Today’s San Francisco Chronicle has an article on the Church incursion into low-power FM, making up half the applications currently approved by the FCC for new stations.
And what organization should turn up as a leading force in this movement? Why, none other than our pals at Calvary Chapel:
This month, the Calvary Chapel Radio Ministry of Costa Mesa in Orange County hosted 170 mostly Christian low-power broadcasters, offering them operational tips as well as up to Â“16 hours per day, seven days a weekÂ” of programming beamed in via satellite, according to its Web site. …
Church officials say 140 Calvary Chapels nationwide either have or are pursuing low-power licenses.
Just in case nobody gets confused, Calvary Chapel Radio Ministry of Costa Mesa is essentially the same organization behind Calvary Chapel of Twin Falls, Idaho. According to their own website, together they are responsible for CSN International, the radio force behind hundreds of low-power translator stations, and now, apparently, as many as 140 LPFM stations.
This is the same Calvary Chapel that seems to be trafficking in translator licenses from the 2003 translator licensing window, as John at DIYmedia has investigated:
Of the 13,000 applications filed, more than one-third were traced to four organizations. Two were familiar: Calvary Chapel (and its derivatives) accounted for 385 translator applications while Educational Media Foundation filed 875. The two largest filers, however, were unknowns: Radio Assist Ministry (2,454) and Edgewater Broadcasting (1,766). …
So far the Edgewater/RAM duo have been granted more than 1,000 construction permits for FM translator stations around the country. …
Now the mastermind behind Edgewater/RAM has begun to cash in on the hoarded station permits. …
The biggest deal of them all involved three listed transactions totaling $326,500, which paid for 26 FM translators in Florida. REC’s data lists the buyer as “Reach Communications (Calvary Chapel Church, Inc.).” The second-largest group deal involved 20 translator permits in California, Oregon, and Washington, sold for $219,000. REC’s data lists the buyer as “Horizon Christian Fellowship.” Horizon is a well-endowed group whose founder came to Christ through a Calvary Chapel church in California.
As the program director of CSN told me in an e-mail, the man raking in the bucks at Edgewater/RAM is actually an ex-employee of CSN/Calvary Chapel. However he stringently denied having anything to do with the more than two dozen LPFM license applications that were denied by the FCC due to the fact that
“there is nothing in their statements of educational purpose to distinguish these applicants from the other Calvary Chapel applicants who filed identical applications for licenses.”
And yet, here is the Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa holding workshops to help get Calvary Chapel churches LPFM licenses so they can carry 16 hours a day of satellite-delivered CSN programming. Of course, by the FCC’s LPFM rules, 16 is the maxmimum number of hours in a broadcast day that cannot be locally originated. Surely, that’s just a small speedbump in expanding the CSN radio network, since all those eight hours could be programmed from midnight to 8 AM (and maybe a little later on Sundays in order to include church services).
National Lawyers Guild attorney Alan Korn neatly sums up for the Chronicle what’s wrong with this picture:
Â“the danger is that when you have one organization basically using a network of low-power stations to broadcast the same material, you run the risk of getting the same sort of consolidation thatÂ’s happening with the (full-power) stations.”
And not just consolidation, but consolidation that spits in the eye of the spirit and intent of LPFM as a specifically community radio service, and that takes away valuable spectrum from stations that would serve as real community resources.