We have dueling answers on that question as you’ll read in this story. Just like we’ve been getting on the FCC’s plan to allow smaller AMs, on the same frequency as Clear Channel AMs, to operate at night. You could argue that if you lived in Florida and you still love to listen to WGY in Albany, just pull up iHeartRadio on your phone. Does anybody really care anymore about driving across the country at night listening to the same “staticy-sounding” AM station as you cross several states?
As the days go by and we get more and more reaction and feedback to our stories about the AM band, everyone seems to agree on only one thing: It’s the interference that’s killing the band. Interference from other stations, power lines, toasters, coffee pots, garage door openers, lamps, and other assorted electronic devices. And there are probably way too many stations. Texas operator Christopher Boone tells Radio Ink digital is not the answer to AM’s problem. “I agree crappy radio reception is the problem with AM stations. The FCC needs to adopt ANAX standards and mandate them in any radio that can receive FM stereo. This would also revitalize AM by bringing back C-QUAM AM stereo.”
Boone says AMAX standards would include noise blanking, which would eliminate a lot of the noise issues that car radios have and improve fidelity. “Also the band with restrictions on AM stations currently in use needs to be looked at. The FCC is the two-face debacle by allowing IBOC/digital to cause more adjacent channel interference than analog radio with 15 kilohertz wideband ever did! Yet they limit AM to 10kHz audio. That’s a double standard and needs to go. Also, the FCC and Congress holding the budget strings, need to enforce the Part 15 levels and crack down on noise generators like bad utility lines, etc. That would help revitalize AM. Digital is not what the AM band needs. That would obsolete millions of radios immediately. Unlike DTV, there is no room for analog and full digital operation.”
On the flip side of the digital argument, an opinion from former CBS Philadelphia Operations Manager Andy Bloom, who tells Radio Ink his research showed him that 80% of the 25-54 demo never listens to AM radio and radio needs to become platform agnostic. “For legendary AM brands, migrating to dedicated apps seems like the logical way to preserve the brand, even if the band is in a bad place. This migration should have started several years ago. Now the FCC has made it more crucial. More interference is only going to exasperate the problem in major markets, although perhaps for some of the small-town stations it will prove helpful.”
Jerry Scott is the chief engineer for Cumulus in Peoria, a cluster that includes four FM’s and one AM. Scott says he’ll do anything he can to help the AM radio band. “I recently purchased a small incandescent lamp which I placed next to a clock radio. I noticed an annoying continual “thump” when listening to all but the strongest AM stations. It didn’t matter whether the lamp was on or off. Turns out, it was the wall-wart power supply. The owner’s manual even addressed the issue. The solution was to move the lamp to some other part of the room. There needs to be more attention to increased, unregulated noise on the AM band. Adding even MORE interference to the band is the worst thing that can happen. Many rural areas have no local AM service at night. With increased interference, the AM band will be totally trashed so there will be no incentive to listen to AM radio, especially at night.”
And from a small market that has to shut off at night due to a Class A station about 800 miles away. “If my station stays on at night, in no way will that affect that station 800 miles away. Isn’t the point of radio to serve the LOCAL community. My station can cover the same 50 miles during the day as at night without interfering with that other station. Maybe 80 years ago the local community was hundreds of miles away. But not now. Let the local station serve its area.”
This debate over the future of the AM band will rage on. Send your opinions and comments to [email protected] or leave your thoughts below in our comment section.