Saving AM Radio Is “My Personal Priority”


The radio industry simply couldn’t ask for anything better. By all indications the Chairman of the FCC is going to make radio one of his top priorities. We’ve already seen the Commission under Ajit Pai vote to do away with the 43-year-old rule that required you to save paper letters from listeners. And Thursday, at the NABA Future of Audio Symposium in Washington DC, the Chairman told a very friendly audience, “I’ve made AM radio a personal priority.”

Actually, fixing the AM band has been a project of his for the past five years.

Pai has been the loudest voice at the Commission on saving the AM band. He understands the AM band has technical problems and he knows both ad revenue and listeneship are declining. The most AM broadcasters got out of the last Commission was additional FM translators. Next week, the Commission will vote on a measure giving AM stations greater flexibility in siting their FM translators. The Second Report and Order would relax the siting rule for an FM fill-in translator rebroadcasting an AM broadcast station. Pai says this is a small step that would be a big help to AM broadcasters.

Next up in 2017, Pai says the Commission will open two new windows in which AM stations, that still don’t have an FM translator, can apply directly to the FCC to get one authorized. And he says the FCC will keep working on ways to improve signal quality on the AM band and reduce AM broadcasters’ operating costs.


  1. When I was growing up in the 60’s, am radio was alive with many full service stations of many formats, and I remember people talking about the music, personalities, and fun these stations provided. I don’t see why we couldn’t go back to that. It sure worked then, and today’s young people would think it was a new concept. Leave fm alone, and take am radio back to the basics that it once was. People would listen and I think they would like it! Dennis Williams Toledo,OH

  2. 1000 Watt, community owned non profit COMMERCIAL AM station a few weeks away from going under, Needs a little help. If you have an idea and feel strongly about keeping AM alive and in LOCAL’S hands then TELL us how to get out of this $$ mess, just want to cover costs, NO PAID staff. Need just under $3000 per month to operate. Station located in New England. Contact [email protected] with comments. Thanks.

  3. allowing megacorp companies to own hundreds, if not thousands of stations, and their cookie cutter, next to no local, programming virtually assures the death of radio. sadly, i wish my am/fm dials would provide something like the variety that the tune in app does. if i can receive a show on am, i will listen on am. i truly love the romance and tradition of am radio.

  4. There are stations that serve their communities well but the stations are few and far-between. The stations can and should focus and capitalize on the immediacy of radio and the relevance for that reason. Many communities have a daily newspaper but that newspaper has deadlines and is usually either a morning publication or an afternoon publication. Radio can go anywhere at any time. School closings? Radio. Natural disaster? Radio.

    Many (AM) stations fudge a bit on the format designation by having news during business hours and then the syndicated conservative fare so often heard the rest of the time and then call themselves news/talk. I have worked in small-market radio and I am aware of what there is available as far as inexpensive and bartered programming and also home-grown, locally-produced radio. I worked at a college radio station as a community volunteer for 3-4 years and produced 60 one-hour comedy shows, showcasing the work of standup artists and comedians from the past and the present. I think this is something that would interest an audience but podcasting is cost-prohibitive and out of the question and I could barter it but without much of a following, I have neither a track record nor any audience numbers to brag about. I would be interested to offer this to anyone who might have a need for such a program. Also, I have been trying to interest the college-station I am associated with in a program about oldtime radio or obscure and out of print lp’s and oddball material you will not hear anywhere else. TheComedyHour at

  5. If the FCC wants to save AM radio, it needs to get rid of all the Part 15 and Part 18 crap that is trashing the band. From a technical standpoint, noise is AM radio’s worst enemy. Get the power companies to replace those cracked insulators and either tighten the standards for noise emissions from CFL bulbs or get those things off the market. Likewise, combat noise emissions from dimmer switches, computers, and touch lamps.
    AM broadcasters also need to get their act together and put some decent programming on the air. If all you get on AM is political rants and sleazy infomercials…well, who wants to listen to that garbage? Older Americans are practically unserved by radio because of some preconceived notion that they live on diminishing Social Security income, eat cat food for dinner, go around in walkers, and put blue stuff in their hair. Serve them! Give us some music that you can’t find on FM, such as adult standards, pre-Beatles oldies, classic country, and instrumental “beautiful music”…yes, the same format that once dominated FM. Serve us and convince prospective advertisers that, yes, we go shopping, buy various products, and will try something that sounds good. An earlier post mentions local news…great idea! Want younger listeners? Try playing indie music that the corporate, over-formatted FM stations won’t touch. AM has an opportunity to find those format holes and fill them, as FM did when the FCC issued its 1966 edict breaking up AM/FM simulcasts.
    The 50 kW clear channel (not the company now known as iHeart Media) stations can take advantage of their regional nighttime coverage. Some already do, by programming to long-haul truck drivers late at night.
    One more thing…get RID of “HD Radio” on the AM band. Those 30 kHz wide swaths of digital noise contribute nothing but interference…and stations propagated via skywave at night are decoded poorly, if at all, due to phase shift and other problems. Wideband AM receivers with good fidelity will reveal an annoying buzz under an AM station transmitting hybrid digital, sounding like cicadas on a hot summer afternoon. Keep “HD Radio” on FM.

    • There isn’t any radio music that interests me. It’s all filth.

