Consulting engineer Aaron Read sent me a comment recently telling how Rhode Island Public Radio [link] is working with MVYRADIO [link] to serve Martha’s Vineyard with an awesome FM signal. The key is using an HD2 channel to feed a translator. This is a way that others might copy to get their online stations on the crowded FM dial. Here is how Aaron describes it:
I'm not really a fan of HD Radio but it has its uses. We're making good use of HD on our WRNI-FM [Rhode Island Public Radio – “RIPR”] by leasing an HD2 to mvyradio.com. They use it to feed their translator in nearby Newport RI, which needed a new primary when they sold their old 92.7 signal (now WBUA). They do have a new primary FM out on the Vineyard again, but it's on the same freq as WJMF in Smithfield/Providence and there's no way the Newport location can receive the new WMVY on 88.7.
It works out fairly well for all involved. RIPR makes a few bucks a year off the deal, and we're helping out a fellow non-comm station that we happen to like a lot.
But there's no question this wouldn't have happened if I wasn't the CE of RIPR because the actual owner of the translator is former employer, current mentor and good friend of mine. Fortunate coincidence for all involved, but kinda limits the utility of this situation to be analogous to anyone else.
Still, leasing an HD2 to feed an analog translator is certain a good way to make use of HD Radio. I'm well aware of how "weak" that sounds given the original purpose of HD Radio, of course. :)
Delivering signals to translators has proven to be one of the very few successful uses for HD Radio. A public radio GM in California called the HD-to-tranlator method the poor man’s STL. (An STL is a studio to transmitter link, most often done using microwave signals.)
HOW IT WORKS
Here is how Aaron Read describes it:
We acquire MVY's programming via Comrex BRIC Link over the public internet, and use that to feed WRNI-FM-HD2. Then the translator in Newport (W243AI, 96.5FM) has an HD Radio locked to 102.7HD2 to get our HD2 and it feeds the translator's analog input.
Programming originates from the MVY studios in Tisbury, MA, located on the north side of Martha’s Vineyard Island. Rhode Island Public Radio takes MVY’s streaming audio and broadcasts it on WRNI-HD2 transmitting from Narragansett Pier, RI. Here is the coverage map for WRNI:
MVY picks up the WRNI-HD2 signal off the air and rebroadcasts it on 88.7 FM covering Martha's Vineyard Island (coverage map):
BINGO! MVY is on the air in one of North America’s finest resort areas on the good old analog FM band. It is a good deal for everyone: RIPR gets revenue for leasing its previously wasted HD2. MVY gets back on FM. Listeners get to hear great music online and on FM.
[MVY also provides FM service to listeners in Newport, Middleton and Jamestown, RI, via RIPR’s HD2 via a translator on 96.5 FM.]
HOW CAN WE DO THIS TOO?
The first thing you need to do is hire a contract engineer like Aaron Read [link] (there are others available also) to do a frequency search and see if there are any FM translators available or space to establish a new translator.
It takes time for the FCC to approve a new FM translator frequency, so look at current translators first. Many FM translators are available for sale and/or lease. There are folks who are in business of applying for FCC translator frequencies for the purpose of selling them at huge profits. Be careful.
Also look for translators owned religious NCE broadcasters. Some of these organizations are hard up for cash. Educational Media Foundation [“EMF” – the purveyor of K-Love] makes a sizeable portion of its income by buying and selling translator licenses.]
Then, talk with your local CPB-qualified stations that own HD channels. Many of these stations built HD stations when CPB offered stations the money to get into HD. Now they are stuck with them.