Coal Ain’t Coming Back & Neither is AM Radio

114I lived in Kentucky for 7-years.

Kentucky actually issues black license plates that say “Coal Keeps the Lights On.”

And yes, a lot of our electricity is generated from coal fired generating stations. But our dependency on coal has been in decline for years, today only about 30% of our electricity is generated from the burning of coal. 15% is generated from renewal energy sources.

But when it comes to jobs, solar & wind-energy jobs are growing 12 times as fast as the US economy. This has all been happening over the last 10-years or so. Renewable-energy jobs grew at the rate of 6% while fossil-fuel jobs declined at 4.5% from 2012 to 2015 according to Business Insider who also notes that the average number of employees at US coal mines dropped by 12% in 2015.

The solar industry now employs more people than coal, oil and gas combined.

The most recent statistics (2014) for the coal industry say 76,572 people are employed mining coal. That includes miners, office workers, sales people and others who work at coal-mining companies. In 1980, the industry employed about 242,000 people.

But to put the coal industry employment in perspective, there are more people employed in education in Kentucky than in coal. And the Washington Post compared the number of people employed in coal to other industries and reports: “Although 76,000 might seem like a large number, consider that similar numbers of people are employed by, say, the bowling (69,088) and skiing (75,036) industries. Other dwindling industries, such as travel agencies (99,888 people), employ considerably more. Used-car dealerships provide 138,000 jobs. Theme parks provide nearly 144,000. Carwash employment tops 150,000.”

In fact, more people are employed in RADIO (94,584 people) than in the mining of coal.

Coal jobs ain’t coming back.


When I hear people in coal country cheering about coal jobs coming back under a new presidential administration, I look to my own industry; radio. AM radio is like the coal industry.

America, to a large extent, was built on coal due to the industrial revolution. All of our great factories depended on coal to power their machines. Coal was plentiful and we had lots of it. It was coal’s time.

In the 1920s, AM radio was born. Nothing like it had ever existed in the world. While the telephone brought people together, one person to another person, radio would bring the masses together. Inc.put together a list of “The 25 Greatest Inventions of All Time” and radio was #2 following the wired telephone. The History Channel compiled its own list and it put the smartphone in the first position followed by radio.

The “Golden Age of Radio” is the period from the 1920s to the 1940s when AM radio was the main source of entertainment in American homes. It would be replaced by television in the 1950s.

The transistor and car radio would pump new energy into the radio industry to a young generation in the 1960s and AM radio would be “born again.”


The latest FCC (Federal Communications Commission) report as of the end of December 2016 shows that there were 4,669 AM radio stations on the air in America. Over on the FM dial, 16,783 signals now beat the airwaves (FM, FM educational, translators and low power FM).

To put things in perspective, at a time in America’s radio history when the number of FM signals equaled the number of AM signals on the air, 75% of all radio listening was to FM. So, you can only imagine what it’s like today for AM radio listening.


In coal mining, the need for coal miners goes down every year. Today, mining for coal no longer means muscle hardy men in maze-like tunnels wielding picks and shovels. The coal industry has steadily been replacing those jobs with robotic machines that require far fewer miners but more computer engineers and coders.

The radio industry employs its own cadre of computer engineers and coders that allows for fewer folks to appear on more radio stations through automation and voice-tracking. Is what’s happening in radio broadcasting any different than what’s happening in coal; or any other industry today?

I grew up on AM radio.

AM radio was my world and the people who made the magic caused this boy to make radio a career.

But AM radio and those jobs are not coming back any more than coal miner jobs.

93% of Americans 12-years of age or older listen to radio every week.

What percentage of those are listening to AM?

As AM radio stations add FM translators, do you think that number will grow again?

Sadly, AM radio is to broadcasting as coal is to power generation.


Filed under Education, Mentor, Radio, Sales

87 responses to “Coal Ain’t Coming Back & Neither is AM Radio

  1. Rick Starr

    AM stations with FM translators aren’t “AM stations.” They are content producers who are listened to on the FM band. I agree with you, AM is done, and has been for quite a few years, with a handful of notable exceptions. It is time for a new use for that bandwidth, methinks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I put that very question to an AM broadcast consulting engineer. There must be a more valuable use of that spectrum in a 21st Century.

      Thanks for stopping by the blog and adding your thoughts Rick. -DT


      • Lawrence Stoler

        It’s interesting how people want radio to return to the way it sounded in the 60s and 70s. There are many reasons why that won’t happen, unfortunately. To put it another way, it’s as likely as AM coming back.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I own an AM station in NW Montana. Our morning show is #1. We added a translator this spring. Here’s what we found: the Translator is a billboard for our big signal AM, not a substitute. People are seeking content. Ours is on the AM band, but it took a 250-watt “pea shooter” of a translator to get them to try us. There lies the message. The image of the AM band is the larger issue.