      You can’t tell me that in a metro market at least one AM station could play non-rock, pop music, some show tunes, instrumentals of hits mixed in and a live, friendly sounding adult who has a brain hosting it all. Mix in a little weather and news headlines…… just dawned on me that’s what we used to have in EVERY market. Someone, please bring it back.

      • Nor can you tell me that in a metro market, at least one AM station could play *contemporary soft rock hits (Adult Contemporary) or rock ‘n’ roll oldies (or soft-rock oldies-based Adult Contemporary, for that matter)* and (as you said) a live, friendly-sounding adult who has a brain hosting it all. And, yes, a FULL SERVICE oldies or contemporary soft rock station–complete with (again, as you said) weather and news headlines–HECK!, NEWS (LOCAL AND/OR NETWORK) ON THE 1/2 HOUR *AND*/**OR**!! hour! You know, we used to have not only Beautiful Music/Easy Listening AM stations and full-service Middle of the Road AM stations (the traditional-pop kind and the hybrid traditional-pop/soft rock kind) in EVERY market, but Adult Contemporary and Oldies AM stations, as well. Will somebody PLEASE? bring back AT LEAST full-service all-soft rock hits AM radio??

    • Hey, Phil! Are you the guy who worked at the TOP AM, 1590 WERA back in the 80’s?
      WERA was my final stop but I have not gotten radio out of my system but not technically working in radio at the moment. Trying to start an internet station but all formats come with some sort of financial liability, except public domain stuff and talk. TheComedyHour at

      • Yes, I did contract engineering for the now-defunct WERA/1590 in the mid-80s. I bounced around a bit after that and now do production and a little bit of engineering for a small station in Pennsylvania.
        WERA was a good, community-oriented AM station serving Plainfield, New Jersey. Its owner began suffering from health problems and eventually sold the station to people who sold the “radiation rights” to a station in New York City. As such, WERA went dark in 1997. The towers are still standing, but the transmitter site in South Plainfield is overgrown with brush.
        Plainfield once had a Class A FM station, WXNJ, on 103.9 MHz. At the time, there was little listenership on the FM band and WXNJ went dark around the time that WERA came on the air in 1961. The FCC later deleted the 103.9 allocation in Plainfield. That allocation would be worth at least $1 million today!

        • WERA was a great station. I did Mid days there in the Mid 80’s what a fun time. especially By Trade and Sell.

          • YOU hosted “Buy, Trade and Sell,” TOO? Was that also on, say, Saturdays, by any chance? If so, you must have hosted the Saturday edition of the program. Because, as I remember it, Bob Morris hosted “Buy, Trade and Sell” during the week.

        • You guys should know who I am. I pumped gas at my dad Matty’s station in Watchung. Hank and Joyce used to come in all of the time. There was a commercial to stop in and see Matty’s girls.

    • Hey, Phil! Are you the guy who worked at the TOP AM, 1590 WERA back in the 80’s?
      WERA was my final stop but I have not gotten radio out of my system but not technically working in radio at the moment. Trying to start an internet station but all formats come with some sort of financial liability, except public domain stuff and talk. TheComedyHour at

  6. AM “serving their community”? What a farce. “Fake News” very arguably started on AM, between the unhinged Alan Stangs of the world (“the Communists control Dunkin Donuts” was one of my favorite of his old claims) to Limbaugh and all of the copycats who followed trafficking in *at-best* half truths.

    AM is a festering swamp on life support. But Pai is just the kind of toadie to provide it with the government assistance that the owners beg for. And then he’ll make sure you pay more for your internet.

  7. A long over due technical requirement is to eliminate the AM/FM band switch on receivers. New listeners to radio are under the preconceived notion that AM is inferior (programming and quality). One switch to “Radio” and the ability to dial from the AM band directly to the FM band and visa versa. It is all radio, or broadcast.

  8. Walter, you obviously you have no idea what is on the AM band or you are a grant writer. 🙂 AM stations are the only ones left serving their communities. They do this to serve their community and to survive in a non-ratings world. AM stations do more local reporting, more indepth stories, air more local churches, carry more local sports and are the only remaining open forums for free discussions! The only reason AM ever needs the government is to get government out of our way and level the playing fields. If you want government involved with programming then they will dictate content and the American people loose their freedom of speech via censors controlling the money. Have you not heard of NPR? They are so biased and closed minded that censorship is their government mandate. NPR should be sold off to the owners of the smallest stations in each market or to people that have never owned a station.
    – Suggestions: let AM be equal with FM, allow multiple translators on fm or am, allow AM to increase coverage areas over “clear channel” signals that do NOT serve our area or region. Allow FM’s to translate onto AM stations. Allow new innovations on AM small grounding antennas.
    The solution is never more government, individuals will always be the best solution.
    Just a side note: Ownership rules fall into a special category and should be restricted to only allow two or three stations in a market. A diversity of ownership increases competition and increases the diversity of communities giving more people a “voice” to share ideas and values. A market with 30 different owners is a much more diverse and competitive market than one with 8 owners. Ownership should be allowed to own other forms of local media too. What if we require every owner of a top 100 market station to own a station in the lowest 200 markets. This would bring investment and new thoughts into the lower tiered markets and encourage growth in new areas.
    – just say’n


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