(By Robert Lee) “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” And, “I’m not afraid to wait; I just don’t want to wait for something that will never happen.”
So, walk over to your mirror, look yourself square in the face, and say it out loud, with force and conviction: “AM radio is dead.”
It doesn’t matter that Albert Einstein or Ben Franklin didn’t utter the first quote. Or, who the “Anonymous” is that came up with the second one. But, those of us in the radio industry must all absorb that third assertion – “AM radio is dead” – believe it, and move on. Don’t look back. Look meaningfully forward.
Why bring up this discussion, again? Because the other day I was reading an opinion piece about AM Radio, and the best the writer could do, to no purposeful end, was bring up the failed efforts and lost opportunities on the part of the FCC to help save AM radio. Everything the author wished for is the past — left undone — and, now, too late. Whether through neglect or consumers just wanting to move on to the newest “shiny object,” AM radio is, technically, a dodo bird. There is no ‘revitalization in death.
“Cross-service” FM translators do not repair the mortally wounded AM band; they underscore its evident obsolescence and demise. To consumers, FM translators are not “secondary services”; they are FM stations. FM. Clearly not distracting, degraded, static-y AM.
Now, as the FCC undertakes its important Quadrennial Review, I would again implore Chairman Pai and the Commissioners to walk away from the past, lay AM radio to rest, and move all the AM stations to an all-digital, expanded FM band in the television channels’ 5 and 6 spectrum. And, in addition, implement a “date certain” plan, sooner rather than later, to move the incumbent FM band, at 88 to 108 MHz, to all-digital. We already required the move, years ago, of broadcast TV from analog to digital. There is no rational reason for not mandating the same of broadcast radio. In fact, digital broadcast television is already evolving to its next, forward-looking advancement: ATSC 3.0. But we’re still vainly rendering life support to AM radio.
And please, do not, again, anybody, bring up WPVI-TV in Philadelphia to argue that it’s too late, that there are already full-power digital stations assigned to the Channel 6 spectrum that simply cannot be moved. Or that the TV “repack” has irreversibly locked in place the full-power television stations allocated to the Channels 5 and 6 bandwidth. The same FCC computer software that came up with the new digital TV channel assignments can take another whack at moving all of the relatively small number of channels on 5 and 6 to other channels. In the broadcast television realm, digital transmission is so spectrum-efficient there are many, many examples of stations in close geographic proximity to each other that are on first-adjacent channels. For example, in the Austin, Texas, television market, to my south, the full-power (not Class A) NBC and PBS stations are first-adjacent to each other on digital channels 21 and 22, respectively. Likewise, the ABC and CBS — full-power, non-Class A — affiliates are first-adjacent to each other on channels 33 and 34. In the big TV market to the north of me, Dallas-Fort Worth, there are a half-dozen examples of full-power stations first-adjacent to each other!
Every single full-power and Class A TV station now sited in the Channels 5 and 6 spectrum can be “packed” on another frequency. And, according to the FCC rules, secondary television services — TV translator and low-power facilities — can even be forced off the air if that’s what it takes to find allocations for full-power and Class A television stations.
Please, Chairman Pai and Commissioners, let us once and for all face up to the reality of AM radio’s future…that there is none. Move AM stations into the 21st century and onto all-digital FM channels, and stop all the insane and hopeless non-revitalization nonsense. AM radio is dead.
Robert Lee is the owner of QXZ MediaWorks in Waco, Texas, and can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]
I can only receive AM in a basement, or far up north out of the city. I listen to an all news station, and I don’t need hi-fi to get somebody’s voice telling us news.
Right now Hurricane Ida has destroyed a major FM broadcast antenna in New Orleans and many FM’s, TV’s and other medias (cell phones) are unable to transmit because of infrastructure failures. Guess who’s still on the air and serving the public with vital information? 50kW 870 AM WWL – New Orleans. WWL is showing the vital nature of AM broadcasting as a means of reaching the mass population in an emergency. If people no longer are smart enough to own at least one radio that picks up AM, they are foolish. A battery operated radio for use in emergencies is necessary, it’s not a luxury.
AM towers can be destroyed, too. Indeed, some probably were, given the wide swath of Ida’s damage and destruction.
But you can still hear AM signals from outside your immediate area of destruction. Not so with FM. AM requires less infrastructure to reach more population. Saying only FM is needed is an overly optimistic and nominal-situation philosophy which gets proven wrong over and over again. AM is the one ubiquitous technology that can still reach deeply into an area where infrastructure is destroyed.
10,000 up-votes on that. Long live AM radio. The frequency is far too important to die!
When I was a kid in the 1950s, I asked my Dad what we would do with our radios if all the stations went off the air. He told me not to worry, it would never happen! Since then, I have had three cell phones cease to work (analog, TDMA, and 2G); a radio with an audio TV band; and two analog televisions. My childhood nightmares came true! Not to mention a computer with MS/DOS and another with Windows 95. Maybe society is just giving up on radio. Is anything permanent any more?
AM Radio doesnt need to be saved by the FCC, it needs to be set free! Our government has been actively trying to destroy it for years for the same reasons they’ve destroyed analog TV.
What a clueless moron to advocate the demise of AM broadcasting. It’s frequency band gives it a range that other modes can’t match, it’s extremely simple in terms of technology, and contrary to the assertion that people don’t have AM radios anymore, there are more AM radios (combination AM/FM radios) than any other radios populating the United States now. Get a clue. Stop being a pretentious fuck.
What’s the point? AM will die on it’s own in the next 5-10 years, when the revenue doesn’t justify further investment. FM won’t be far behind.
The FCC is right in not doing anything because there’s no future in *broad*casting. The future will be on-demand and streamed. Unless you’re a boomer, your music, news, talk, etc, already come from on-demand services delivered digitally. That’s why the FCC should focus resources on improving digital access.
Every 5-10 years, someone says what you’ve said. Yet here we are.
No. It’s its not dead. I think a better term would be “vital”. Yes, it needs help, but no other format is capable of handling emergencies.
The recent winter storm solidified that view for me. Cell networks were collapsing and FM was just doing its FM thing… pumping out advertisement after advertisement. AM, on the other hand, was giving regular updates, and the county’s puny 10W was reaching far and giving life-saving information.
You can’t ignore this. There is no other band that can/will do this except SW, which few people have. If anything, revitalize AM.
Actually, no. AM is terrible for emergencies because nobody owns AM radios anymore. I don’t have one. In fact, I just looked around and realized that we don’t actually have any kind of radio in the house (except for the one in the AV receiver, but it’s never been used and there’s no antenna connected). My wife’s car has an AM radio, but I just checked and none of the presets were programmed.
In case you hadn’t noticed, Americans get their information from smartphones. In an emergency, they look at Twitter. Nobody listens to the radio. Nobody watches broadcast TV. They certainly don’t hunker down to watch the evening news. With the exception of a few special events (like the superbowl) we don’t consume media synchronously.
A few years ago, the strongest AM signal in San Jose – a huge market – went off the air. Nobody noticed.
Just because YOU do not own an AM radio, don’t make the ASS YOU and ME (assumption) that NOBODY owns one! I own 7 of them and they all work very well (Panasonics). I have one radio that is on 24 hours a day. I do not own a television.
Don’t remove my pleasure to settle a grudge in your soul.
Interesting world you live in where “90% of all Americans” is “Nobody”.
I suggest you look outside Northern California. There’s this whole land mass to the north, east, and south of it – and people actually live there!!
AM radio and the analog band in my view has always and will always be the superior format for broadcasting a sense of freedom which cannot be controlled by a cable company. You cannot control an analog signal in the same way you can control a digital signal. We saw what happened when we switched to digital television. They said oh the picture quality will be better, oh look at the larger television sets you can buy. So people spent thousands of dollars on C-Band Dishes for their backyard and next thing you know, the cable companies scramble the digital signal and now charge us a monthly subscription for what was previously a free format. Keeping the analog AM format alive is akin to fighting big brother. It’s our last hope of analog freedom that is our public airwaves. Japan innovated on the AM band but we never did. You ever go to Japan and listen to their AM stereo broadcasts and how well it can sound. Digital broadcasting will always be less superior to the strength of an analog signal to reach the masses. It can travel for hundreds of miles on a cool dark night, but digital signals can be scrambled. Did you know radio manufactures are intentionally putting a frequency cutoff on their AM band? AM broadcasters are intentionally being told they have to limit their power to transmit which is undermining their industry. I collect antique radios and the quality of sound you get from an old radio on the AM band cannot be compared. They are intentionally doing this so they can scramble the signal again. Don’t let it happen. We gave away our television but we must not give away our public radio.