  3. Coal is coming back. We have plenty of it as well. As for AM radio, the translators are helping people rediscover AM. People listen to radio for quality programming. 30 years ago, Rush Limbaugh brought AM back to life. Translators have really limited coverage. When the listener gets out of the translator coverage area and wants to hear the program, they will listen to AM. Programming is the key.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s shocking to read that AM radio is dead, done and useless when our AM station is profitable and highly rated. We’re hyper-local in a way that our town’s 2-days-a-week newspaper can’t hope to be. I moved out here to Nebraska from New York State 19 years ago and again and again I see something labeled “outdated” and “useless” that still serves as a vital lifeline for rural listeners. I’m just a dumb disc jockey, but I imagine FM translators are not handed out like convention swag. So please, say the end is near, say nobody listens, say whatever you want. But don’t try to wipe the AM dial clean of vital local stations in areas where they may be the only form of local information.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jeff,

      Thank you for stopping by the blog and adding your thoughts to the discussion. I believe that it’s time for the AM band to be repurposed. The service it has provided has a “use by date” on it as we approach the 100th anniversary of AM Commercial Radio.

      Just as the telegraph came to an end and Morse Code, so will the AM band. It’s already basically gone in Europe and now they are taking down FM radio for DAB+.

      What’s the best use of the AM spectrum in a 21st Century world? -DT


      • ruud

        Comparing US and other American countries to Europe radio is not a good idea. The problem with European radio is that Public Radio plays a (to) big role and also the government wants to be more in control with media then elsewhere, dictatorial countries excluded.
        That is why DAB is coming in, it suites the pubcasters very well and they are directly linked to the governments. But here in Holland nobody want to buy DAB radio’s since they give nothing more then FM radio, sometimes even worse sound and poorer reception. All the extra programmes given by DAB do not change the game.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Ruud for the enlightenment. -DT


  5. Jeff Lawrence

    Icve learned in almost 50 years of broadcasting, NEVER say “never” my friend! It WILL change and evolve into something else, as radio has reinvented itself SO many times, but as long as there are AM radio waves, it will survive.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on artversnick and commented:
    and providing FM translators DOES NOT save AM Radio. It just puts them on a low powered FM frequency, where most of the terrestrial listening is happening.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jerry Stevens

    I agree that neither coal nor AM is likely to come back but I think there are better analogies. The coal industry decline is accelerated because the government subsidizes its competitors. Thankfully, that isn’t happening to AM. A better comparison in my mind would be retail. It’s not going away, but the decline in brick-and-mortar stores is inexorable. And so it is with AM. There will still be AM stations for the foreseeable future but far fewer of them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The decline of AM is not just in numbers down, but in the age of audience served being up.

      Relative to a “subsidizes its competitors” reasoning; automation in both radio and coal is far more damaging to long term viability for the employed. Then, add to it radio’s reluctance in spending on capital improvements to equipment, content or delivery – in transmission or reception – and AM is on a “Music of Your Life” attrition to extinction.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jerry. Also a good analogy. -DT


  8. Dave Jagger

    Coal is history, no doubt.

    Want a great use for AM and the old analog TV spectrum?
    Figure out a way to use those frees for free and open WI-FI globally. No satellites and their expense required and the infrastructure is already in place.
    I think the big cell networks are probably already have this in progress for the TV spectrum already.

    Great piece, DT.


  9. John Markham, KD6VKW

    Technically, Mobile FM has gotten far better in the fifty years since I first heard it in a car radio. It suffered from a phenomenon called “picket-fencing,” whereby reflections from fixed objects would alternately cancel and reinforce the direct signal, causing rapid fluctuations in the audio or falling in and out of stereo. These days, I almost never hear those problems in the car. (HD Radio in the car still has such signal problems; I had an HD radio in my last vehicle and rarely left it free to go HD as it wished.)

    The overall improvements in mobile FM receivers deserve a chunk of the credit for listenership numbers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi John,

      You make a very valid observation. While the noise pollution on the AM band has damaged AM radio listening, FM radio has overcome many of the early disadvantages and is a very stable and sonically clean source of listening. A great FM radio station sounds so much better than anything served up on satellite radio. Though, the most recent FREE listening period, the quality was better than times I’ve checked it out in the past.

