This week we are updating a series of columns about new INSTANT FM STATIONS – HD channels being repeated on FM translators to create new public radio stations. With creative signal engineering, acquisition of translators (often via LMAs) and re-branding HD channels as FM stations, new INSTANT FM STATIONS are signing on across the nation.
Wednesday we covered how WHQR, Wilmington, North Carolina, added a 24/7 classical station that allowed the primary station to provide 24/7 NPR News. Yesterday we are reporting how WUFT, Gainesville, turned their HD LEMON INTO FM LEMONADE.
Today we will look at how how noncom Educational Media Foundation (EMF) is working closely with commercial iHeartMedia across the nation. iH has added FOUR new INSTANT FM STATIONS in Minneapolis.
We hope this coverage will get the attention of the leaders of public broadcasting because this method truly could expand public radio’s service. This is a Seize The Day moment.
Repeating a trend seen in markets across the country, a new FM station is about to sign on in the Twin Cities via the back door.
iHeartMedia, the nation’s largest commercial radio broadcaster is working with the Educational Media Foundation (“EMF”), one of the nation's largest noncommercial broadcasters, to create a new FM station at 102.5.
iHeartMedia didn’t apply for a new FM station, they got it the new-fashioned way: simulcasting an HD channel on an FM translator.
EMF owns translator K273BH – 102.5 FM – licensed to Fridley, a small suburb of Minneapolis. EMF has upgraded the translator to 250 watts and secured a transmission spot on the IDS Tower, the best nroadcasting location in town. Take a look at the K273BH coverage map below. How much do you believe the “stick value” of this station is worth?
THE NEW HOT 102.5 - A HELLUVA TRANSLATOR!
I’d say it is worth at least $20,000,000 – maybe more. This “scratch and win” payday is possible because of the lameness of HD Radio.
After seeing that HD Radio was failing, the FCC agreed to allow HD channels to be rebroadcast on FM translators. Translaors can be leased from another owner. In this case, iHeartMedia is going to repeat KCTZ HD2 on the new 102.5. Presto! A new FM station thanks to HD Radio.
EMF has been repeating K-Love on 102.5. (K-Love is beamed to Minneapolis via satellite from Sacramento.) EMF saw the current FM translator gold rush coming. They now own dozens, maybe hundreds of FM translator licenses and construction permits. I bet EMF’s translator revenue exceeds its underwriting revenue.
IS THE NEW 102.5 A FLANKING MOVE BY iHEARTMEDIA?
Published reports speculate that the new 102.5 FM will play Urban Contemporary – rap, hip hop and dance club hits. iHeartMedia already owns or controls nine stations on the FM dial. One of them is Alt93.3, operating on translator W227BF at 93.3 FM.
iHeartMedia will probably operate the new 102.5 like they do 93.3 – as a bottom-feeder that exists to protect another of their stations from getting competition. Rumor has it that iHeartMedia has secured the name Hot 102.5, and it is designed to protect their very profitable (and excellent sounding) Contemporary Hits station KDWB. This is called a "flanking move" in the radio programming biz.
HD RADIO – "KING OF THE BACKHAUL"
Though HD Radio has failed to gain any success broadcasting to listeners, it is now part of a lucrative formula to create new FM stations. FM is the spectrum where the action, and money, is. HD signals are a cheap, easy way to transmit 24/7 programming to FM translators – known as a “backhaul” in the biz. This is a long way from what the creators of HD Radio promised.
HD Radio was created to eventually replace FM and bring digital audio broadcasting to the US. Ironically, HD Radio now is a back door way to get on FM.
ibiquity claims HD Radio has several million weekly listeners. This assertion is disingenuous because ALL of the rated HD Radio stations are repeating their programming on FM translators, like the new 102.5 FM will be doing soon.
People who are listening to programming created for HD on an FM translator, are NOT listening to HD Radio. They are listening to good old FM.
Claiming to be the first LGBT FM radio station in the nation, PRIDE 96.7 [LINK] has signed on in Minneapolis.
PRIDE 96.7 is iHeartMedia’s third new Instant FM station in the market. iHeart now has EIGHT competitive FM signals in the market. Rumor has it they have more Instant FM stations on the way.
To create PRIDE 96.7 iHeart purchased an FM translator K244EQ FM 96.7 from a Wisconsin broadcaster for $300,000. iHeart’s PRIDE RADIO is broadcast on KQQL-FM’s HD3 signal. The HD3 feeds K244FE. Soon FM 96.7 will broadcast from the Twin Cities best site – atop the 57-story IDS Center at 170 watts. Here is PRIDE 96.7’s projected coverage area:
WELCOME TO CALHOUN BEACH
The new FM voice is a marvel of signal spacing and legal creation. To accomplish the translator move from Wisconsin iHeart got the FCC to approve a new, previously unknown, city-of-license: Calhoun Beach, Minnesota.
|THE "CITY' OF CALHOUN BEACH MINNESOTA|
Calhoun Beach could be any of the beaches around Lake Calhoun. To local folks “Calhoun Beach” usually refers to the northwest corner of the lake that borders the hipster area of Minneapolis called Uptown.
LESSONS FOR NONCOM RADIO
This train is moving fast. Public radio should conduct an organized effort to get public radio’s HD channels on FM before the FM spectrum is full. I recall CPB sponsored FM frequency and underserved area studies in the 1980s and 1990s. Why not map FM translator opportunities now?
Commercial broadcasters like iHeartMedia and religious noncom broadcasters like the Educational Media Foundation (K-Love) are gobbling up the FM dial. Seize the day CPB—help turn those HD Radio lemons into FM lemonade.