I believe AM radio is still relevant to many rural areas and the small stations that give the farm reports and weather broadcast are the backbone of county folks. There are also people who enjoy talk radio which is dominant on AM. Of course there are a few oldies stations that play rock and roll and yes its not the quality of FM but it takes one back to a simpler time which I enjoy. My pen knife is considered a thing of the past but I carry it every day and I still listen to AM. I REPEAT- AM RADIO IS ALIVE
Stating that am radio is dead is turning your back and conceding to a failure that you yourself are no longer willing to fight for. There are many marketing ideas that need to be considered rather than simply throwing in the towel. People as they age become more interested in AM radio as they realize the demise of freedom is commensurate with the demise of am radio. I believe there is a huge market for this group. For one? Develop am around a radio that is simplified and copies the analog controls of the past. For two? Make a radio with yesterday’s reception. Due to the industries’s capitulation to all bass all loud fm stereo & blue tooth today’s am radio that comes along merely for the ride is a joke by comparison to yesterday’s. Yes. AM is dying due to the lack of entrepreneurial intel willing to fight an fcc that is determined to kill freedom of conscience. And? The planned demic is ingenious at undermining everything that made America and its radio stations great.
AM is indeed dead, and FM is not far behind. The people commenting otherwise are past their prime and lamenting on yesteryear. The fact of the matter is, many radios produced now do not even have AM as an option. Furthermore, over the past decade, more people have been migrating towards podcasts and online streaming services that are custom tailored to their individual music tastes. Transitioning FM stations to an all digital medium will not help the inevitable. People have their smartphones with access to thousands of opportunities for content that the localized, 20 to 30 stations are unable to provide.
Indeed, AM is dead.
Some times its a pain in the ass to read what blog ownerss wrote but this site iis real user genial!
Don’t digitize the radio. FM is a king. AM wasn’t bad too
Terminating the AM (MW) band because of the archaic nature of its technology is akin to euthanizing Grandma just because she is old and isn’t up to par with that hot sweet young waitress you are dating. I use over the air to receive TV since I tore out my cable in disgust 11 years ago. While the DTV signal is superior, even with a state of the art antenna there are issues with pixilated images and other irritating nasties. AM radio is simple and in the event of a National crisis-and we seem headed that way of late-if we lost the internet and satellite capabilities AM would be a great resource. I think I am one of the few people left who had DX AM stations programmed into my car radio. I travel a lot overnight and enjoy 1540 from the Bahamas and then hit my KMOX. When I make my frequent trips from Hilton Head SC to Long Island (no I don’t live in either place just work) I choose to do so overnight and I listen mostly to AM. I have Sirius XM but you can only take so much of Howard Stern.
I’m 13 and I think we should save am as it is an historical thing it’s like saying digitize shortwave and longwave
“If you keep doing the same thing and expect different results, that’s the definition of insanity.”
Hmmm, really? I am a licensed psychologist in clinical practice and that’s not exactly how we assess for psychotic disorders.
Here’s a better idea: If at first you don’t succeed, figure out what went wrong, fix it, then try, try again. That’s hardly evidence for insanity.
Another point of clarification about AM radio signals. AM audio quality is more than adequate for human speech and communication. In the real world, however, with a bit more than 1 MHz of spectrum allocated to the current AM broadcast band, high fidelity broadcasting is impractical. Sure, high fidelity AM is technically possible as has been demonstrated, but the frequency-width of any AM radio-signal is a direct function of the frequency of the audio-signal that is modulating it. So the existing AM broadcast band would not have sufficient room for several stations transmitting the higher audio frequencies needed for hi-fidelity stations.
Some of you engineers…please correct me if I’m wrong. I’m no broadcast engineer, I but have a lifelong interest in radio technology, hold a General class commercial radio license, (formerly first class before that category was eliminated by the FCC). Also some hand’s-on practical experience…As an Extra class ham, I have owned and tinkered with several AM, FM, and SSB transmitters. That’s on a small scale to be sure but the principles are the same whether its 100 watts or 100 kw.
Would appreciate any comments or questions.
You are partially right. AM fidelity is partly a function of the audio presented to the carrier. However, it is also a product of the bandwidth of the transmitter and the antenna/ground system.
That being said, there is plenty of room on the AMBCB for high fidelity broadcasts, as local AM stations are assigned in 30 KHz intervals, which means there is lots of room for at least 10-12 KHz audio, even in stereo, since C-Quam uses no additional bandwidth.
I listen medium wave stations from American continent in the nighttime even in Italy. I remember that the first station I received in the ’80 was WHN New York. I also love to listen shortwave. AM SW/MW can reach every remote region of the earth, and listen foreign stations is a valid cultural hobby. And in emergency, AM can cover large areas with few transmitter. AM is not dead, it has different listeners than FM or internet radios.
Yes, too bad isn’t it. Do you know ham radio ops still THINK they have special emergency worth. No, sorry that’s fantasy and even more MARS the military amateur radio die hard.
AM, much like vinyl is in a resurgence. The kids, that being under 30 demo, are sick of all of the perfection found in digital formats and hearken back to a simpler time. For video of course, digital is the way to go, but the vicissitudes and variability found on vinyl and AM radio; the pop, static, wow and flutter, and other artifacts have a archaic appeal. For the same reason, the kids are abandoning smart phones in mass numbers. I’m a Amateur Radio Operator, Extra Class, since the 70s, and Ham is bigger now than ever, and growing quickly, all because of the nostalgic flavor of the medium.
America must abandon the libtard, fascist, globalist, Marxist, urban, multi-cultural, elitist stupidity found on the coasts. These people are wholly disconnected from reality and are moving, in a concerted effort, to undermine the very values upon which this nation was founded and built. Every single democrat city is a cesspool of crime and poverty — all in the name of inclusion and equality. When I hear, or read, the ridiculous libtard propaganda, as spewed forth here, it makes me think we should have a federal program that sends people like this into the midwest to work on a farm for a year. He’d go back to his cesspool, democratically-run filth of a city, a conservative.
I’m 58, Jewish, was a dem in my youth, MSCS, JD and MBAF, and after having worked in the courts for 12 years, I can tell you that the democrats have absolutely no idea what they are doing — but I digress. I would like to say that one should never listen to anything that comes out of the MSM controlled media, but that would be a logical fallacy; so instead, I proffer this. Hold greatly the idea that the MSM really is working against the interests of the working person in American and critically ponder the possibility that the information they provide is not only biased, but more likely than not, simply not fully true. Do your own research and speak your mind. Tyranny reigns when good people do nothing and silence is the cancer upon the land from which this country, much like China and Russia, would never recover.
And one other thing, DON’T USE 5G. Ever.
Robert Lee, walk over to your mirror, look yourself square in the face, and say it out loud, with force and conviction: “I write click bate articles with misleading titles and misinformation in order to get views!.” It’s one thing to say am radio content is dead or listenership is dying. The fact of the matter is that am radio still exists because it’s not dead and no one can find a better solution that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and completely disrupt listenership. Anyone who claims to not have am reception either lives in an urban area, has a poorly engineered radio, or does not listen to am radio after dark.
I live in rural Virginia and I’m able to receive almost every clear channel am broadcast in a 500 plus mile radius from my location (dozens of stations). I receive nearly 3 times more stations at night on the am band than I can receive on fm . The fact is that the largest percentage of land in the US is rural and am radio covers rural areas significantly better than fm and definitely better than digital fm.
Robert Lee (article author) you seem to have only focused on the US aspect of am radio and the FCC’s position of control. I’m sure you’re aware that there are MANY other countries still broadcasting am? You do realize that they also have a say in what happens to the am band, right? At night low frequency radio like the am band circle the earth. Even if the US did do away with the am band you would still be able to hear other countries broadcasting. Not to mention it would become a pirate fest with unlicensed transmitters running wild. Am radio will Never completely die.
I hear so many people saying exactly what the author here has said about moving all radio to digital, like the mandatory tv digitization. There’s several reasons why that’s not happened yet and probably won’t happen at least for a very long time. First of all in 2002, the FCC made some shady agreements with iBiquity the company that designed the current digital radio format “IBOC” being used here in the US. The US is one of the few countries that uses this digital encoding technology, all other countries use a Non proprietary digital encoding like DAB or DRM. In the US royalties must be paid to iBiquity for every transmitter and every receiver manufactured using their technology. There is nothing superior about IBOC encoding but our FCC was bribed into locking the US into paying this company royalties for years. This is the main reason digital radio hasn’t took off in the US already. It’s just too darn expensive to pay for equipment upgrades plus the extra royalty charges. The only reason the FCC pushed broadcast tv digitization was because the FCC made billions on the sale of UHF spectrum to cellular companies. That was the only reason they worked so hard to convert analog tv to digital and offered coupons for set top converters. If not for the billions of dollars made from the restructuring it would have never been done. The FCC could care less if broadcast tv is analog, digital, hd, sd, or if it even exist at all. They would have been fine with completely doing away with broadcast tv and forcing everyone onto subscription services like satellite, cable and internet streaming. It’s no different with radio the FCC could care less about the am band. Especially since there is no money to be made in selling of any portion of the am broadcast band if it were reallocated.