      Thanks for adding your thoughts to the blog. -DT


  10. I’m worried that FM ain’t coming back either…


  11. James Wades

    It is true that AM listening is declining. Yet, speaking only personally, I have found that AM still offers advantages that can’t be fulfilled by FM. For example, I live just outside the coverage area of Chicago FM stations, but I can follow the Chicago sports teams reliably on the high power AM stations. The same is true at our remote lake cabin in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. AM proves a useful alternative for accessing better quality news and sports than local FM stations. Furthermore, a couple of the small local AM stations have excellent programming. Sure, one could argue that alternatives such as streaming audio, podcasts and satellite radio exists. Yet, few things are as simple and convenient as sitting by the lake listening to a ball game for free on the radio. People will always crave the collective experience. AM can survive with the proper promotion, community involvement and innovative programming that provides that sense of sharing in the moment. If anything is killing radio, it’s the monolithic programming wrought by consolidation. Long live AM! LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Curt Krafft

    There are many successful AM stations around the country. Why are people listening to them? Because they have formats that people want to listen to. Usually that’s all news, talk or sports. The problem with AM is all the other formats. Religious, ethnic and barter. No one wants to listen to them. All your successful religious and ethnic stations are on the FM dial. If AM is to survive then the individual stations must come up with formats that people actually want to listen to. Call it niche programming if you like. But it has to be entertaining and done right. If it sounds like it’s being phoned in, then no one will listen regardless of whether it’s on AM or FM. Content and quality “still” count.


    • The problem with FM translators attached to an AM station is the AM station ceases to be identified and all identification becomes associated with the FM translator’s dial position. Plus as more stations come on the air, the advertising pie isn’t growing to support them. Without the economic support, operators are left with few options.

      Perry Ury put NOW RADIO on the air in Boston on 680-WRKO and later, I met him at 1080-WTIC in Hartford, CT. Both stations had monster signals and excellent air staffs. But Perry was quick to point out that they never tried to create a parade, but rather would find a parade and get in front of it.

      If that was the case when AM radio ruled, what chance does it have in a 21st Century world?

      Thanks for reading the blog Curt. -DT


  13. Lawrence Stoler

    It’s sad when a station like WCBS-AM which has been doing all news since August 28, 1967, is playing five hours of brokered programs every weekend. That’s not a good sign when you see this happening in the #1 radio market. Many people who ran AM stations made a lot of mistakes over the years including the FCC which never agreed on a single system for AM stereo although in some cases, if they did, it would have been too late as the move to FM for music was going on around the country in the 80s. Some AM’s will be around for now and will make money but will they still be here in 10 years?

    Liked by 1 person

  14. From James Cridland’s weekly email comes this article about “AM radio continues its slow death-spiral, with the BBC beginning to switch off more AM transmitters…”

    Here’s a LINK to that story:


  15. Lawrence Stoler

    It will be interesting to see what happens after the CBS/Entercom merger becomes reality. Will they continue to keep two all news stations (both owned by CBS and housed in the same facility) in New York going?

    1010 WINS does well in PPM numbers in the city especially during morning drive and on weekends.

    WCBS-AM has a better signal in the suburbs outside of NY. so in some areas and counties, they do better than WINS. We’ll see what happens.


  16. Ben Downs

    It wasn’t formats, programming, or any of the other myriad reasons. AM just became too hard to listen to. Noise, iPhone buzz, mono, and low power nights, all made AM an inferior product. Does anyone really believe that WLS and WNBC left mass appeal music programming because they made poor format choices?
    A test: put your favorite radio in the middle of your den at noon and note the AM stations you can receive. Repeat at 10PM. If you can get one really clear signal, congratulations.
    Other uses? The whole AM band is only 1.2 Mhz wide. A single TV channel is 4 times bigger than all of AM. Likewise, the AM band would only accommodate 8-ish FM channels. Not much space; maybe we could put wireless mics there.
    We can clean up the existing band a bit by protecting the translators of licensees who might choose to surrender their AM license. There are 850 stations with <25 watts at night. If these stations were to voluntarily sign off and keep their translators, it would go a long way to reducing noise.
    But the expensive, painful reality is until we get better, available, receivers and convert to all digital (not the current hybrid digital), the AM fixes are just patching. The physics of our modern devices have made AM and amplitude modulation a hostile environment for listening to the radio.


  17. DIck, your post does not delve into the content consideration. So much of FM is tightly programmed formulaic predictable music programming, whereas a handful of successful AM stations have compelling local programming – KFI and KNX here in LA come to mind as does KRLA for its local morning program. WCBS and WINS mentioned above in the comments are locally programmed and successful. The same can be said for much of KOGO’s successful lineup in San Diego, and until quite recently, KGO San Francisco was dominant for 25 years as the top-ranked station on either band in that market, until misguided torpedoing of their content formula ended their successful streak.

