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Monday, May 20, 2013

Broadcasters plead case for reviving AM.

Engineers, attorneys and advocacy groups barnstormed the FCC last week with a series of meetings laying out the problems facing AM broadcasters and potential fixes regulators could adopt. Commissioner Ajit Pai has said he’d like the FCC to address problems facing AM stations and the meetings signal that inside the agency, he’s not alone in his thinking.
The group met with Media Bureau chief Bill Lake, Pai, commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel’s policy director, and several other agency staff members.  Each time the message was the same: AM radio needs to be revived.  Among the ideas put on the table where extending construction permit deadlines for AM stations, relaxing community of license coverage requirements to account for the rise of suburban sprawl, allowing AM stations more flexibility when moving FM translators that would simulcast their signals, and perhaps even opening an AM-only window where owners could apply for new FM translators.  A case was made by consulting engineer Jack Mullaney for moving AMs to TV channels 5 and 6, arguing it’s currently underutilized spectrum. Several countries, including Canada, Mexico and Japan, have already migrated AM to the FM band, he noted.
In another meeting, Clear Channel EVP Jeff Littlejohn said the company’s analysis revealed FM translators rebroadcasting AM stations have actually increased AM listenership by encouraging people who typically just tune to FM stations — such as young people and women — to tune directly to the AM band.
Reps from the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters and MMTC were also on hand.  For them the issues is less technical, and more about the fact that two-thirds of all minority radio station owners operate an AM.
Publishd 5/20/2013

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