translator is $3.5 million in December 2014: W292DV – 106.3 FM broadcasting serving the Manhattan: 

 Expect this amount to be topped by in the near future because the FCC is bringing more AM to FM. The FM spectrum is close to full in many major markets.  Prices will rise with increased demand.

Who benefits: AM broadcasters get free FM stations. The owners of hundreds of FM translators such as the Educational Media Foundation and Jimmy Swaggert Ministries, will get a windfall by selling or leasing their FM translators.

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