    FM may be winning the battle vs. AM, and understandably so, but AM has a few tools in its toolkit if it chooses to put up a fight. Ultimately though, IMO, streaming audio and podcasting will prevail and beat both AM & FM.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi David,

      No I didn’t get into programming. Most AM radio stations — English speaking — are either syndicated talk or sports programming.

      A trend I’ve been watching is what happens when an AM station gets an FM translator, the format suddenly becomes some form of music programming and all mention of the AM frequency fades away and all identification goes to the FM dial position.

      I would agree that if we are more forwarding looking that we will see all that you are suggesting.

      Thank you for stopping by the blog and adding your perspective.



  18. Todd Tate

    I agree am radio is gone sad because around here there used to be a great station WLAY am that is awesome in early 90s now it’s off the air so I agree am radio is gone

    Liked by 1 person

    • Once a great AM radio station goes to seed, no one has been able to bring it back Todd.

      Note what happened to the AM frequency when WTOP moved to FM, even though they invested in a new AM format on their old 1500 frequency.

      Thanks for contributing to the blog discussion. -DT


  19. Ken Busser

    I’m one of the “whiteheads” that still enjoys listening to AM radio. I do it through the magic of my smart phone today instead of a tabletop, portable or car radio. I like listening to the AM STREAMS that can be found on Radio APPS like MEDIA-U or SIMPLE RADIO that present stations to listen to around the world. I find the music of the 50’s-60’s-70’s that I grew up with there. My favorite stations have the old fashioned live & automated DJs with “cool sounding jingles and promos” of the bygone era. I get to listen to a greater variety of music that I want to hear, not found today on FM, in most markets. I like the small market stations and I agree with an earlier posting that the local AM stations have a place in the communities they serve. “Naysayers” want to declare the AM band dead. It may be losing listeners in the ratings that don’t reach us Baby Boomers of the older generation, because we were written off years ago. We are still spending $$$ on cars and making our homes even nicer. I am also a fan of “live and local Talk radio” and what to hear other independent talk show hosts other than the nationally syndicated shows heard on 300-500 stations coast-to-coast.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ken,

      I do much the same as you. Listen to those AM radio stations via their App or stream.

      I had the opportunity to sit-in at 650AM-WSM in Nashville and do a show on this legendary radio station. What I learned was the station intensely monitors it’s stream — which is fed in crystal clear stereo — and I’ve been told has more listeners all over the world via its stream than it does in Nashville via its mammoth 50,000 watt clear channel FCC licensed AM broadcast signal. (I have the WSM App on my smartphone & iPad.)

      This article was not about programming, but about the “delivery pipe” the programming comes through. No one has mandated that only certain types of programs can be aired on AM or FM. Each licensee makes that choice.

      Today, there are much better pipes than the one we all know and love as the “AM Radio Band.”

      I’m sure there be pilots that pine for the days of prop planes, but when you want to get somewhere as fast as possible — like when you go on vacation — you will opt for a jet.

      Thanks for stopping by the blog and sharing your thoughts. -DT


  20. Ken Busser

    AM radio broadcast towers are the starting point of some of the STREAMS that goes out to the Apps that we enjoy listening to. It may not be necessary to have the AM broadcast station to find the formats that we love listening to. But, AM radio provides that local service that is needed for traffic, weather and national emergencies. Not everyone is able to have the fancy smart phone, computer or car radio that offers satellite options.
    I still have the option of watching TV over a hooked-up and plugged-in converter box even though I am hooked up to COX cable for my daily TV & Internet. From time to time, I have had to reset my remote to watch the converter input, when the cable has gone down. We had several hours of scrambled or “NO SERVICE” messages on the TV screen. I am glad I had saved that box.
    On the other hand… I grew up with plunking away on manual typewriters. Then, electric models were made available. Later, I bought a Brother Memory Typewriter that I loved using. It could print out one page at-a-time of saved manuscript. When I got my computer & printer, the Brother was put into storage for a back up. I did eventually part with the Brother when it was donated to Goodwill. It was really hard to let go of something that I used a lot. I wouldn’t want to go back to relying on the dinosaur but, I did hold on to it for a long time!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ken, you just wrote a mouthful.

      My first computer was a Commodore VIC20. That morphed into a Commodore VIC64. (I ran promotions for a whole shopping center on the VIC64.)

      Then I upgraded to an IBM PC, Compaq, Dells, HPs and finally I’m all Apple — iMAC, iPad2, iPad mini, iPod, iPhone4S (now used as an iPod touch), iPhone7 and AppleTV.

