As another FM translator window approaches, Radio World is reaching out to industry members for their take. Steven T. Moravec is the principal of Phoenix Media Group, a radio broadcasting consulting firm.
Radio World: The next FM translator window for AM stations is coming up soon. What kind of interest are you sensing?
Steve Moravec: So far muted; the 2017 windows are far more complex than last year’s. Several folks have called expressing their dismay at the complexity of the process as compared to the relative simplicity of the 2016 windows. Hindsight is always 20–20!
RW: The window is short this time, just one week. Is that notable?
Moravec: It will create a sense of urgency with some; remains to be seen whether it is problematic.
RW: How many applicants do you think we’ll see in this window compared to the prior ones?
Moravec: The very aggressive have had translators a long time. We did our first “old school” transaction with John Linder, Minnesota Valley Broadcasting, in Mankato, Minn., six years ago on June 15th! We were involved in perhaps a dozen last year as both consultants and brokers. Approximately 1,000 AMs took advantage of the 2016 windows. I’m not sure we will see that level of response again, especially in top 100 markets. Not much viable spectrum.
RW: Looking at the past year or two in translators, with the AM windows and the easing of site restrictions, how successful do you feel the overall “AM revitalization” effort has been?
Moravec: AM revitalization has breathed life back into some facilities and added a decades of life to others. The noise floor is bad and unchanged but that’s another matter. Lots of opportunities to better program and market radio have been created in markets of all sizes by cross service translators.
RW: What’s your take on interference issues between translators and full-service broadcasters, and the question of whether some are “gaming” the rules in ways that weren’t intended?
Moravec: One of my early mentors was Ralph Evans. Ralph and wife Rosa, along with her brothers, founded the legendary Bartell Media. Ralph was later a consulting engineer. He once warned me off a small FM deal which relied on fringe for both audience and sales to exist. “Don't expect me to save you if you buy that station.” He was a firm believer in not reaching beyond one’s primary protected coverage area!
RW: Any other observations?
Moravec:Elimination of the main studio requirement is a dreadful idea. Hanging around stations gave me my start and do help create “community.”
RW: What else should we know?
Moravec: Broadcasters need to create learning opportunities for the next generation in all areas if the industry is to survive and prosper.