Am radios have been manufactured since the 1920’s (overs 100 years now) and basically work the same as they always did. Local and national broadcasters are still using the band because there IS a market for it. It may not be hi-fidelity but it works. I don’t think anyone listens to am for the great sound quality, they listen because it’s reliable even in the most remote areas, receivers are dirt cheap and plentiful. There are far more analog radio receivers still in use today compared to the number of analog televisions back in 2009. The benefits of digitizing radio are far less than digitizing tv. People who want to listen to hi-fidelity music have been turning away from radio to other higher quality mediums for decades now, that’s nothing new. Analog radio both am and fm are going to be around for a long time to come. Most people are not going to spend a lot to cash to ” upgrade” a device for a small improvement, that works fine the way it is. The only benefit I see is more station’s could be added to already crowded markets that don’t need more stations. In rural America where options are already slim, digital broadcast are even more difficult to receive and without the am band, radio in rural America might as well be dead altogether.
The am band receives it’s life support from advertising and listeners who still use and enjoy am radio. The FCC is not funding these stations the advertisers and listeners are. If you don’t listen to am radio or can’t deal with interference that’s understandable it may be dead to you, but then you don’t have a ball in this game, do you? Why are you concerned whether analog am radio exist or not? No one is forcing you to use it, there are plenty of alternatives. I alongside millions of other people do listen to am radio and enjoy it. AM RADIO is NOT DEAD, and I’m willing to bet it will outlive most of the people reading this. Until there is a free to air alternative to analog am radio in remote areas it will continue it LIVE!
Damn, John. That was astounding! Thank you.
Well said. People like Robert Lee (article author) don’t realize what they are sacrificing when they willingly give up something that “at the time” seems useless or obsolete in THEIR opinion and with the self inflating sense of importance that they are doing something for the betterment of future generations. Ummmm no, as I recall you can still make an AM radio receiver from common items found around the house. Try doing that with your Digital broadcasts.
Well said 👍
I have an even better idea. Give AM back to the people! As an unregulated way for entrepreneurs and communities to broadcast and listen to their own chosen sources of music and information. I can guarantee that would revive AM. In fact you used to be able to broadcast on fm up to 5 miles without a license as long as it didn’t interfere with any other stations. In my opinion(and many others fr that matter) it is a violation of our freedom of speech as well as a free press to not allow this anymore. That’s my two bits.
There are actually quite a few dark AM stations that are just sitting around waiting for someone like you to walk up and revive them. It might take a few hundred thousand dollars to build a studio, buy a transmitter, and get a tower. It won’t be free. But if you have the time and the extra cash, there definitely are signals available. Do a little research and you might be surprised.
A few of us Hobby Broadcasters are trying to at least get the FCC and congress to consider up to from 5-10 Watts on AM for Hobby Broadcasters from 1620-1700 Khz where there are blank frequencies.
5 Watts will give you a Full Quieting signal for 2 miles especially to a good AM receiver whereas its not blocked by metal or is not in a high interference area surrounded by florescent lighting, Switching power supplies nor high voltage electrical appliances or nearby power lines.
Hobby Broadcasting can bring a wider diversity of music as I run a part 15 station which also streams on the Internet. Imagine 1 Month of No Repeat Rock. Its a reality through Hobby Radio Broadcasting.
I have to agree, this is an interesting idea worth exploring. What we’ve lost with commercial radio is “live and local” (never mind their slogans to the contrary, they’re all syndicated and voice tracked from some major metro). But I do like the idea of radio co-ops which could jointly finance the maintenance of AM transmitters and essentially do podcasts. I think I’d prefer the model of public radio sponsorships rather than spot ads for producers to fund the operations. But, in theory, it could be one way to address the demise of local journalism in newspapers. I’m less enthusiastic about music programs. AM is not a good platform for music and I’m really not interested in listening to someone else’s playlists at this point.
True hobby and community licensees in AM/MW would be fantastic, but the FCC caters to the conglomerates, not the people.
It would open a whole world of both broadcasting and listening – but I don’t trust the FCC to do it right. Look how they screwed up LPFM. Knowing the FCC, the licenses would just go to a few megachurches and government entities and true hobbyists and community broadcasters would be left in the cold.
Excellent idea, give AM radio to “mom and pop.” We have some vestige of this presently via brokered time radio. In my area, Beasley owned & operated WWDB 860 AM is a good example as providing more interesting content than mainstream AM. Who would have believed years ago that this would prevail.
I agree. The radio after all was once our public airwaves. Digital signals allowed the big players like Clear Channel to buy up all our radio stations. Sooner or later they will be scrambling them. Brings back independent radio stations.
It is obvious that the writer of the article lives in a city or area of the country with a lot of FM channels. Let me tell you about where I once lived. I lived in Northern Arizona on the Hopi Reservation. It was surrounded by the Navajo Reservation which is larger than some states in our country. I was lucky where I lived I had access to 1 FM station but there were people who lived on the reservation who had zero FM stations. The Navajo Nation has an AM station that provides news, entertainment, and services to many people who do not have access to the internet, OTA TV or FM radio and do not have the financial means to have Sat TV. This story repeats itself around the Western half of our country. AM radio is needed throughout Rural and frontier America.
This article was clearly written by a west/east coaster who doesn’t think anything between NY and LA other than Chicago exists or is relevant.
His kind of attitude is exactly WHY AM is crucial to the US.
What for? What would be the advantage to moving the AM stations to another band? The author stated NO advantage to doing so. If there is something the move buys us then please explain, like multiple programs from one station, etc. Moving to digital VHF just for the sake of moving obsoletes millions of simple low cost radios, and eliminates the skip signal that many of us still take advantage of at night. Is it spectrum efficiency? What good is it to pack a bunch of stations into a smaller band unless you have plans for the old band? AM BCB is only about 1 MHz wide as it is, and nobody wishes they had it at this point that I’m aware of.
While the author is undoubtedly correct that AM radio is not the same as it was during its heyday, it is premature to declare the entire universe of AM as “dead”. In many parts of the Country (fly-over territory) AM radio is alive and kicking in smalls towns everywhere. I happen to own two AM stations in upstate NY and my stations are thriving with local and regional advertisers. So, for this owner, AM radio is not dead quite yet!
There is nothing more lame and boring on late night talk radio then a program out of Tampa, Florida called”The Captain’s America: Third Watch.” Everynight it is the old tired reruns of callers who call every night. The radio host is lame. The structure and format of the show is such that if you record the program it will be the same next month as the night you recorded it. It is dead air radio programs like this dud that gives AM radio a bad rap. Salem Broadcasting should replace this with something much better.
How about replacing Salem Broadcasting and the other overpowerful conglomerates with actual independent stations?
If AM is ‘dead’, how come nobody told me? I’m still on it!
The thing is, and I assume it may have already been said, that switching AM broadcasting to digital will take a minimum of 10 years. Why? Unlike TV broadcasting switching to digital, where the FCC provided FREE over-the-air (OTA) converter box’s to all it’s citizens (if you had cable TV, it was a moot point), AM radio is primarily heard in cars, and as such, will be much harder to implement the same change over. The OTA Converters were a simple matter of swapping over two cables, whereas most car owners don’t have the skills to do car radio and new antenna mod’s or installs on their own, not to mention the extra costs for installations, much less changing radios and antennas out all together. The only way this could work, like the DTV changeover, is for AM broadcasters to operate in parallel but for a much longer period, again a minimum of 10 years, which should weed out majority of cars. One this that I’m sure hasn’t been considered are the long range, clear channels stations that server many rural and remote areas of the US. You can be sure digital “AM” won’t serve these people. Given the frequency banding that digital “AM” would be moved to, there are NO radios (fixed or mobile) currently capable of receiving these stations.
I live just outside of Chicago. AM Radio is not dead. It has talk programs you cannot get on FM and I for one am glad these programs are on AM rather than FM. Yes, FM “sounds” better which is great for music but FM cannot penetrate walls and barriers like AM. I bring a Tecsun PL-310et to work everyday so I can flip between 560, 720, 780 and 890 all day long without streaming a thing on company internet that I know they would hassle me about. All of these stations come in crystal clear! FM however… I can hardly get local FM stations in my office building and my radio has a 22″ whip antenna.