      What I love in the Apple ecosystem as all my music is on iTunes and my systems are all backed up on iCloud.

      It’s made life simple.

      I won’t ever go backwards in technology.

      This Sunday, I will talk about the future of mediated communications in a 21st Century.

      I will be interested to see what others are thinking after they’ve read what I wrote.

      Thanks again for making the blog interactive and sharing your views. -DT


  21. David Wilson

    As I see it, the biggest threat to AM broadcasting isn’t noise, lack of interesting content, or the availability of a myriad of digital formats. The greatest threat to AM seems to be the number of stations losing their tower sites to land developers. In the Salt Lake metro area where I live, no less than 5 AM stations (KOVO, KFNZ, KTKK, KLLB and KWDZ) have gone silent or are operating at reduced power because they’ve lost their tower site land to housing developments in the past 3 years. Another station, KRRF (1230 AM), which is owned by Cumulus, has been operating at 20 watts with a wire antenna in order to keep the station’s license active until the new licensee can erect a suitable transmitting antenna. The station’s antenna collapsed in 2015 due to a wildfire, and Cumulus didn’t want to spend the money to build a new tower site. KOVO is operating at reduced power with a single tower until their new tower site is completed. KTKK was on 630, but has moved their programming to KBJA 1640 until a new tower site can be located. KFNZ, KLLB, and KWDZ all lost their tower site land to housing developers who want to build more “McMansions” to accommodate the rapidly growing population along the Salt Lake City metro area. Although KFNZ was recently sold to Vic Michael, nothing has been done to return the station to the air yet except to transfer the license. Citicasters, the owners of KWDZ, haven’t done anything with the 910 frequency since its towers were demolished in 2015 save for one broadcast a year for a few hours in order to keep the license active. We all know that AM towers require a lot of land and a good grounding system for a powerful signal. However, with land being at such a premium where I presently live, there’s a few of Salt Lake’s silent AM stations that will likely never return to the air.


    • Hi David,

      This same situation is occurring all over America. AM Tower Sites are more valuable for almost any other purpose than broadcasting on the AM band. But in the chicken & egg scenario of what came first, the decrease in AM audience followed by decrease in AM advertisers and older demographics, all precipitated the selling of the land the towers stood on top of.

      I watched this same thing happen with once popular drive-in movie theaters. The cineplex did in the drive-ins. Today only a few niche drive-ins remain in operation and those that are operating have found they had to make a major investment in the new digital projectors as that’s the way the content is delivered to them — not in big film canisters.

      In fact, most indoor movie complexes let you walk by their sophisticated rack room that controls everything that happens on the big screen.

      Thanks for the insight into what you’re seeing in Salt Lake. -DT


  22. Randy Holhut

    Another factor in the decline of AM radio is the radio itself. The reception of AM stations on modern portable and car radios is almost uniformly lousy. I find I get better reception with my 1960s vintage Zenith portables than with any current radio (aside from C.Crane’s radios). If radio manufacturers made products with better AM reception, there might be more listeners to AM stations.


  23. Walter Runyon

    I read somewhere that when AM was in its infancy there were specific frequencies designated for High Fidelity. In the 80’s I bought an AM Stereo Receiver from Radio Shack. Problem was the FCC wouldn’t decide on a standard for AM Stereo so it died. Now I’ve heard many of the AM stations using the HD system are turning it off because of problems. Maybe the FCC needs to re-examine the entire terrestrial system and migrate everyone to a single digital format like some European countries. To use your earlier analogy. We all still use electricity – a lot of it, but not many of us think about how it gets transmitted to the house.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Walter,

      Yes, we still use a lot of electricity and in the future even more of it. Currently we are very dependent on fossil fuels to meet our energy needs as a country. But we are becoming less dependent on it every year and ask any coal miner and they will tell you that it takes a lot less miners to mine coal today due to technology.

      Elsewhere in the world, AM (or Medium Wave) transmitters are being turned off. One big reason I’ve read is due to their energy consumption. But in Europe, DAB+ is becoming the single OTA radio standard.

      I’ve not heard of any serious discussion at the FCC about a do-over for radio in the USA.

      HDTV is the only new standard that’s been mandated by the FCC in recent times.

      Thanks for weighing with your thoughts. -DT


  24. Scott Parker

    BIA has four of the top ten billing stations in the country (2015) being listened to on the AM band. I think if receivers continue to offer the AM dial, AND program content is there, AM will survive.


    • Four today, down from ten not all that long ago and once owning an AM station was a “license to print money.” Those days are over.

