Dream Along With Me…………………. (My Plan to Save AM Radio)

26I’ve been reading all the opinions about the FCC’s proposal to change the rules regarding America’s 77 Class A (formerly known as clear channel) licensed radio stations. Supposedly, all being done to “revitalize” the AM broadcast band. Like giving AM radio stations an FM translator does nothing to revitalize AM radio listening, neither – in my honest opinion – does this bright idea either.

The FCC’s plan is to allow AM radio stations to retain their daytime power at night, politically correct though it may be the laws of physics play by no such rules. And we don’t have to wonder about the consequences, because to some extent this type of thing has already been initiated with 1,000/250 licensed stations maintaining a full 1,000 watts day and night, and it didn’t work.

First, I don’t have a dog in this fight. So what I’m about to say is not to benefit one side or another. These are my own opinions.

My first GM job was running a daytime 1,000 watt radio station with no pre-sunrise or post-sunset authorization. We signed on with local sunrise (7:15am in the winter) and signed off at local sunset (4:15pm in the winter). I was at my desk before my radio station went on the air about half the year and I remember writing commercial copy for an advertiser I’d sold that day as my radio station was playing the Star Bangle Banner to sign-off for the day.

When that carrier was turned off, WBT from Charlotte, NC would come booming in.

I know the pain of being a small radio operator.

Today, such a radio station has probably obtained a 250-watt FM translator and has its programming appearing on local FM radios in addition to their AM signal. Ever listen to any of these radio stations? I have, when I take road trips. I’m listening to their AM signal but they only identify themselves by their FM dial position.

The History of Clear Channel Signal Radio Stations

The clear channel signal designation goes back to the Radio Act of 1927 and the creation of the Federal Radio Commission (FRC). The FRC immediately went about creating a number of national “clear channel” AM radio stations that would be superior in quality broadcast content and with enough power to be heard over an entire region. Their signal would be on a frequency that would have no competition. Lower power AM radio stations would be relegated to a complex system of frequency sharing.

The FRC was later replaced by the Communications Act of 1934 and the establishment of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC was put in place to be the “cops” of the people’s airwaves and protect those airwaves from being misused or interfered with in any way.

Less Is More

The FRC operated under the belief that it would be better for America to have fewer radio stations of higher quality than lots of radio stations that were mediocre.

The FCC, mainly through deregulation, has lost that mission. For broadcasters it meant less oversight – which they didn’t mind – but it also meant that the FCC wasn’t looking out for their interests when it came to policing things that might interfere with the AM broadcast band. You see the FCC regulates (or not) those things that now are the bane of AM radio. Things that, like Mother Nature’s lightning, interfere with AM radio signals – light bulbs, power lines, computers etc.

I Grew Up On AM Radio

By the way, it was lightning’s interference with AM radio that was the impetus for Edwin Howard Armstrong to invent frequency modulation or FM radio. FM is how the audio gets to your TV set.

It was AM radio that I grew up on. It was AM radio that attracted me to a radio career that spanned over forty years. And I believe that AM radio should be preserved, because it is low tech and is the signal most likely to be around after some event that takes out everything digital – which today is just about everything.

However, I also ran a news/talk AM radio station once that people depended on in emergencies and that was the problem. They didn’t think about it any other time. So I’m very aware that to be viable, a radio station needs to program something that people want/need even when there’s no emergency affecting their lives.

How To Save AM Radio

So here’s my “bright idea” to save AM radio. Eliminate Class B, C and D AM radio stations, sign these signals off and let them make their current FM translators their whole radio station. First, they will be able to liquidate the land their AM antenna farm sits on and at the same time reduce their operational costs. They already are identifying by their FM translator’s dial position and local residents have most likely made the switch.

For America’s Class A (formerly known as clear channel class stations), I proposed a HUGE power increase, like to 250,000, 500,000, 750,000 or a million watts for these current 77 stations. I would also propose a study be done of AM radio stations, not currently licensed as Class A being reviewed for such a designation, but with a power of say only 50,000 or 100,000 watts to deal with specific geographies and locations of America.

