The author is owner of WGTO(AM) and W266BS in Cassopolis, Mich.
So now we hear the FCC is thinking about an order that would allow relocation of translators in a 250-mile range as a way to get some relief for AM stations. While the move to do ANYTHING should be applauded, this idea is very bad at best.
It’s not surprising that many larger and historically successful AM stations are making moves to get on even low-power translators as a way to move into the realm of FM.
I have seen 5,000-watt AM stations in metro areas with all-talk formats pickup a 75-watt translator and then hype the FM as their main channel almost dropping all reference to the AM frequency.
Let’s be clear, the idea behind an AM-only translator window was to help AM stations that could not find an available translator within reach. By opening the window, engineering could be done to find ways to license translators in some very rural areas that could easily accept the assignment. Some metro areas could also support limited new assignments, and the cost would be limited to the acquisition of the engineering, FCC paperwork and tower location.
The idea of making a 250-mile move area would do little more than cause a super-inflation of prices on existing translators, some of which were worth only a nominal amount as 10-watt operations in the reserved band located in the middle of nowhere.
The religious outfits that own most of these mini repeaters that were spawned in the great translator invasion are no doubt licking their lips over the possibility of selling these to stations in a 250-mile area that just happens to include some decent-sized cities.
Only AM stations with deep pockets will be able to afford them. The little guys like me will still be out in the cold as those rural areas that COULD support new translators would still be unserved because no new applications would be accepted.
It is amazing how something that seems so simple as opening an AM window can become so difficult and end up with suggestions that not surprisingly help those with money make more money, while driving potential value up for those who hold translator licenses in the reserved band in remote areas where they were too far to move and hence were worth very little.
I was fortunate to find a 10-watt reserved band translator in a nearby town and was lucky enough to be able to move it in and shift it to the commercial band but that is becoming very rare and when possible its now very costly.
Sounds like the lobbyists for the religious chains that own hundreds of these existing translators are winning and the small town AM operators are sliding even faster down the slope to extinction.
If this is what revitalization is going to look like it’s time for some of us to throw in the towel and call the real-estate agent to hang out the property “For Sale” sign. Come on guys let’s do something that will really help the guys who need it most, not the speculators who have been waiting for years to cash in on the great invasion.