Radio Bob--what's a translator?

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The FCC has created a class of facilities called “translators” which are designed specifically to re-broadcast another station to provide coverage to an isolated community or two.

A “translator” consists of a receiver (basically an FM radio) which is set up to receive another (NCPR in our case) station.  This receiver is coupled to a low-power transmitter which then re-broadcasts the (NCPR) signal to the surrounding area. Translators must re-broadcast their “primary” stations 100% of the time. Translators are a “secondary” service… which means that they take second place to “FM Broadcast Stations”  (see below)

The FCC also has another class called “FM Broadcast Stations.” Typically these stations operate at power levels of at least 100 Watts in order to serve several communities, and have staffed studios where programming is originated for that one “Broadcast Station.”  All of NCPR’s facilities with “real” call letters (i.e. WSLU, Canton; WSLO, Malone;  WXLD, Lowville, etc) are “FM Broadcast Stations.”  FCC Rules are more stringent for Broadcast Stations, technically, as well as procedurally.

However,  due to the nature of our region (lots of trees, few people) and the acceptance by the FCC of NCPR’s economy of scale, we have obtained a waiver of the “main studio rule” for all of our Broadcast Stations thereby permitting our “satellite” stations (what the FCC calls them) to relay their programming from a single studio (here in Canton).

The “satellite stations”  re-broadcast the NCPR signal 100% of the time … and they typically will receive this signal the same way that a “translator” does,  via an FM receiver!   Technically there is little difference equipment-wise between a “satellite station” and a “translator”.

We should actually be calling our facilities “translators”, and “satellite stations”  (except for WSLU, and actually WSLG, whose transmitter is close enough to our studios in Canton to not require a waiver of the “main studio” rule.

Except that calling them “satellite stations” would confuse the issue still further--one might think that a “satellite station” involves a geostationary satellite, located about 35,786 kilometers above the earth’s equator--but no!