I love AM radio and I love receiving WBZ out of Boston and WTAM out of Cleveland every night! I can’t listen to FM outside of Illinois. Don’t tell me “You can stream it!” streaming costs money because the internet costs money! My Tecsun radio is bought and paid for. AM radio is true blue free, long distance news and entertainment. So is Shortwave, we should be promoting and preserving both. Don’t get all bent out of shape about “quality”. Quality only goes so far. Nothing goes as far or penetrates as deep as AM and SW, period. They are invaluable resources when the internet goes down.
the FCC should just the the current AM frequency band for frequency modulation. Analog frequency modulation would be best to over ride the static. The static would not work well & make the digital go in & out
Frequency modulating the AM band will take up too much bandwidth. Instead of 100+ AM stations from 525 to 1710 kHz, there would be five or six. Bad idea. The best reason to keep AM alive is distance. FM range is not more than 50 miles no matter how powerful the transmitter is. AM can reach hundreds of miles especially at night. It’s the best option for emergencies. There are noise reduction techniques that can be used but aren’t necessarily practical. This is amusing. I remember back n the 1970s when everyone was saying “Theater is dead!”
Non Sense! AM has awful range! At night when they are forced to reduce power they can not be heard outside the city Limits! No one cares about Signals going around the world! FM Broadcast in most areas covers about 50-60 miles in all direction night or day! Cumlus AM in Pensacola is just awful and they know it! Cumlus has 2 rock in roll FM stations duplicating each other yet they wont do anything about it! WCOA AM is just awful!
Good Programming if you could hear it?
You’re making a flawed assumption that any FM signal takes up 200kHz of spectrum.
The fact is that an FM signal can be as narrow as an AM signal (though that would have audio quality worse than a regular AM signal).
Many services use a form of FM that is slightly wider than an AM station, though much narrower than the wideband FM used today on 3 meters.
There is such a thing as narrowband FM (NFM) whereas you could fit in just as many stations as there are now. It wouldn’t even obsolete current AM radio because FM can be “slope tuned.” However, NFM does not have the audio bandwidth of WFM, nor is it quite as resistant to static as is WFM.
First of all, where did civility go? Have we all developed trash mouth? I know we have the big O guy doing on twitter everyday, but do we all need to seceed to such simple brain nausim? When you throw out needless barbs and classify everyone in a group or category as idiots, you are only reflecting badly on yourself, and showing the world your manic centric views. You are not gaining any kind of superiority, by trashing others. How about making a strong, convincing, intellectual and smart argument on the subject (one way or another) rather than just whacking at something, or wholesale disqualifying an entire group. Pre-conceived, stereo typing anyone? Don’t get led down this path..and now for my argument….
Let’s think this thru. AM is dead? I totally disagree with the notion of this article. It’s really pure conjecture. and opinion. Now repeat this: AM Radio is still Mass Media. When social media, be it youtube or facebook brags about their huge tally of page visits, thumbs up or likes, they tout numbers like 50,000 over a much longer period of time than AM cummilates over just a day or so. There are not many radio stations that don’t equal all those likes and thumbs up in a much shorter period of time. Social media, no matter how great your content is, is nothing more than closed circuit rounds. Radio transmits to thousands all at the same time. AM is mass media, and really also because it’s just been around longer. If you filled an auditorium with even half the listeners on most AM radio stations, the messenger, performer or entertainer would would be ecstatic. With social media, you just get static – a static obscure number, and usually the length of visits to these pages is less than 10 seconds. That’s right 10 seconds! Hardly the listening time of an AM listener driving home in their cars for an hour or more..Seriously, What’s the point of this article? What is it trying to accomplish?
One final argument on my part, and I believe a good one: Recently industry leader All Access Media published the fact that the number one format in the United States is Talk Radio. How many talk radio stations are there on FM? Easily over 90% per cent of all Talk Radio stations are on AM. How much more proof do you need that AM is not dead? People are tuning in and listening, and those numbers, just do to sure growing populations are bigger than ever.
There are those who just don’t understand an expanding economy, as in radio listenership, and think in simple terms of their own experience, rather than recognizing that with AM/FM radio the greatest thing, aside from the fun is ease of use, freedom to choose and move about quickly and most of all its free…no buffering, and no packet loss.
Btw: I do agree that content needs to be better. Can we stop the syndicated, angry white, older man drones spewing on Satilite feeds that feed 600 stations across the country?
And for those LPFM instultors; You are darn luck they are there. It shows that Radio itself is still listened to and viable. The best way to promote any radio station, on any band is to make it accessible, and equitable with more real people in the seats from your community. Put more hands on the knobs in the control room, and I guarantee you, you will have more hands on radio dials instread of 3 x 5 smart screens. More people is the only way the entire medium will survive the anslaught of podcast radio naysayers, and the retailers who opt to put smart speakers on their shelves instead of radios…Oh yeah….tried to by a radio these days? Good luck. Thank heavens for car radios. Now if we could get the manufactuers of electric cars to realize they need to spend a few bucks to include the proper filters so they can continue to put AM radios on the dash board.
AM Radio is dead–and I speak of the programming.
You have two, maybe three viable stations (owned by the larger corporations) in a market that take pride and care with their content and provide a viable quality product. The rest of the AMs are brokered garbage, mostly run by individuals that are one-grade above most of the clueless LPFM operators that have no concept of broadcast ethics, programming or presenatation…and most of those LPFM operators themselves are one, slim grade above a pirate operator. And most LPFM operators were (busted) ex-pirates that shouldn’t have been give an LPFM license in the first place.
The FM translated AM’s are an embarrassment to the marketplace and degrades the entire FM dial. The LPFM’s provide an equal amount of unlistable junk (from that brokered AM junkhole of “radio stars”) that appeals ONLY to the operator of the station, and the friends and relatives of the opeartor, and any of the poor schmucks who work for the station–neither have any listener or fanbase beyond that scope.
It is time to kill AM, use it to expand the Ham Radio band and kill the FM translators that are ruining the reception of the legit FM broadcasters. Then strip these LPFM wannbe dreamer broadcasters and reissue the licenses to responsible broadcasters who provide actual programming that serve local communities–and not just recycle the meandering shuffle-play mp3 files that have very narrow appeal.
The “very narrow appeal” is the backbone of LPFM operation. To provide service to those listeners that are not well served by the corporate mouthpiece stations that program pablum and political rhetoric. As for your characterization of LPFM owners, you might want to seek professional counseling. That kind of anger, bottled up, isn’t healthy.
Therein lies the problem: the belief that “narrow appeal” is the backbone of LPFM and that was created with the intent to broadcast electic, esoteric programming — by people for people who are anti-commericial radio. This is why we see LPFM’s going dark at an alarming rate. They have no listeners and, in turn, they get no sponsors. No sponsors, no money to operate the station. It’s why there’s an epidemic of LFPM’s being fined by the FCC for ill-proper, law-breaking operations (tower moves, power increases without paperwork) with the edict, “we’re the voice of the people, so we’re just in our cause.” This point is proven with the grossly ill-informed “corporate mouthpiece stations” and “program pablum and political rhetoric” comments. Again, LPFM was not created to “kill” commerical radio or as “battle flag” for liberal college students lost in the memories of the campus college radio stations. LPFM was created to counteract the Telecommunications Act of 1996. While it was nobel and saved radio from a financial standpoint, stopped stations from going dark, it diminished localism and entrepreneurialism in broadcasting. It was created to preserve radio services (both AM and FM) in communities. It was created to stop those staions going dark, which would allow pirates to florish. It was not created to appeal to 50 people in a potential audience of 50,000. Radio, be it AM, FM, or LPFM, must serve the broad public interest and create programming of the highest common denominator. This is radio…not TV…block programming works on TV, it does not work for radio. If it did, non-coms would be the top rated stations in the market. Radio is based on “when you need it, when you want it.” No one turns into radio as they do with TV, i.e, on Tuesdays at 10 to hear some narrow, underground, emo-format.
It is a persons such as youself that is exactly the type of person who operates or works at LPFM’s and is the cause of the LPFM problem. It’s also why podcasting exists, for off-the-reservation music and talk formats and offer voices of all types a voice.