      I grew up on AM radio. I loved many of the great AM radio stations and that’s what caused me to pursue over a radio career.

      But that’s not the point.

      The future of radio is not on the AM band.

      And the future is not coal but renewable energy sources.

      Thanks for stopping by the blog Scott from KONA-FM.


  25. Mark Parton

    And yet in Australia the two biggest markets are still dominated by the AM news/talk giants. 2GB continually wins Sydney and 3AW continues to win Melbourne. This is more a reflection on the fact that personality driven talk formats are very expensive to operate whereas music formats can be run quite cheaply. So when new stations enter the market they tend to target the other music stations. It’s not about the talk giants necessarily increasing their share, it’s about the proliferation of music stations cannibalising each other.


    • Hi Mark,

      Thanks for sharing the view from down under.

      Are those big AM stations also broadcasting in DAB+? I know the Aussie broadcasters have made a big investment in DAB+ nationwide.



    • Interesting comment Mark and I somewhat agree, but it’s also a reflection that that FM in Australia is starting to die too. Despite the world record run without a recession and massive property boom, all legacy media is shaky at best. Revenues are down, costs up and programming is becoming mostly networked or automated. 2GB and 3AW are still well run; live personality talkers with more or less the same presenters and formats as decades ago. They target the older demographics who are inextricably linked with radio as a medium. DAB+ is pretty hopeless. Despite an enormous publicity campaign by the industry most people still don’t know what it is and really don’t care anyway. It’s the content, not the medium. For almost all the younger generations, gaming and mobile streaming video is now the base level of media consumption in Australia. My kids are the perfect example – despite dad having a long career at #1 in Sydney and Melbourne radio, any audio-only medium to them is simply irrelevant.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Great input on what’s happening down under with AM, FM and DAB+ Andy.

        This Sunday, I will attempt to look at the future of all ad supported mass media in a 21st Century world.

        I seem to have hit a nerve with this week’s topic and tomorrow should continue the discussion.

        Thanks for stopping by the blog and making a contribution to the discussion. -DT


  26. Industry insiders in the UK believe listening on AM could be about to enjoy a revival with the return to AM of Radio Caroline. The former pirate station, last heard on AM 50 years before it was shutdown by the government, has been awarded a community radio licence by Ofcom and will be broadcasting legally this time.
    Good luck to Caroline on their return to AM.
    In the words of Oscar Wilde – news of the death of AM maybe premature!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Should be interesting to watch what happens.

      The BBC is turning off their medium wave (AM) radio signals.

      Radio Caroline’s success was built on offering music the BBC didn’t at that time. Today, that is no longer the case.

      Thanks for sharing that update on Radio Caroline Steve and for stopping by the blog and adding your thoughts. -DT


  27. Bill O'Brien

    Interesting discussion and no doubt AM radio has it’s fans of talk and news but instead of opinions (everyone has ’em) let’s look at facts. AM in even the #1 market sells off its weekend programming to the highest bidder, the conservative talk format is diminishing and the big owners are getting out of the all news business because it’s a very costly format. These are general facts and there are exceptions but they won’t save the AM band (soon FM for that matter) because the BIG fact is that AM listener-ship is dying…literally. The demos are ageing out and there are NO younger demos coming up to replace the older listeners. Hell, there aren’t any formats coming up to replace talk and news and those 2 are disappearing. Entercom is taking over CBS. Keep your eye on those expensive AM news, sports and talk AM’s with the older demo audience.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Yes…AM radio’s days are numbered. So, too are FM’s. But, I think there’s a future for broadcasting…but I expect it will all be online.

    The problem is: the profits are not going to be as good in the future, because of the impact of more competitors. Which means you won’t see it bankrolled by big companies with deep pockets. And/or that means, more cutbacks, more consolidation and fewer jobs.

    That is, unless radio gets smart. It could. There are companies investing in the future today. But, there are too many broadcasters who may become even more drowned in debt if they’re not careful. And that debt could be its undoing.

    One thing I know won’t work on AM…or FM for that matter. Stop it with the idea of deep playlisted oldies stations. They’ve never worked. They don’t work…and you won’t bring a WLS, a CKLW, or a WCFL (or your local former AM Top 40) back with one. And yes, it’s been tried. Numerous times. Wide is OK. Deep is not.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Dr Akbar

    Guess a coal-fired AM transmitter would be like being hung by the same rope twice! While Cumulus is paying down debt by selling the land under their sticks, outfits like Salem and Crawford are paying big bucks for Ancient Modulation stations. In the case of Crawford, they wisely pair their stations with FM translators. Seems the way to monetize most AM stations is through brokered sales. You may not get ratings, but you’ll get revenue.