I’m Not a Radio Engineer (But I’ve Stayed at a Holiday Inn)

There’s simply no way to put the “noise genie” back in the bottle that causes AM radio such grief. My hope would be (and you radio engineers feel free to weigh in here and set me straight) is that by removing a lot of the AM radio clutter caused by other AM radio stations and increasing the power of the few remaining stations, we might cause these stations to be really listenable in more (most?) situations.

I would also regulate these new high power radio stations in the same way that the FRC proposed when they established them. These would be stations that would create original programming. They would be operated by entities that would operate in the public interest, convenience and necessity. They would be a low tech backup in a high tech world. They would have the scarcity of competition that should make them economically viable because of their attractiveness to advertisers. They would tie the country together in the event of a disaster. If a local dominant AM radio station was taken out by a disaster, the other high power stations, not similarly affected would be able to be heard and assist the affected area.

This situation happened years ago in Kentucky when floods put Louisville under water and Nashville’s 650AM-WSM stepped in to provide residents with the information they needed.

AM radio that provides solid information and yes, even entertainment, would get listeners. But even more importantly, it would provide America with a life-line in times of emergencies that digital communications has been shown to fail.

35 Comments

Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales, Uncategorized

35 responses to “Dream Along With Me…………………. (My Plan to Save AM Radio)

  1. Bob Hawkins

    I’ve been preaching this gospel myself. The ideal AM band would consist of 1 or 2 clear channel stations on each frequency–and nothing else. The 1,000,000 watts of power would cost so much to operate that it would bankrupt many stations. 50KW alone can cost upwards of 10 grand a month in electricity. Aside from that, I think your ideas are great !

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bob, do you think with today’s solid state technology and with a very limited number of high power AM stations, that the power bill would not be a major concern vs. the benefits to broadcaster and consumer alike?

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      • Bob Hawkins

        I tend to think that most of the money comes from within 25 miles of the AM transmitter, regardless of power level. Raising the electric bill from $10K/mo to $100k/mo would have minimal effect on billing yet add a huge drain on the balance sheet. No question it would provide for a better AM listening experience but in even the biggest markets, 50KW does a respectable job. With all due respect to small market operators (some of whom I work for–all of which have night signals so small that in car listening while staying in range doesn’t happen–and isn’t most all AM listening in-car?), the thought of having no place in the country where, at night, you hear a jumbled mess of Interference, yet on every frequency you hear a listenable interference free signal can only result in a better AM listening experience. I realize that there are large, if not insurmountable obstacles to this happening, but the end result would be an AM band that would be infinitely more listenable than what we now have. It all boils down to how much pain we’re willing to endure to thin the herd while it still can make any difference.

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  2. Dick…I like your ideas. The FCC in my opinion, is no friend of AM radio. Just like AM Stereo was supposed to save the band (and they did such a great job handling that), their new plan will only make more noise and we all know AM doesn’t need that. As you said, the FCC has not watched out for AM as they have approved most of today’s noise making competition, making the days of being able to listen to WABC in Miami, just a nostalgic memory for people our age.

    Frank

    Liked by 1 person

  3. While in principle I agree with your statements, I don’t think there is anything to be gained by removing the local voice from our markets. Rather than superpower AM’s, why don’t we reduce the amount of AM stations of B, C and D class? Overcrowding is the problem. Superpower is not the answer. I have an expanded band AM station I service where the closest station on the same frequency is 1200 miles away. I can easily and reliably listen to this station 350 miles away at night when they are on 1 kW – and I’ve purposely checked the transmitter to make sure they were, in fact, on 1 kW. Eliminate the racket, many problems will clear up. In this day and age of the Internet, there is no real reason to have a handful of stations covering large areas. This isn’t 1920. And regarding power, with a solid state transmitter, your typical 50 kW transmitter, depending on power costs in a given area, will still cost upwards of $10K in power each month. Imagine the bill on a megaWatt transmitter. That is not feasible for even the most prolific of operators.