Brilliant comments from everyone here-but the most important is “Google Home” and “Alexa”. All of that great content from AM radio is online on those smart speakers. Cell Phones. Online on the web. Radio’s benefit now is it’s free, easy and simple. Once someone finds a way to overcome the difficulty issues of streaming-the barn door will open up. Most people at home watch TV. On the road, it’s a combination of broadcast radio and all of those other digital things. My millennial son hops into his car, plugs in his cell phone and punches up a music service. There’s nothing on broadcast radio (even Satellite) that interests him. He’s not alone I can guarantee you that. Radio is still strong -but unless we do what we can to overcome the content issues … the next audio medium “crown” will shift to the digital world. My hometown had 5 viable AM stations in 1965. Now there are probably 40 viable FM signals – and 5 viable AM
signals. Some day there will be 45 “broadcast” stations to choose from and thousands of portable “digital” signals. Where will the ears be?
It’s all about content, fellows. I live in Long Beach, California. Everytime I want to listen to Mexican talk radio I tune Radio Formula 970 AM in Tijuana and enjoy its programs. Then I switch to FM and listen to NPR, then I switch to Spotify and listen to their music streaming. If your content is good there will always be someone willing to listen. Lack of ideas will make FM die soon too. Be creative!
As an engineer who really worked at several AM stations, FM stations and 3 TV stations in my career, at this late date, a lot of the owners won’t want to make the type of investment in equipment that will have no return for the AM band as it sits. Even a full digital signal in the AM band would have little or no takers and it would obsolete all of the radios much as it did to TV and TV receivers. I work for a TV station that went through the process. We made it and if we weren’t owned by a large corporate operation, I don’ t think a single owner could have afforded it. On a smaller scale, AM operators couldn’t do that. Many engineering problems that were apparent with IBOC on AM haven’t been solved. Most AM antenna systems are over 40 years old. A lot of them have fallen into disrepair. The land values of the stations are more than what it takes to rebuild the plant to like new. Many AM stations are not viable businesses. I agree with the writer of the piece. Move what is now AM to Channels 2- 6 of TV. Make the largest footprint of the individual station equal to a Class C FM in digital and be done. Make the ‘old AM band’ an extension of the 160 meter ham band. Kill off the FM translators as a requirement of license turn in. Then convert the current FM band to digital. Make the phase out over 10 years like TV. ‘Converters’ may come back in style. And what will it take to replace a radio in a car? Most will require a retrofit between $150 and $1000 depending on what the owner wants. OK… GET IT DONE!
AM Radio will be dead ONLY when no one is left manufacturing AM receivers and when you can no longer purchase AM transmission equipment.
Til then, nuh-uh.
I have to disagree. Radio is a listener based business. The LISTENERS determine if AM will survive.
Most of the listeners have abandoned AM. The listeners are saying no to radio in general, and especially to AM radio. It’s a democratic process.
I agree with you Raoul.
Robert Lee, walk over to your mirror, look yourself square in the face, and say it out loud, with force and conviction: “I write click bate articles with misleading titles and misinformation in order to get ad revenue!.” It’s one thing to say am radio content is dead or listenership is dying. The fact of the matter is that am radio still exists because it’s not dead. Anyone who claims to not have am reception either lives in an urban area, has a poorly engineered radio, or does not listen to am radio after dark.
I live in rural Virginia and I’m able to receive almost every clear channel am broadcast in a 500 plus mile radius from my location (dozens of stations). I receive nearly 3 times more stations at night on the am band than I can receive on fm . The fact is that the largest percentage of land in the US is rural and am radio covers rural areas significantly better than fm and definitely better than digital fm.
Robert Lee (article author) you seem to have only focused on the US aspect of am radio and the FCC’s position of control. Are you not aware that there are MANY other countries still broadcasting am? You do realize that they also have a say in what happens to the am band, right? At night low frequency radio like the am band circle the earth. Even if the US did do away with the am band you would still be able to hear other countries broadcasting.
I hear so many people saying exactly what the author here has said about moving all radio to digital, like the mandatory tv digitization. There’s several reasons why that’s not happened yet and probably won’t happen at least for a very long time. First of all in 2002, the FCC made some shady agreements with iBiquity the company that designed the current digital radio format “IBOC” being used here in the US. The US is one of the few countries that uses this digital encoding technology, all other countries use a Non proprietary digital encoding like DAB or DRM. In the US royalties must be paid to iBiquity for every transmitter and every receiver manufactured using their technology. There is nothing superior about IBOC encoding but our FCC was bribed into locking the US into paying this company royalties for years. This is the main reason digital radio hasn’t took off in the US already. It’s just too darn expensive to pay for equipment upgrades plus the extra royalty charges. The only reason the FCC pushed broadcast tv digitization was because the FCC made billions on the sale of UHF spectrum to cellular companies. That was the only reason they worked so hard to convert analog tv to digital. If not for the billions of dollars made from the restructuring it would have never been done. The FCC could care less if broadcast tv is analog, digital, hd, sd, or if it even exist at all. They would have been fine with completely doing away with broadcast tv and forcing everyone onto subscription services like satellite, cable and internet streaming. It’s no different with radio the FCC could care less about the am band. Especially since there is no money to be made in selling of any portion of the am broadcast band if it was reallocated.
Am radios have been manufactured since the 1920’s (overs 100 years now) and basically work the same as they always did. Local and national broadcasters are still using the band because there IS a market for it. It may not be hi-fidelity but it works. I don’t think anyone listens to am for the great sound quality, they listen because it’s reliable even in the most remote areas, it’s a good source of information and entertainment and receivers are cheap and plentiful. There are far more analog radio receivers still in use today compared to the number of analog televisions back in 2009. The benefits of digitizing radio are far less than digitizing tv. People who want to listen to hi-fidelity music have been turning away from radio to other higher quality mediums for decades now, that’s nothing new. Analog radio both am and fm are going to be around for a long time to come. Most people are not going to spend a lot to cash to ” upgrade” a device that works fine the way it is.
The am band receives it’s life support from advertising and listeners who still use and enjoy am radio. The FCC is not funding these stations the advertisers and listeners are. If you don’t listen to am radio or can’t deal with a little static that’s understandable it may be dead to you, but then you don’t have a ball in this game, do you? If you’re not listening why are you concerned whether analog am radio exist or not? No one is forcing you to use it, there are plenty of alternatives. I alongside millions of other people do listen to am radio and enjoy it. AM RADIO is NOT DEAD, and I’m willing to bet it will outlive most of the people reading this.
Many good comments and a lot to think about, but with the current “fix” of AM, using translators stuffed into the FM band, don’t we really have two problems here.
1. We really are not fixing AM we are just moving the problem
2. We are creating a new problem by crowding up the FM band with all of these translators, thus completely saturating the FM band and making new points of interference for full service FM stations.
I say enough of this and let’s go for the real fix. Content is king and let’s fix it with content. I am a HUGE NY Mets fan and when the game is on AM, I tune to my AM station to listen to the game. If the game was on short wave or an HD only station I would make sure I had the receiver capable of pulling in the signal so I could listen to my NY Mets, please don’t ask me why I know I am a gluten for punishment!
Well, what if we were to fix both problems, FM overcrowding and AM listening with one solution.
Move all LPFM’s and translator owners that all want to program independently to the AM band, call it the CB band, “Community Broadcasting”. Give every church, charity, community group or local operator that wants to service their local community a free AM channel, and unlike LPFM, let them sell commercials and let them make a local living by supporting their local community. Give them low startup costs, low FCC fees and make it easy for them to apply. I bet you will find a band of local entrepreneurial radio operators that will create new and innovative programming that super serve their communities.
Let’s face it LPFM owners are all entrepreneurs, they have passion, resilience, and vision, they would create a service that would be unique and content rich. Give them the ability to shine on this new medium. While we are at it, let’s move the educational stations over as well, this could free up more of the FM band and give colleges and universities the chance to program and sell to support their service that they are all so passionate about.
The key is to make the migration cost effective and to come up with an incentive for current AM owners to participate financially in the transfer. We can help this band be self-sufficient. I know….the devil is in the details and there are a lot of details to be worked out with an idea like this, but isn’t that what we are supposed to do?
Rather than dismantle the entire AM band, don’t you think we are smart enough to make this work? This is a vision that can work, we need great radio people to give us their intellect to make this happen. “Great people stand out from others by their visions and not much by their intelligence”. We can fix AM it will be hard. A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work. Who’s got this?
John: While your idea of ‘Community Broadcasting’ on AM is a noble idea, what you envision won’t work for the very same reason that you raise with the FM band: Certainly, in the larger radio markets, the AM band, despite its technical and engineering problems that I have discussed, is also jam-packed. Unless I’m missing something in your suggestion, it is no more possible to shoehorn any more AM stations onto that band than what has happened with all of the Low-power FMs and translators on the FM band, which you rightly criticize. And, from another aspect, younger consumers are simply not going to migrate to the AM band in the huge way that you suggest or believe.
