Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Respected media consultant and reporter Tom Taylor [link] has been providing excellent coverage of the sale of KPLU to KUOW. He brought up an important question about the sale: What is the fate of KLPU’s 7 FM translators and 11 repeaters?

KUOW has three translators and repeaters itself but it will likely take advantage of the superior coverage provided by some of KPLU’s signals. KUOW GM Caryn Mathes told the Seattle weekly paper The Stranger:

“We'll put the content that was on KUOW-FM/94.9…we'll now spread that out and put it on some of those 11 frequencies that KPLU has. We'll take their 11, our three, and look at the map and reapportion what content goes on which of those fifteen, and try to get full service to everybody in the area.”

KUOW’s new excess of FM translators creates the possibility that some signals may be leased or sold to commercial broadcasters for considerable financial gain. FM translators can repeat either commercial and noncom stations. This might create a windfall for KUOW.


We have been reporting on Denver’s pot-rock station K-BUD FM/AM and the recent sale of FM signal, an FM translator at 94.1 to iHeartMedia for $950,000. Marco Broadcasting, owners of K-BUD held the license for only six months.  They are walking away with over $100,000 in cash.

Noncommercial broadcasters should be aware that 94.1 began as a noncom repeater.  Along the way speculators changed it to a commercial repeater. Because the demand for FM signals is so great, and sale prices are so high, it is tempting for other noncom translator owners to cash in now while demand is hot.  Here is the timeline of translator K231BQ.

• MARCH 2004

FCC grants a Construction Permit to Douglas Johnson from Colorado Springs for K231BQ to repeat noncommercial KTLF-FM on 92.1 FM serving Estes Park, Colorado.

• 2004 – 2014

Operated as a noncommercial translator for KTLF.


Sold to for-profit broadcaster Victor Michael for $550,000. Michael also owns KDCO-AM, Golden.

• MARCH 2014

Victor Michael granted change of city of license to Golden, Colorado with a new frequency (94.1) and new coverage area including metro Denver.

• APRIL 2015

Victor Michael sells 94.1 (K231BQ) and 1550 AM to Marc Paskin d/b/a Marco Broadcasting for $850,000. Then, K-BUD debuts as Denver’s first pot-rock station.


Marco Broadcasting sells 94.1 to iHeartMedia for $950,000. 94.1 now repeats KOA-FM.

• Marco Broadcasting sells 1550 AM to Chuck Lontine, a retired Denver investment banker and broadcasting entrepreneur, for $25,000. Lontine will repeat 1550 AM programming on FM translator K245AD which will become 96.9 The Cloud [link] in early 2016. 

1 comment:

  1. I find a lot of these FM translators for AM stuff to be incredibly confusing (and I'm not alone) but I've been told that non-comm signals are not eligible for the process. HOWEVER, if a NCE translator can be moved into the commercial band via minor change (first, second or third adjacent channel...or 10.6/10.8MHz IF hop) BEFOREHEAD, then it can be used for an AM station.

    So on the face of it, only four of the seven translators are available to be sold for profit as part of the Great FM Translators of AM Gold Rush. I dunno about the remaining three being moved into the commercial band...maybe they could; they're all pretty far outside of Seattle but the dial's pretty full in that market, too.

    HOWEVER, one of those translators is 92.1 with 250 watts (DA) and on the western side of Puget Sound, aimed squarely at downtown Seattle. THAT sucker *could* be worth a fair amount of cash. Although I've been warned by several knowledgable folks that this isn't going to be the gold rush some have predicted. A lot of AM stations are already in such sad financial shape they can't afford to throw away a lot of cash just to get an FM translator, no matter how handy it might be.

    There's also the very real issue that western Washington's mountainous terrain is absolutely murderous on FM signals. The multipath is severe, as is the terrain shadowing, and the market is very spread out with lots of little enclaves in different valleys and mountains between them, so it's damn hard to serve them all with a single signal.

    There's more than a few signals that look good on paper that stink in reality out there. Now I'm told KPLU is one of them ones that's good on paper AND in reality, but that doesn't change the fact that they probably depend on these translators to either reach pockets of devoted listeners and/or fill in significant holes in coverage. The former might change if the format of KPLU goes all-jazz, but the latter is what it is.

    Lotta variables in play here, but it's an excellent question to raise.