    Tom Ray

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  4. ws1o

    AM needs to be available for emergencies, in the meantime it’s nothing but wildly conservative screaming political shows, sports, financial advice and nutty infomercials, and 90% of advertisers are semi-crooks selling ways to get out of paying off credit card debt or income tax. Occasionally you find news, traffic, weather. The idea of broadcasting anything interesting or creative has long been been abandoned.

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  5. Neal

    I will chime in here. as a Class D station Operator. The Problem with the Thought of eliminating the Class D’s and having them run their 250 watts translators as the station is absurd. Reason being not all Class D’s Can Get 250 watt translators or a translator period, Because the FCC has allowed( and burn me on this)the Christian aka religious broadcasters Not one, not two, but many translators.and in my market there are No available FM Freq to even put up a translator.even if I bought one from within the 250 Mile Circle If there are No Freq’s its useless Never mind the Cost. I just built a translator Near NYC for a Friend, It location makes it useless to use for my station, and a Religious Broadcaster(RB) snatched it up. BTW yes I do contract work for that RB. I say they should Do like they did to The Amateur radio 220Mhz band. Change the rules, and Just take away translators From These RB’s that have more than 2 Period..I see no need for the Pensicola Bible in Florida to have a Satellite/translator in NJ.. where that freq could be used for LOCAL Programing from a school or township. Bring back Class D FM’s If a 250 Watt translator will Fit.. it can work as a Local station.
    Calvery Chapel is the another group. again WWVA in wheeling YES an AM Flamethrower One of the 77… Please Explain to me why a Station over 250 Miles away needs to be heard in New Jersey at night, again with PREACHERS begging for money.. Totally ABSURD… Maybe National News or Music of your Life to travel with.. talk, talk, talk… I just turn the radio Off.

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  6. The clock is ticking for the AM dial. There are some cases where AM in big markets are showing up in the top tier ratings (but very few). Few listeners under the age of 45 listen to AM, and under 30.. forget it. The operators who were serious about their station purchased an translator before the 250 mile rule. The next stage was those who purchased and filed on the day the 250 mile rule window opened. I know several small operators who took the plunge, and are breathing a sigh of relief. There was a good amount of inventory available, and in most cases the prices were reasonable. Now comes the second phase. The honeymoon is over..fewer options and frequencies available. The AM dial will thin out (and it needs to in my opinion). The super AM stations were a wonderful childhood memory. I listened to KAAY, WSB, and WGBS, but that is just a memory… It is time for stations to serve their community on a local level. Many of the new forward thinking AM/FM combos are doing that. Add AM to turntables, cart machines, and splicing tape. As Elsa says “Let it Go”. Ask a 18-34 who Elsa is and they will tell you. Ask them about AM radio and you will get a long pause….

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  7. Barryt

    They don’t all have FM translators and the laws of physics prohibit allotting one for every station. From a purely technical perspective the idea might sense but while we can debate the actual value of the signals, You are proposing an effort with 14th amendment implications.

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  8. Boyce

    Well, we are about to loose half the over the air TV channels to Wi Fi and phone providers. FCC could have allocated Channel Five and Six to expand FM band for AM broadcasters. Physics and common sense would have been possible. Why is the obvious so difficut? Except the NAB is controlled by the clear channel broadcasters who have the political pull.

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  9. Dick,

    I commend you for your effort. It is vocal visionaries like you that keep this great country moving forward.

    The extreme power increase is not feasible for many reasons. We have friends to the North and South to protect. Even overseas. More important is, as physics has been mentioned by commenters, for example in Chicago ground conductivity is excellent so you get more with less during the day. In Atlanta, the ground conductivity is much less so AM is less effective. Also the increased power could potentially increase interference or noise in other services including Amateur radio.