Sir, I am not suggesting we shoe horn in more stations I am suggesting we simply do away with the owners and companies that are holding onto these stations and doing nothing with them. Replace them with broadcasters who want to produce content. Yes, we need to find a way to compensate or buy out the current AM owners, think of it as Eminent Domain the right of a government or its agent to expropriate private property for public use, with payment of compensation.
Surely sir you are smarter than just throwing the entire band away? I am sure you could make something like this work.
This sounds like podcasting. Why not just make community podcasts or a community shoutcast station instead of doing all that work just to prolong a dying medium? You’d have an unlimited listening radius and wouldn’t have to deal with any owners or bureaucracy or massive up front costs. Companies are spending billions on podcasting lately so at least you know that’s more likely to have a future than AM radio. Using AM instead of something internet-based is automatically excluding most of your local population.
As an owner of an AM with 5k and lowest frequency I’m forced to relocate. Initially I was looking at a requirement for 29 acres of land, Over 400 foot tower, skyrocketing costs plus all the local ordinance requirements. The late Ron Rachley came up with a smaller footprint yet the costs are going to be over $100,000. It scary that AM us dead. I’m not sure if local not for profits can make it work but sure would be nice to see it. In the next town I heart owns a local AM they will not sell simply because they are afraid a local
Competitor with a strong AM program would give them competition
Translators ARE NOT the answer. The notion that a 5 wattt FM that extends 10 miles for an AM station that extends out 100 miles is trashing the FM dial for no reason. Travel to Nashville, TN and find me ONE Translator Operator that is running legally. It is not happening. FM is not the savior.
The amount of time spent by Broadcasters trying to figure out what is going to “take them out” is astounding. Stay relevant, keep aligned with new technology and just do it. QUIT trying to make it doomsday for an industry that is strong. The failures of iHeart and Cumulus have NOTHING to do with the technology-it has all to do with poor management.
Come on. WAKE UP!
The AM broadcast frequencies have always suffered from several severe inherent technical inadequacies. The biggest of them is: Night. AM broadcast is approaching one hundred years old. Any technology of that age is likely to have difficulty in a competitive arena when hampered by non-resolvable disadvantages.
Then there’s the DAB+ option. Never considered in the US, European radio is going all digital. Canada toyed with it, but didn’t follow through. Norway was the first to switch off analogue. Switzerland, where I manage the “LifeStyle 74” network, will go all DAB+ by 2024. Within 10 years you’ll scarcely hear an AM or FM signal on the Continent. DAB+ (174-240 MHz) could also work in North America on 88-108. Receivers are selling for as little as $30.
AM in Europe truly IS dead (for now), killed by the abundance of megawatt analogue signals in mutual destruction. (50 kW? That’s just a peanut whistle driver stage in Europe!)
FM is getting the boot too. Why? DAB+ packs a lot more programs into less spectrum, delivering more robust signals around mountains and into steel reinforced concrete buildings full of noisy electronics. 13 stereo audio programs and metadata fit into 1.6 MHz of spectrum on a single shared transmitter. Transmission costs are far less! On-frequency fill-in transmitters seamlessly enhance reception in shadowed areas and in tunnels. And no pirates to contend with! Imagine major US cities with 78 or more programs competing on an equal footing!
Yet, I still miss driving at night listening to sky wave: Radio Luxembourg, Deutsche Welle, Radio France, the BBC and US Armed Forces radio have vanished from AM (long, medium and shortwave). But the pendulum could swing back, like the vinyl record.
India is blazing trails using DRM, broadcasting quality stereo over long distances using short, medium and long waves. Cost of radios are cheap enough for the lowest casts to afford.
After the US converts VHF to digital, what will she do with all the spare spectrum from 150 KHz to 30 MHz? America out to be thinking down the road and start planning how to catch up!
Canada couldn’t follow through.
NAFTA guaranteed a free trade area for the USA, Canada and Mexico.
The broadcasters in the USA would not tolerate an expansion of audio broadcasting space that would degrade their investment that had “guaranteed worth” by scarcity.
So car radios in the NAFTA market after about 1989 no longer had AM stereo capabilities, and never had Eureka Digital mode.
In short, NAFTA forced Canada to follow the US business model.
Funny, I get calls every single weekend — even though my show is sandwiched between odious paid programs and I broadcast in the pre-dawn hours on AM radio. New listeners, repeat listeners, old listeners, young listeners. Every week.
I placed my first radio station, an AM, on the air in 1954. I operate state of the art FM in Los Angeles as well as a 20 KW AM station. AM radio is still viable if
the owners would invest in state of the art AM equipment, modern studios, and outstanding programing. Lazy, stingy AM operators as well as deregulation are impacting AM radio in a negative manner. New digital transmitters with HD Stereo, new processing, and vibrant programming would turn AM radio around.
Mount Wilson FM
Hello, Mr. Levine. You are a legend in the radio industry and I have a tremendous amount of respect for you. Thank you for your comment, here.
I would only amplify (no pun intended) on your ‘lazy, stingy AM operators’ comment by saying that the biggest of the AM station operators over the years, post-’96 Telecom Act, were/are complicit in not holding the FCC’s feet to the fire, so to speak, in protecting the AM band from the Part 15 and other interference that has so badly degraded the senior band…and, especially in the larger urban markets like yours, Los Angeles. These owners and operators should have been much more like you, in your diligence and commitment to AM.
Having said all this, and fundamentally agreeing with you, I do have to rib you a little bit, in the context of this particular discussion: The name of your company is…Mount Wilson **FM**…
AM can sound great, FM can sound great. Unfortunately it’s gone the way that TV is going next. My kids and their friends watch streaming shows on their phones and ipads. I’m glad to have spent the last 40 years in great radio stations that kicked butt.
Gary, Don’t make business decisions on what your kids are doing this month.
AM is still alive and well in Omaha on Boomer 1490. With three FMs, at least 50% of folks still listening on little old graveyard channel 1490. We love AM so much, I say let’s add a second one. Stay tuned.
You have no idea what you are talking about.
In my market people listen to am as much as they listen to our FM translator.
We continuously receive praise for how good our AM radio station sounds we are using an optomod 9100 a that has been recapped running very little processing on it it sounds wide and open just like a FM.
There are so many more things that I would love to say to you, but my mother always taught me if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything.
I agree with expanding the FM band from 76-108 Mhz but I don’t agree with a Full Digital Radio setup for many reasons. 1. Emergency announcements may not reach the intended audience without serious chopping. 2. People would have to buy all new technology if this was to happen. Often analog Radios are less expensive to make. And 3. Analog travels further than digital. This means less output from the transmitter is required.
Something that was not thought of in this article is users who enjoy broadcasting a short range via part 15 AM. Radio should bot only be for the big cats who have millions of dollars to broadcast. Allowing a small fraction for a General User Broadcast Service would stop the need for Radio Pirates (It won’t kill all pirates but will kill the innocent who just want to play or program a niche format for not profit). If you plan on dumping AM broadcasting for commercial use please don’t stomp the hobby broadcasters out. By making 520-1700 a General User Radio Service you at least offer a service for citizens who want to broadcast to a niche audience. Schools could easily afford a Radio Station setup as a teaching tool at low cost. And in rural areas or mountainous areas Hobby Broadcasting on AM would still allow viable use for an otherwise barely usable receiving area.
Please don’t forget that Digital Broadcasting over the air does have its issues and you can’t ignore this.
Wow… Great example of the ease, low cost/Benefit would be: DAB in Finland 🇫🇮 . Now they are already transforming TV to free up the spectrum needed to prepare for IoT. Over 5 years, Finland simply retrofitted existing autos (approx 25$ Or less if you DIY). They are far ahead in the game. Plenty great thoughts here, no matter. I’m not an engineer; I am well informed & degreed in Telco/B&C. ‘Start’ of Internet w/ a 2nd Biz degree w/ Telco emphasis & also earned my Senior Year of college credits writing my ‘Thesis’ about the future technologies nobody really knew of called ‘Satellite’ radio, in 1996. Radio has always survived, this time it will because it adapts to streaming and on demand as a hybrid model. It’s not rocket science from a business view, nor technological needs view. Peace & Music to ALLzya.