    • The peak of AM radio’s dominance occurred around the time FM & TV starting being built out in America. AM radio and VHF television would become the dominant media in an analog world.

      In a digital world, we see UHF is more conducive to digital OTA television than VHF and FM evolved to be a better radio band. Today we have three to four times as many FM radio stations as AM radio stations on the air in the USA.

      But it’s hard to find the business model or industry that is not challenged by the internet, robotics, and artificial intelligence.

      That’s the future. Like it or lump it.

      Thanks Dr. Akbar for sharing your thoughts and reading the blog. -DT


  30. What’s the difference *how* the signal is modulated? It’s the final product that counts – what we push through the speakers. That’s what people remember.


  31. Dateline Switzerland: From 2020 onwards the radio industry plans to phase out analogue radio broadcasting on FM and to use DAB+ instead as the main broadcasting technology.


  32. jpgarnor2011

    I have a show in AM in Mexico an people listen to us because the content is better that what they can find in FM. Its a shame sponsors dont think the same, except when they want to talk about their products and have an interview, then they care (but without paying). By the way, I always post the podcast in my website, so, its a cheap way to record live (cheaper than to rent a studio).


  33. Up until now, not one post about the thrill of DXing, That is the hobby of listening to weak signals fade in and out until you find a station ID to find out what distant city the station is broadcasting from. My record was when I got about a minute of Denver’s KOA (a promo advertising their coverage of The Broncos games) that I received in New Jersey. I also got 5000 watt KRHW from Sikeston, Mo in the background behind 50000 watt WKBW from Buffalo. This is a hobby that I have had since my 1970’s childhood. It will be a sad day when I can no longer do this…


    • Hi David,

      I too used to enjoy DX’ing. But it was at a time when stations all sounded different and unique as well as gave you a flavor of the place they broadcast from — be it local musical acts, events, personalities and stationality.

      Unfortunately, DX’ing today usually gives you one of the syndicated formats and that’s taken all the fun out of it — IMHO.

      Thanks for stopping by the blog and sharing your thoughts. -DT


  34. John Stewart talks about the coal industry on Last Week Tonight:


  35. Pingback: The End of the iPhone | DickTaylorBlog

  36. My wife and I live in Vermont. Last week we decided to enjoy the nice weather and go to the New Hampshire seashore for the day. A 2 1/2 hour drive to the coast was ahead of us. For the first half-hour we listened to Vermont Public Radio on FM. Then, as that signal faded, we switched to AM and listened to WBZ-1030 for the rest of the trip. For our return, we listened to ‘BZ until VPR was again available.


    • Joel, there’s no doubt that AM still has some incredible stations to be heard. I would count WBZ-1030AM among them. I grew up on WBZ while commuting to college. Larry Justice even gave me a personal tour of “The Spirit of New England.”

      Unfortunately, we are seeing audiences to AM radio eroding.

      Look at Washington, DC’s successful WTOP. It moved from AM to FM and not only continued to dominate the market with their focused news & information format but saw their demographics fall as they attracted FM only younger listeners to their station. It’s one of the reasons that WTOP has been the nation’s revenue leading radio station in market #9. And it proves AM is not a format but simply a “storefront in a bad neighborhood.”

      Thanks for stopping by the blog and sharing your thoughts. -DT


  37. Never say never. While there is alot of truth in this article, this sounds like a throwing up of hands in general. There are still successful AM stations out there, so no way does one man have the ‘final say’. This is only true if taken as in general. AM Radio may be done as it was before, but with enough creativity and innovation, some stations can and ARE surviving.


    • Max, the writing is pretty much on the wall for the future of AM commercial radio.

      Yes, I quite agree there are still successful AM radio stations but as they put their programming on FM signals, the promotion of AM goes away.

      Just sat on a webinar and learned that people 15-19 don’t own a radio and listen to audio on their smartphone — which is ubiquitous in that age group. Worse, they are less likely to listen to an OTA radio station vs a streamed service like Pandora or Spotify or Apple Music on their smartphone. This is something broadcasters need to be alert to and addressing.

      The article was about the future, not the present. When you study trends, you can see where things are headed.