    The ball was missed with AM Stereo which still thrives across the ocean. IBOC makes AM listening unbearable due to hash affecting adjacent frequencies. While AM radio is steadily not being placed in new automobiles and portable radios, it has been castrated for years by manufacturers producing cheaper receivers to save money.

    The AM band is fertile not only for emergency and long distance communication, but also for the growing minority communities which usually are poor and can’t afford broadband or other new media opportunities, especially those that are older in age. The bottom line, serve the local communities. Not hear the same bird programming on 10 signals at night.

    Sadly, the FCC is no longer interested in AM/FM bandwidth for citizen consumption, but more interested in seizing spectrum selling it to cell and wireless companies. Add in saturating the FM band with such short spaced overlapping signals to keep cranking out new licenses and revenue. It is a matter of time (for most of us in our lifetime) before the FM band will experience the same fate as the AM band.

    I think many of your proposals are feasible and at the least open to discussion to expand on. Thank you for a great article.

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  10. Don Sinclair

    RE: Dick Taylor Blog March 13, 2016

    Dick I read with fascination your blog on a plan to save AM radio. I too invested over 40 years in the profession but have a much different solution. Putting more power into the hands of fewer people is how we got in this mess in the first place. The ONLY thing that saved radio as long as it did was that no one person could own enough stations to screw them all up, until Mr. Clinton signed the bill that drove a dagger through the heart of them all. As example, an article about the Portland Oregon market from MANY years ago pointed out that of the 30 or so radio stations NONE remained as locally owned and operated and only a small number had any local and live programming.
    The overwhelming majority of stations have been devoured by a very small handful of owners. These entities didn’t have the money to buy them and certainly didn’t have the money to run them and immediately began eliminating human beings as fast as possible. After all, why spend the money on programmers, music people and air talent when everything can be handled by someone in a revolving door thousands of miles away?
    Presently the AM and FM bands have been reduced to little more than a terrible waste of perfectly good electrons. Local radio has been dead and buried for some time now, but if someone wanted to bring it back I think you would need to start from scratch. At one point there was a proposal for digital radio. One transmitter would carry 16 stations with equal signals and much lower cost. Learn from our mistakes and license no more than three stations to a single owner who must live in the city of license and broadcast live local programming.
    You could also shut down the bands entirely and use the space for WIFI coverage and save all the trouble.
    Just a thought……..

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  11. Bill henry

    I managed a group of three stations two AM and a 5kw FM. And you guys are spot on with serving your community’s. Had success with high school and college sports, local community events and Sunday church service. On Saturday night we did a local call and request show and had 1 out 3 people tuned in on our county ratings. We were located in a resort area and people would call and tell us that they wished they had a stat ion in their town like ours. It takes hard work,answer phone calls and bust your tail for your clients.

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  12. Radio as I know it has died. Therefore, I have, with great consideration, decided to go to the Internet. I will launch an internet only station this year. Hopefully, I can promote and sell this station to keep it alive. But, you will have to take my rotary-pot board, “from my cold dead hands.”

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  13. So what if we destroy listening to AM Radio after dark by having “too many” stations on the air? It’s all Coast-to-Coast with a smattering of religious programming anyways! 😛

    More seriously, the real problem, as you say, is that there’s too many stations on the dial. In order to “fix” this problem, SOMEBODY will have to lose their station. A lot of somebodies.

    My vaguely-at-best-informed opinion is that the Class D licenses should all be eliminated; it’s a 24/7 media world and if you can’t deliver comparable coverage day and night then you’re just wasting space…no matter how live/local you might be.

    Class C’s I don’t really care too much about them. They make a “mess” of the band after dark but it’s limited to their own “graveyard” channels.

    Class B’s are, IMHO, the real problem. There’s waaaaay too many of them out there, shoehorned into ridiculous slots with obscene patterns. New rule: no arrays allowed that require more than two towers, powers must be within 85% of the maximum allowed for the Class on a given frequency…day and night. Can’t make it? Too bad, license is deleted.

