Friday, February 12, 2016



After publishing the article below, I received new information in an email from Philip Shappard, National Operations Manager for Radio at Moody Bible Institute (MBI) regarding when the FCC first permitted national satellite-to-FM translator operations.
Mr. Shappard provided detailed information about Moody Bible’s extensive work on this issue culminating with a 1988 ruling that first allowed signals from satellites, microwave transmission and other terrestrial methods. MBI’s petition asking for the change was initially filed in 1984. It met significant resistance from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) including the addition of provisions that made it difficult to implement.
One of the provisions required the broadcaster seeking to feed satellite signals to translators to own and operate both the primary signal and the translator(s). Ironically, according to Shapard, this provision caused MBI to not pursue building FM translators after years of work and thousands of dollars of investment.
The 1992 FCC ruling mentioned in the story was a revision of the 1988 ruling that clarified delivery methods and opened the door a bit for independent FM translator operators to repeat satellite feeds from distant FM stations they did not own. This may be why the 1992 FCC ruling gets more attention that the formative FCC ruling in 1988.
On Monday 2/15 I will publish Shappard’s fascinating letter and look at the original intentions of the 1988 ruling and how things have changed since then.
-- Ken Mills


We are now experiencing The Last FM Translator Gold Rush. Everyday there is news about the avalanche of new FCC filings by AM broadcasters seeking FM translators. Recently the FCC decided that the way to “save AM” is to move AM stations to the FM via translators. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but that’s the way it is.

(Scroll down to see the year-by-year number of FM translators in operation.)

When and where did the FM translator business begin? Probably it started in 1963 in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota.

Keith Anderson

Keith Anderson was making lots of bucks with cable TV microwave systems and VHF TV translators.  Anderson manufactured “boosters” for TV stations in the Rocky Mountain West.  This was around the time John Malone (who founded  able giant Tele-Communications Inc. – TCI) was hooking up his first cable subscribers in Casper, WY.

Around this time, Anderson was approached by religious FM broadcasters who were seeking a way to cover more territory.  They suggested he manufacture translators similar to VHF-TV translators for FM stations. Keep in mind FM broadcasting didn’t come into vogue until the 1970s.

Anderson’s units were low power devices initially 1-watt.  Soon, at the urging of FM broadcasters, Anderson began building 100-watt and 250-watt units. They worked pretty well and religious FM broadcasters bought quite a few of them.

One of the religious broadcasters who saw the potential of FM translators was Harold Enstrom, an engineer at Chicago's Moody Bible Institute. He was in charge of expanding Moody’s radio coverage.  He began tinkering and improving Anderson’s devices.

In 1975 Enstrom moved to Rapid City, SD (near Anderson’s workshop) and became part of Tepco Electronics. A broadcast equipment manufacturer, Robert Jones, approached Enstrom with an idea: Build and market solid-state FM translators that were more reliable and had better audio fidelity. A $385,000 Small Business Administration loan started the ball rolling.

Enstrom, in a 2004 Radio World interview by writer/engineer Scott Fybush [link] ispoke about the beginning of Tepco’s translator business:

“I began sending mailers to every FM station in the country. The pitch was this: If you locate a translator in the center of a small community, you can be heard just as well as a 100-kilowatt station 50 miles away.

Orders poured in and the Tepco translators became tremendous success. I was getting so many inquiries (about translators), after a while I didn't have time to write.”

Enstrom moved to Florida and founded FM Technology Associates. He continued selling Tepco Translators until his death in 2007.
Keith Anderson, who died in 2014, became a major player in the satellite TV industry. Tepco is still in business.  See more about them at [link].

(data source:

The FCC first reported the number of FM translators in use.

In 1992,the FCC allowed noncommercial FM stations to be fed remotely via satellite.

Also in 1992, the Educational Media Foundation (EMF) began feeding Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) K-LOVE nationwide 24/7 to translators.  

During the 1990s, other religious broadcasters such as the American Family Association and WAY-FM quickly started their own national FM translator networks.

In 1995, EMF started AIR1, another CCM format for slightly older listeners fed to translators nationwide.

According to published reports, EMF currently owns 
over 500 FM translators.

In 2010, the FCC allowed AM stations to be rebroadcast on FM translators.

In 2011, the FCC allowed HD channels to be rebroadcast on FM translators.

No comments:

Post a Comment