Do “satellators” deserve a place on the radio dial if someone else in those communities wants to use the spectrum for local content?
So-called satellators are translators that carry non-local content, rather than fill in signals of local stations. They are at the crux of a letter sent to the FCC.
Acknowledging that the request is unusual, a group in Richmond, Va., is asking the commission not to renew a translator license on the grounds that the frequency would be better used for local programming.
Christopher Maxwell is executive secretary of the Synergy Radio Project and founder of a local LPFM. He been denied a license for a proposed NCE station on the grounds that it might generate interference with translator W219CX, situated in the community of Lakeside, Va., and licensed to Calvary Chapel of Twin Falls, Idaho.
Calvary Chapel uses it to carry its religious programming. Maxwell now has written to file an informal objection to the renewal of the translator.
Maxwell describes Synergy as a nonprofit group that promotes the establishment of non-profit, non-commercial community radio stations in the state. If the translator is not renewed, he said, Synergy would seek to gain use of the frequency for a locally based station.
“Calvary admitted that the only reason they would not negotiate in good faith for Synergy’s full-power application to move forward was to ‘protect our translator’ in its existing frequency channel as well as a backup channel,” he wrote.
“In this situation, other interested parties may seek to use W219CX’s frequency for locally originated programming as well.”
He emphasized that he is aware of no violations of rules by the translator; his objection is based only on the concept that the existence of a satellite-fed translator blocks other uses of the frequency that would serve the public interest far better.
The FCC, he wrote, “is well aware that thousands of licensed satellators are blocking locally programmed alternatives, all across the nation. Sooner or later, the FCC will have to deal with over-representation of satellators on the nation’s radio dials — and the case-by-case, phased-in replacement of some existing satellators, as their licenses come up for renewal, is a reasonable and orderly way to begin the process.”
Maxwell is a member of The Amherst Alliance. Don Schellhardt, who co-founded that group but is acting as an individual in this matter, assisted with the filing. He describes the attempt as a “long shot” but said it’s the first attempt he knows of to block a satellator’s renewal on such grounds. If the FCC were to grant the objection, Schellhardt said, “It would set the stage for a radical ‘housecleaning’ of satellators, and other radio stations, that have failed to be the best choice on the dial for the frequencies they occupy.”
A Calvary Chapel spokesman replied to a Radio World request for reaction by saying the organization had not seen the letter and could not comment.