    Class A’s? Leave them alone, they’re doing fine. I also agree that the electrical power requirements make anything over 100kW a non-starter (even 50kW is PRICEY).

    Also FWIW, I’m fair-to-middlin’ on FM translators, at best. But I definitely think they should be limited to Class C and D. Not for Class A or B; not only do Class A’s and B’s don’t really need the help, but it’s effectively turning these large, regional players into hyper-local signals. There’s no way even the biggest FM translator can replicate even half the coverage of a Class B, never mind a Class A. That means one side or the other is functionally being wasted and cluttering up the band that much more.

    The fix for that? I’d suggest that if you want a translator, you have to give up your AM signal after 4 years of simulcasting.

    And really the ultimate fix here is not engineering at all: it’s politics. Re-instate the ownership restrictions and force large cluster owners to cut loose these underperforming AM’s that survive only because they’re part of a larger group that subsidizes them. You’d see a lot of these weaker stations either go away completely, or at worst you’d see new and possibly innovative owners trying something new and different. Sure, they’ll probably fail, but at least they’ll have a chance to try!

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  14. Maybe I missed something here. What happens to the small AM’s that do not have FM translators? Out of business?

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    • The priority would be for them to get one, but I’m hearing in some locations, those operators were asleep at the switch and all the signals to locate one in their community are gone. That would seem to indicate that that community is already saturated with FM radio service.

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    • Depends heavily on the AM station in question and the local broadcast landscape. In general, yes, not having an FM translator will put the station at a strategic disadvantage against competing stations in-market. And long-term the decline of audiences willing to even consider the AM band at all will be more problematic for those stations.

      But it’s not necessarily deadly. There are plenty of smaller communities, even those “served” by relatively distance major/medium market signals, that have, for example, a local Class C AM that’s pretty much the only really local station in town. Those stations survive by being very connected to their local community, and that can be done on AM or FM, really.

      And yes, there are going to be many, many places where even if an AM stations WANTS to get an FM translator, there’s just no more room on the dial to fit one. Such locations probably already have such competition from existing FM signals that merely being on FM would have limited impact to begin with.

      Lemme give you a for-instance, here: when Latino Public Radio was leasing 12 hours a day on the old 125w version of WELH 88.1FM, they had much smaller ratings than they do now, leasing 24 hours a day on WRNI 1290AM. That’s because 1290AM is a 10kW Class B AM signal that dwarfs the coverage the old WELH had. Would an FM outlet be life or death for LPR? Probably not, and any FM translator would only cover a relatively small area of the overall coverage 1290 currently has.

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      • Yes, you are quite right, there are exceptions to the rule.

        In Albany/Schnectady/Troy where 810AM WGY (a 50,000 watt clear) they added a class A FM signal to their programming back in the fall of 2010.

        Here’s how it was written up in the Radio Journal there: The AM-to-FM bandwagon rolls on, this time in Albany. Clear Channel’s WGY, Schenectady (810) enjoys one of
        the state’s most dominant AM signals, with 50,000 nondirectional watts that blanket the Capital District and, as the IDs
        used to say, the “Great Northeast.” But like so many AM talkers, WGY believes its audience is migrating to FM, and on
        Monday morning it followed them up the dial, replacing “Channel 103.1” WHRL, Albany’s modern rock with a news-talk
        simulcast as WGY-FM. As a 5.6-kw/338’ class A signal, the new WGY-FM on 103.1 has only a small fraction of the
        AM station’s coverage. But with a transmitter site (including a newly-replaced tower and antenna) in Rensselaer, just
        across the Hudson River from Albany, it’s at least a centrally-located A with good building penetration into downtown
        Albany.

        I remember when WTOP moved from AM to FM. I had some good friends who were mad when they lost their classical music FM station to this all news station. They had never listened to the AM dial and so they were WTOP listeners.

        Next time I visited all they did was rave about how great WTOP was. The move from AM to FM for WTOP was very beneficial, but it also took a network of FM transmitters to deliver the coverage area their AM signal enjoyed.