      Thanks for stopping by the blog and sharing your POV. -DT


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  39. The number of licensed AMs again holds fairly steady. (BUT…)

    Some of those AMs may be silent or operating at reduced power, but the FCC’s just-reported March 31 total of 4,633 is only 33 less than a year ago. Going back three years, there were 4,702 licensed AMs, so the band has lost not quite 70 licensed AMs since 2015. But there are signs of stress, caused by the costs associated with keeping an AM array up to snuff and/or the temptation to sell off the tower real estate – as Cumulus has done in L.A. and Washington DC. On the cost-of-engineering side, Northpine says “A Western Iowa AM is the latest to seek a downgrade rather than replace an aging tower array.” Carroll Broadcasting’s KCIM Carroll/1380 runs 1,000 watts full-time, with different day and night directional patterns. But it’s proposing to go non-directional with just one tower, at 500 watts daytime/28 watts at night. Northpine says “In recent years, stations in Sioux City, Eau Claire and Rapid City have also reduced power rather than replace multiple towers.”
    -Tom Taylor NOW, 4-10-2018


  40. “How can FCC Chairman Pai get comfortable with two things that don’t work well together?”

    A keep-me-anonymous group head spins out the logic – “On the one hand, Ajit Pai’s big thing is AM revitalization, saving the AM band. But if he deregulates and takes away the sub-caps, intuitively that could be the last nail in the coffin of AM. Let’s take Cincinnati, for example, where iHeart owns four FMs and four AMs. Without the sub-caps, do you think they want any of the AMs beside WLW? One of the few things keeping the AM band afloat is the larger companies having actual brands on the dial. How long do you think it would be until Entercom moved KYW to an FM stick, if it found a way to buy two, three or four more FMs in Philadelphia? Part of me also wonders whether this is much ado about nothing. If push comes to shove, most of the big companies would gladly sell off their fifth FM, and in some cases the fourth and fifth FM, if they could get an accretive price. Most of those properties are not highly competitive and sometimes not profitable. But if de-reg does go through and at the same time Cumulus and iHeart are dumping some markets, the feeding frenzy everyone is talking about may be more like fish in a barrel. Instead of driving up prices like in ’96, prices may drop because of a glut of inventory. At that point, who are the buyers?” Plenty of lively comments from NOW Readers about what the FCC should do about ownership rules. And what the NAB should be supporting, coming out of its June Radio Board meeting. Want to take a turn on the NOW Newsletter Soap Box? Email


  41. Pingback: Coal Ain’t Coming Back & Neither is AM Radio –

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  43. The problem with AM is, for the good stations that can be cited as examples of how it can still work, there’s twice as many that simply plug in a 24/7 satellite format for the vast majority of the day, be it all-sports, music or talk radio.

    Now, for the many times I hear the myth “Rush Limbaugh saved the AM dial!,” what really did he “save?” Yes, he’s one of the predominant radio hosts in this industry, but it’s in a format where pretty much every other host out there has copied his act to some degree or another, regardless of political stance. The vast majority of talk radio stations carry his show sandwiched among like-minded and like-formatted syndicated hosts, and if there are any local hosts, they follow his same template and same political views. A real-life “attack of the clones.”

    But that’s been going on ever since Rush went national in 1988. To his credit, he’s kept, by and large, the demos that listened to him for those 30 years… but that’s it. They’ve all grown old, well past the point of sustainability on the 25-54 demo, and there’s no evidence of younger demos wanting to tune in to recoup those gradual, precipitous losses. (And why would they, when Rush has continually mocked and made fun of them as a collective group since the 2012 election?) Adult standards stations, at least, those that didn’t adapt or evolve their playlists to those that could keep sustainable demos, shut down or were flipped 15-20 years ago for this same exact reason… the core audience literally died off.

    As we are plainly starting to see, this myth of “Rush saved AM” is starting to reveal itself as such. A myth. In order to “save” something, you need to create an ecosystem that enables the demos to replenish itself after the current demos age out. That never happened here. At best, Rush placed a band-aid on a broadcast medium that younger demos were abandoning outright a generation ago, but it was always really about him, and not about the industry he claimed to value so much.

    Just my $.02

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank You for all you wrote Nathan. In the 80s, Rush DID provide fresh and different programming that gave many AM radio stations a new life and new revenues.

      However, like a lot of things in radio, “Two For Tuesdays” for example, the newness is a thing decades old and nothing came along to do for radio what Rush did 30-years ago.


  44. Pingback: Too Much Is Not Enough | DickTaylorBlog

  45. Pingback: The Thrill is Gone | DickTaylorBlog

  46. “A majority of U.S. AM stations, as well as a number of countries and automakers globally, are modernizing radio by offering internet streaming through mobile apps, FM, digital and satellite radio options. Ford will continue to offer these alternatives for customers to hear their favorite AM radio music, news and podcasts as we remove amplitude modulation—the definition of AM in this case—from most new and updated models we bring to market,” wrote a Ford spokesperson.


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