To say that AM cannot sound good is folly. Hi-fidelity AM can be done and WLW proved it in the late 1950’s when their home-built “Crosley-Rockwell Cathenode” transmitter went on the air. Designed and built by Crosley VP of engineering RJ Rockwell, the Cathenode transmitter had no modulation transformers and the audio coming out of it was flat from 20hz to 20,000hz. In fact, MacIntosh Audio did a test on the output of the xmtr and declared WLW to be the nations only high-fidelity AM station*. On another note, there are still a few stalwart AM stereo broadcasters out there using the C-QUAM standard if you can find an AM stereo radio, those stations sound incredible. HD-AM is becoming a non-starter because more and more AM’s are consolidating tower sites and its not possible to get the necessary bandwidth out of diplex or tri-plex antenna system to facilitate digital transmission on AM. Digital FM and analog AM stereo would be good combination moving forward. The part 15 interference issue is a problem, but if you’re listening within the 25mv/m of an AM, interference noise is minimal at best.
* – it’s amazing that we had better sounding AM in 1959 than we do today.
Robert, no one has bothered to refute your opening statement (“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”); perhaps they all accept that oft-repeated perverted excuse of a definition as being fact, instead of what it is, an idiotic but pithy little ditty (which you have chosen to use to introduce your opinion piece).
While your argument focuses upon AM’s technical/engineering issues, not it’s programming issues, AM’s content (whether or not transmitted via FM translators) suffers from very limited offerings, courtesy of the scourge of consolidation…a 24-hour program clock, and programming controlled by managers and decision-makers who in their focus on the “bottom line” all too frequently undermine the media’s power and purpose. Those who are not deemed desirable for inclusion in the very limited talk broadcast space can attempt to be heard amongst more than 650,000+ podcasts (progress?!). You may appeal to the federal government if you choose to, to supplant AM radio with a new and improved hybrid AM radio via all-digital FM or whatever means, but government will not solve this mess which it has facilitated.
AM Radio, technical issues, proper # of ads for stations….Robert Lee is an expert on everything. RADIOINK should just have him write the entire issue daily. Why haven’t I ever heard of him? Maybe he’s related to the other R. Lee who sent his entire army into the teeth of the Union at Gettysburg
Ed Ryan achieved his goal. Now he has column material for another few days
Bob, you sound like Alvin (see below). You come across as an angry old radio person, lashing out because you cannot deal with the massive technological changes happening. And your name-calling and inappropriate comments will not alter reality. It is typical that many long-term radio people- including owners, top executives, and even consultants (who are playing to the owners for their business) on this site- think that the solution is to lash out and find fault with other media, or worse to second-guess a client as to where they are spending THEIR money. The reality is, terrestrial radio is an antiquated technology. Yes, for sure many stations are and will take on a “new life” by way of streaming…if those stations offer more than just music. And yes, there is revenue-relevancy to many FM and AM stations for the next several years. But radio is not a long-term play, not at all. Most electronic retailers are not even selling radios any more. That says it all.
Your proposal about channels 5 and 6 is dead in the water as soon as Atsc 3 comes around. In fact the current repack is pushing more stations down to vhf lo. How about fix the issues instead of sounding the deathnail. People have been claiming radio is dead for decades, why does it never seem to go away?
I’m 34, I work in AM radio. The key to saving AM is not just programming, but sound quality…many of you are right younger people (under 40) don’t listen to AM, not because there is nothing they want to listen to. It is because they have, for the most part, grown up (and this grows truer literally every day) on digital sound…crisp, clear, sound…Even I who work in AM radio, prefer listening to our FM translators when possible because the sound quality is better. It is also true that everyone that drives the market…i.e. advertisers…have left AM, and many are leaving FM for TV, and Internet…with no money, there is no innovation…Personally, I would love to see the equivalent of ASTC 3.0 done for AM and FM radio…Technology that prevents channels from overlapping and interfering with each other & the ability to track when people are tuned in would be invaluable in bringing advertisers back into the radio sphere…What is one of the big reasons advertisers are leaving… it is because cable TV, and internet, can show them definitively how many people are seeing their advertisements, and not just a “well our average listenership each week is” In short, push AMHD/Digital/ and get radio some resources to be competitive.
All that said, AM will always have an audience, because as people age their interests move from listening to the same song 15 times a day to more of a talk format, and all the talk is still on AM.
Josh is absolutely right, and, if radio is going to save its bacon, on the business ledger, it will quickly and genuinely adopt what is known in the media — broadcast radio and TV, cable, Internet and other advertising platforms — as ‘metrics’. It gives advertisers the accountability and transparency they rightfully expect from the different media where they spend their money.
Radio is slow at adopting ‘metrics’, as compared to all the other media. It better get on the stick.
Wow… Josh, good to see you post here. 🙂 Remember me? 😉 I remember you as a little boy, now you’re all grown up. 🙂 Anyway, to the topic at hand… many comments here refer to CONTENT, and that is “king” when it comes to keeping people interested, and listening. So many stations are little more than “Someone else’s iPod with commercials”. I see comments from people on Facebook about “small town” Mom & Pop AM stations thriving. They super-serve and support their local communities, and those communities return the favor. How many times has someone said “RADIO IS DEAD” only to be proven wrong. I hope that’s the case here, again. Dropping TWO TV channels, and making room for another HUNDRED or so FM stations would be a great idea… but I don’t agree it should be 100% digital. There are **BILLIONS** of AM/FM radios still out there. Who wants to be responsible for sending THAT much hardware to the landfills of the USA? 😮 Not a pleasant thought.
As a NARTE-certified EMC Engineer for about fifteen years before I retired, I can tell you that Part 15 devices have contributed to the decline of AM radio use in the home. I’m no angel, so when I walk around my home, I can hear the buzzes, whines and squawks from clocks, DVRs, chargers and computers — ALL THINGS I BOUGHT AND BROUGHT HOME. [ emphasis intended ]
I am also a ham and I suspect the noise on 20m is mostly home-grown. If my health ever improves, I’ll go on EMI-safari and see what I can hunt down and kill.
That’s right, John.
And, I’ve also heard or read comments from engineers for the big, 50,000-watt, Class A ‘clear channel’ AMs, that even those monsters have had their signals degraded from all of the ‘Part 15’ onslaught!
If the Class A’s are being interference-damaged, we really have to feel sorry for the C and D (nighttime operation) smaller cousins.
Thanks a lot, FCC!!!
I’m really tired of the government deciding winners and losers. How many millions of perfectly good TV receivers were made totally obsolete by “digital?” The decline of AM began when receiver manufacturers, with FCC permission, started degrading the quality of components fir AM. Listen to the AM band on any pre1960s radio compared to one today and you’ll know why AM listening declined. Then came the folly of AM stereo and “let the marketplace decide which system is best.” Then came the debacle of massive ownership. The FCC is a pathetic olitical joke. If radio dies they should take the bulk of the blame.
You can add to your collection of government errors the brief era of AM Stereo, which sounded great…but the FCC chose one standard, then another, then threw up their hands and chose none. The result was a hodgepodge of systems that were incompatible and the death of a technology that provided clear, good sounding AM radio.
The last time I listened to AM was about a year ago while driving through Wyoming on a road trip, and the only reason was to laugh at the absurdity of it all. Spotify and podcasts are all anyone needs. Moving AM to the FM digital band won’t do anything. I’m a 46-year-old tech guy and I’ve never owned a digital radio. The entire radio listening audience will literally be dead within 20 years. Just let it go. Get yourselves a podcast on Spotify. They gained another 25 million new subscribers in 2018 alone. Absolutely nothing will save AM.
“Radio will be dead in ten years. Get your content on MySpace or die.”
I really did hear that threat 15 years ago. Can’t think of why I’m bringing it up now….
It’s because you’re stuck in the past.
So how did your Spotify work in rural Wyoming? I presume the answer is not at all!
It worked just fine because Spotify lets you do offline playback, something that AM radio doesn’t offer. Podcasts are equally superior to AM radio in rural areas.
Just because one states AM isn’t doing well in New York, LA and other big cities doesn’t mean the rest of the country– without those interference issues in the big cities, doesn’t listen to it. Or, more importantly, NEED it. The long distances AM travels can really be a life-saver in emergency situations. Tornado alley comes to mind. AM radio has issues, for sure. It’ll never see the glory days of the 40s, 50s and 60s but, it’s not dead. Does my 20 year old listen to AM radio? No. She doesn’t listen to FM radio either! When she wants music she uses her smart phone. Programmers, remember back when you were creative? Time to get creative again! I’m telling you now that community involvement is the key to saving radio on BOTH bands!
Thomas Lacko, Frederick, MD
It is, again, a very different issue than the technical/engineering ones, Tom; but, yes, if even FM broadcast radio is to survive long-term, it must return to the essential ‘localism’ concept of genuine community service and meeting local needs. If not, there is nothing to differentiate broadcast radio from satellite radio or online audio streaming.