        Now let me pose this question to you, can you think of a case where an AM station – in recent times – has been reprogrammed and dominated its market? I can’t.

        All the dominant AM stations are those stations that never were let go to seed. But once they are abandoned – KGO, WABC, WLS etc. no one has been able to bring them back to their once greater glory days.

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  15. Hi Dick
    First let me say thank you for the post even though I disagree with you totally I respect your opinions.

    As an owner of one of those class D’s you feel needs to be eliminated, I have to say that to just move to an unprotected Class D FM translator is unrealistic at best. And sorry but I don’t think paying 50-75K for a 110 watt translator is worth it.

    Some background for you. Our station was on/off air for over 6 years after the new owner bought it and moved the FM sister station to the Minneapolis metro and told the FCC the AM would remain in our community as “Primary Service”. This type of thing happened many times since 1996 with many small town AM/FM combos. The commission should not have allowed it but they did. By the way, the combo was profitable, but the new owner wanted to “make a killing” by moving the FM to the the big city, and really had no intention of ever having the AM on again, but really couldn’t send the license back in until they had the FM moved-which was done in 2013.

    When I bought the license in 2011, I put the station back on air. Immediately, the community and surrounding area rallied behind the station. Why? Because we cover all the high school sports, we do over 4 hours of farm news and markets every day,(in our listening area Agriculture is a BILLION dollar business), we do local news, obits and yes have all the community groups on air with us during our morning show. Will I be a millionaire? No, but since 2013 the station has a positive cash flow, and I make a living doing what I love. Is it hard work? Some days yes but most days NO. We have listeners of ALL ages. In fact, many of the local high school students listen to the station, maybe not all the time, but they listen when we have high school games on or when we feature their high school group on air, a good example is FFA Week, where we had 7 local chapters on air. We do the same for 4-H week and during the fair season in summer we spend many hours at the local fairs with the kids on the air. They still have that same wide eyed “hey Im on the radio” excitement. In 2013 when I met with Commissioner Pai in Washington, I took over 40 letters from residents of all ages telling the commissioner how important it was to have the station back on air.

    Id also like to tell you that a recent study by the National Association of Farm Broadcasting,(they hired an independent company in 2015 to do this) found that the number one source for farm news and markets farmers UNDER 50 use is terrestrial AM radio.

    As for your proposal, so my community is supposed to just be told “sorry but you lose your local radio station because some station 1000 miles away needs to have a clear channel”. “If you want your local information well your just out of luck as your community is “not worth it” for that big station to focus on you”. “As for emergency information, that big clear channel station will cover it as long as its a named hurricane or your entire town is wiped out after the fact”. “Your community groups will have to just use the local newspaper or social media to get the word out for your fundraisers and other events as that big station really doesn’t care about you”. “The shut-ins of your community will have to just accept the fact they can no longer listen to their local church service because that big station with the clear channel has no time for it”.

    Then there is the part of what about myself? So under your proposal, I’m just told “sorry Brian but your station is eliminated and you receive nothing”. Remember my 5kw transmitter will be worthless, the tower worthless and the land not worth much more that worthless. I have to fall on the sword so big stations, that don’t give a damn about my community, can have a clear channel? Sorry but I’m not about to do that without one hell of a fight. I’m very proud of my station and that the FCC recognized the station for its community service in June of 2013.(FCC Press Release June 10, 2013).

    Something all the big guys may want to remember..all of us Class B’s, C’s and D’s pay regulatory fees. Eliminate all of us, will make a big hole in the Commission’s budget and if you think they are going to take that cut..well that wont happen so expect a big increase in those fees as well.

    The current proposal mentions nothing of allowing class D’s to stay at day power at night. All it is doing is saying they may reduce the Class A protection at night and it might give a station like mine an increase in power..maybe we could stay at day power or maybe we might just get 500w.

