Is there a battle brewing among AM broadcasters thanks to the FCC? Those struggling to survive want the FCC to give them every opportunity to make a comeback in this era of intense competition for both ears and ad dollars. Broadcasters who are now running some of the most successful radio brands may have to pay the price for the little guys to have a chance to thrive again. At least that’s what the FCC has up its sleeve.
There are 77 Class A AM radio stations across the country. Here is just a sample of those stations (see next story for the full list) WFAN, WABC, WCBS in New York, WGN, WBBM in Chicago, KDKA in Pittsburgh, KNBR San Francisco, WGY Albany, WHO Des Moines, KOMO and KIRO in Seattle.
Because of the way AM waves travel, rules now require other AM stations that occupy the same frequency to power down and get out of the way of these big boomers. The FCC is proposing AM stations on the same frequencies as these Class A stations be allowed to operate with nighttime and critical hours power levels that will cause massive and destructive interference to the skywave reception of these Class A stations. In essence, it will put an end to these stations broadcasting great distances.
This issue concerns iHeartMedia so much the management at WGY has launched a petition asking listeners to contact the FCC and prevent this from happening. The WGY petition is called, “Save AM Radio” and it states the FCC is about to allow greater interference on WGY, “which will reduce WGY’s ability to provide you with quality broadcasting at night. That means if their proposal passes, it will make it very difficult for many of you to hear our programming at night and during morning and evening drive times.”
NRG’s KXEL in Iowa has also launched an online listener petition, which says, “KXEL has been a 50,000-watt station since going on the air in 1942. It was designed to provide a large interference-free coverage area, especially after local sunset, and all night long. Now the FCC is proposing to change the technical specifications of this protected area so that other stations can come on the air at night, or increase their power.” Expect similar petitions at other stations to pop up all over the country.
One manager, who runs a Class A on the West Coast and is about to get into this fight told Radio Ink, “damaging them would be an unintended consequence that nobody is going to be happy with.”
And, someone who’s watching this issue very closely told Radio Ink, “The FCC should be very careful about demolishing that one advantage the AM band has. The unique nature of skywave reception, once lost, can never again be replicated.”