    Again Dick I respect your opinion and I commend you for speaking your mind, but there is no way I could ever agree with it.

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    • Hi Brian,

      Thank you for all you wrote. You ARE a real radio person. I commend you for your commitment to serve the public in your license area under the FRCs original intent of radio broadcasting; operating in the “public interest, convenience and necessity.”

      Broadcasters who live in their community – like you – I would propose be licensed with an FM signal that would provide like-coverage you currently enjoy.

      I just watched the latest “Infinite Dial” study and what was most concerning was the fact that today almost one quarter of all households no longer have even one radio in them. And with households in the 18-34 age group that number goes to one third. That’s AM or FM. VERY concerning.

      The NextRadio App can only accommodate FM radio stations on smartphones.

      We need to be thinking forward.

      It’s clear that the FCC has not been minding the store for decades. LPFM came about due to the very situation you described by a previous owner in moving your community’s FM station out of the market to make it another big metro station. That has happened in many local communities all over America. That should tell you what the FCC thinks about local community service.

      By trying to think big and bold, I was trying to find a way to energize the medium wave band and create a new service that would require LIVE & ORIGINAL programming 24/7 on those big sticks. Not Rush Radio repeated over and over and over. In Europe AM radio is over. And now FM radio is going away in favor of DAB+.

      This post has generated LOTS of discussion on the social networks. What may be most disturbing is how many radio people appear to have abandoned the effort to save the service. They are very discouraged and that’s also VERY concerning.

      We have some excellent LOCAL broadcasters here in Kentucky. They, like you, are a vital part of their community. I assure you, my main intent is to preserve this type of local service not end it. The Telcom Act of 1996 was not local community’s friend. I addressed that in a couple previous blog posts. Check them out here: https://dicktaylorblog.com/2016/02/28/the-day-the-dumbest-idea-invaded-the-radio-industry/

      I would love for Channel 6 TV spectrum be rededicated to facilities like yours to better serve your area and on FM.

      I’m rooting for broadcasters like you.

      Thank YOU for sharing your perspective. It’s how we all learn together.

      Dick

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    • Mike Beverly

      My situation is not that dissimilar from Brian’s…Except times two. My county had 5 radio stations in 2000, 3 FM and 2 AM. A big company from the adjacent big market bought them all and immediately sold the FM that didn’t have an AM in the town to Jimmy Swaggert. That one couldn’t be moved. Eventually he moved one of the FM’s to the big city and sold the two remaining AM’s and the Class C3 FM to another broadcaster. That guy started simulcasting one of his stations in another much bigger town on all three and then promptly moved the FM to that bigger town, leaving behind two AM’s. One lost its transmitter and he sold the tower site for the other and turned it off with the idea of letting them both go dark, leaving a county of 30,000 people with one satellite religious station whose primary purpose is feeding translators in bigger towns. I stepped in and bought the two AM’s for a pittance and have gotten a good response from the community but certainly no economic windfall. I am pairing one with a translator now and hopefully the other with a translator next year. So radio was saved in this county. I don’t consider my new translator to be AM revitalization. It’s small town radio revitalization. I feel for those who don’t have a frequency available. I had to go to a third choice tower to clear a third adjacent overlap, which Congress eliminated for LPFM”s by the way.

      I don’t live in that county, but I have grown to love the community and am glad it still has some radio. I have a day job at a big cluster so I haven’t needed it for income. Hopefully I can profit from it when it’s time to move on to my next adventure. But at least I know the new owner won’t be able to rip the translator out.

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      • Again, this is another story of how short-sighted it was for the FCC to allow local radio stations to be moved out of the community they served in essence leaving those communities without any local radio service on FM.

        Thank you for sharing your story Mike.

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  16. As Les Moonves announces his plans to spin the CBS radio properties off, this article appears in the Boston Herald: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/columnists/2016/03/shaffer_old_am_radio_model_is_broken

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  17. We could be in the early stages of big Clear Channel AM stations battling with smaller mom and pop AM stations who are looking to serve their local communities when the sun goes down. It’s an issue the NAB does not take a position on because there are many stations on both sides of this issue. Many Class A AM stations have been asking listeners to sign a petition to stop the FCC’s plan to allow other AM stations to maintain power at night.

    Read the rest of this Radio Ink story here: http://radioink.com/2016/03/28/who-is-the-am-radio-alliance/?utm_source=ActiveCampaign&utm_medium=email&utm_content=What+is+The+AM+Radio+Alliance%3F&utm_campaign=Monday+3+28+16+Nielsen+responds+to+mason+%28Copy%29

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  18. Randy Michaels weighs in on “AM Revitalization”: First, it is obvious that one does not “help” the AM band by giving some AM stations FM translators. It may help the stations that get translators, but it certainly doesn’t help the band. It is interesting to note how many of the AM’s that already have translators choose to identify exclusively with the FM frequency. So a flea powered FM is better than AM? Sorry, but this is the merely creation of more FM stations, not help for AM.
    Read more at http://rbr.com/randy-michaels-am-order-actually-hurts-owners/#BYGkJY2VPUFm5mXH.99

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  19. Dick, I am a owner of a Class D, AM Daytime Station with 1,000 Watts Daytime, and just Nighttime Authorization of 3 Watts. I’m on a Class A Channel, 1560 KHz. Here is a quote that jarred my brain and heart. You said “Eliminate Class B, C and D AM radio stations, sign these signals off and let them make their current FM translators their whole radio station.”

    No offense nor disrespect, by I took your comment as an offense! My station is near a metro market and my Consultant Engineer tells me they maybe no way I can get an FM Translator because the FM Band is too crammed here. There are many Class D, AM Stations that will not be able to get an FM Translator. I take it you propose that my station should be shut off after 25 years of hard work, and something that I wanted since the age of 5. I’m 52 today.

    The AM Stations like mine, like small Class D’s, we’ll I feel like we are treated like second class citizens. I am disabled, in addition, my wife and mother own this station with me. You can say we are minority owned. When stations started streaming their programming “On Line”, I was against that, but we had to go along with it.

    I take you want me to shut down and take the ONLY thing I have in this life away from me. That is unfair. We looked at another channel to move to, but the Commission won’t let AM Stations change channels. All I wanted in life was a 250 Watt, AM Station in a small town, and I have one, but as I mentioned, 1,000 Watts during the day. I like signing off at night because today it has been proven the masses are not listening to radio at night, except the DX guys, and I don’t count them because they are not in my City of License. So now that I have brought up many small Class D, AM Stations won’t be able to get an FM Translator, and I kind of have no use for one, what is your opinion about us?

    I’m not being hateful, mean, etc. I am a Christian and just love local programming on AM Radio!

    Thank You for taking the time to read my comment and I hope to hear back from you.

    Scott Bailey
    WMRO-AM Radio, Gallatin, TN

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Scott,

      Thank you for reading and contributing to the discussion.

      I think you misunderstand where I’m coming from on this issue. My dream is to take stations like yours and prioritize them to have FM service that delivers the same coverage area that the AM service was licensed to serve.

      I realize that things have already been so over-populated on the FM band that this runs into complications because it wasn’t thought out from the get-go.

      I believe that radio stations like yours ARE the backbone of local radio service. They should have been the FCC’s 1st priority before adding any other service to the airwaves.

      So we are more on the same page than you might have thought.

      Many AM stations are maintaining expensive tower sites that FM service would not require and instead of having to maintain an AM service plus an FM translator, my thoughts were just have the FM translator (or an FM signal of a higher power to provide the same coverage as the AM signal, if the translator would not be power enough) be allowed to transition to the only transmitter/antenna system that would need to be maintained.

      I hope that clarifies where my thinking was.

      Thank You Scott and to your family for being radio broadcasters that embrace the concept of community and companionship in Gallatin, TN.

      Dick

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