On that, I am in total agreement with you…
AM is dead? Tell that to KYW, WINS, and other high-billing AM stations! The worst enemies of AM are lousy programming (who wants to listen to endless political rants and infomercials?), poor receivers, lousy management, and all that Part 15 and 18 crap that pollutes the band with man-made noise. Add to that the iBiquity IBOC system, whose digital sidebands interfere with stations 20 kHz away. Those young people who “never listen to AM” will readily listen to it to hear a major sporting event or news item that they may not be able to get on their smartphones. WFAN in New York has always had plenty of young listeners, even before it added an FM facility.
If the FM band is expanded (and the existing band is being choked with translators), why do the new stations have to be digital? That only increases the cost of the receivers. As signal strength decreases, an analog signal degrades gradually. But the increasing bit errors in decoding the degrading digital signal will treat you to a delightful “skipping CD” sound before the receiver mutes completely. Some analog car radios can be reprogrammed to include a second FM band from 66-73 or 76-90 MHz. Those bands are already used for FM in Eastern Europe, Japan, and South Korea.
It is very doubtful that the TV broadcast industry can or will be able to give up any more channels. Every available VHF channel is being used by stations that had to vacate their UHF channels with the repacking mandated by the FCC. Many stations are or will be sharing a channel by using multicasting. In Allentown, PA, THREE stations share channel 9: WBPH, WLVT, and WFMZ-TV. But there is a limit to the number of program streams that can be carried on one channel.
With a lot of land mobile and public safety radio systems abandoning the low VHF band, there could be a possibility of allowing FM radio to use its original band of 42-50 MHz as an expansion band. But television interference could be a problem, as the intermediate frequency of most TV sets falls in that band. Co-location of the FM stations at TV sites would alleviate this problem.
You want digital radio? I already own a digital radio. “Hey Alexa, play my favorite station!” If AM programmers want to become digital, they have an easy solution: Stream your signal.
While I agree that AM is not a “growth” industry,there are great examples, especially in rural areas like mine, where AM is very viable. The bigger trend is now rediscovery of long gone technologies like vinyl records and cassettes. AM radio is like the covered bridge. They’re not building new ones, but there’s a lot of nostalgia about our AM heritage. Let the poor operations die and keep the good AM’s on the air!
Anyone rediscovering radio is going to be immediately turned off by the nonstop commercials. Vinyl and cassettes don’t have that. And it’s unlikely they’d go to AM to get nostalgic for radio in the first place.
Lol…again, that’s another serious issue, Brad. Yes, radio managers and owners need to ‘bigly’ reconfigure the length and frequency of their stop sets, i.e., commercial breaks.
As with the post-’96 Telecom Act, which led to the station acquisition feeding frenzy, radio owners and operators entered into the vicious cycle of lowering their spot rates to take business away from competitors…and there goes the unending downward spiral of spot rates, which means you have to run more spots to try to make up for the rate cut.
Trust me, as an industry insider, that really pisses off a lot of us, the seemingly non-stop commercial breaks that turn off listeners, literally and figuratively, in a big way. Aye!!!
A lot has changed since the 96 act. Spot rates have gone up and down, and the size of spot clusters today have more to do with increasing costs and increased competition than anything else. Advertisers have lots of choices. If your spot rate isn’t competitive with other media, you won’t get a sale. Radio stations can’t just raise their rates and cut inventory. It’s not that simple. What most companies are doing is diversifying their revenue streams so that all revenue isn’t tied to :30 spots. The ONLY way to cut commercial breaks is to get revenue from other places besides the air signal. That means digital, that means NTR, that means a lot of other things. But getting rid of spots won’t change the fundamental problems with AM Radio. And cramming more translators on to the FM band just adds more clutter and causes more tune-out.
I’ve found over the year’s that when the author has to defend himself in the comments that he was just looking for headlines and an argument. Isn’t it a wonderful era to live in.
I’m not ‘defending’ myself, Dave, with my follow-up comments, nor am I ‘arguing’ with anyone, in the negative context of that word.
Due to editorial space constraints, I could not write the piece as long as I would have liked to, in order to include all aspects of the issue. The comments are my forum in which to elaborate further.
I disagree. Why shouldn’t the author engage with those who comment? That’s just being interactive; more like a conversation. Some might even say it’s like talk radio. Go figure. You don’t have to agree with his/her conclusions or arguments.
Dumb idea to create a new FM band and call it AM radio?
First, it’ll require new receivers capable of tuning in the sub FM band unless one happens to have one of those rare FM radios that already goes down to 72 MHz.
Second, it won’t have the propagation characteristics that sets AM radio apart from FM & TV, characteristics that permit long range nighttime reception for some allocations.
Third, is the need for a new tower location for a VHF antenna versus AM broadcast as you will need greater HAAT for similar coverage.
It makes more sense to continue to find translator frequencies for AM stations and then turn off amplitude modulation and instead do 100% digital preferably using DRM or staying with IBOC for compatibility with existing HD radios. The translators could eventually go dark once the transition to digital AM is complete and there are sufficient receivers out there.
Even with DRM, Ira, the signal would still suffer from the interference/propagation problems that plague the underlying AM band, and especially at night. DRM, being digital, would be somewhat of a step up, technically, but the ‘noise floor’ interference impacts it, too, because of the characteristics of the AM bandwidth that it would still sit in.
True for sky-wave reception. Nighttime will always be plagued with fading, etc. But for ground-wave in city the AM digital signal will be pretty much the equal of FM, certainly better than a 250 watt FM translator. And of course, the FCC not enforcing stricter standards for part 15 accidental radiators in the name of progress did much to hurt the AM band. But broadcaster laziness has likely been a bigger contributor. Recall when FM was a fledgling service? They were typically simulcasting their AM cousins. It wasn’t until the FCC mandated a minimum number of hours of unique programming in major markets that FM took off. And even then, stations like WQXR in NYC merely shifted playback times to “comply” with FCC rules.
I read the Robert Lee article concerning AM radio as I listened to WIND out of Chicago-some 140 miles south-west of Chicago. The signal is perfect. I’m not making this up. Try that with digital. I hope my radio doesn’t realize that AM is dead. Jerry Scott, Pekin, Illinois
I can listen to WIND-AM in North Carolina at any time of the day.
At Noon, Dennis Prager will be on WIND, but I can go to dennisprager.com and listen 24/7 for free or $7.50 per month for “on demand”. SiriusXM has proven that people will pay for content.
Full service AM still serves a function with local programming in rural America, but that is also where FM channels are available to keep the station at full power after sunset.
As I have watched the FM translator rollout, “saving AM radio” has turned to “ending AM radio” if you view AM radio as a format rather than a technology. Owner after owner reimages to the FM frequency and changes format from traditional AM formats (news/talk, sports, classic country, nostalgia) to more contemporary music.
formats. It is an open secret that some AM stations just turn off the transmitter after the audience migrates to FM.
You can use radio-sure to stream WIND and most other radio stations for free
If its on the internet its not free… AM radio is free.
A-M radio is not dead! It is a viable and excellent community broadcast vehicle that should be left alone. Its longevity alone proves that. Unless the writer is an A-M Radio station owner, he has no idea what the real value of an A-M radio station in the right community can and does do to benefit that community. My station has been on the air since 1950 and until 11 years ago we had a transmitter that actually had four tubes to power it. We upgraded with a state of the arts transmitter and it has served us well. When more owners focus on our primary mission of “Serving the public interest” instead of profits we will be more effective across the band. The problem with A-M stations is not its programming or static, but rather those White male owners who have monopolized the industry since 1934. When they had to give up some of their stations to women and minorities as a result of the FCC’s 1978 Statement of Policy on Minority Ownership of Broadcast Facilities and were forced to share, which ones did they give up? The A-Ms of course. Because they viewed them as their least valuable unless they were A-Ms like WDIA, WSM, WLS, WHO, or WWL. Then when they were forced to share they proceeded to undermine the value of the A-Ms by any means necessary including lobbying the auto industry to stop installing A-M radios in new vehicles and lobbying for stricter rules for A-Ms. Getting rid of A-M radio stations is not about static or programming. It is about race, equity and fairness in America. Consider the findings of a report done by S. Derek Turner, Research Director of the Free Press dated June 2007 : “….The results of this study reveal a dismally low level of female and minority ownership of radio stations in America that has left two-thirds of the U.S. population with few stations representing their communities or serving their needs.
• Women own just 6 percent of all full-power commercial broadcast radio stations, even though they comprise 51 percent of the U.S. population. Non-Hispanic white owners control 87.2 percent of the full-power commercial broadcast radio stations operating in the United States.
I agree with Clark that “….An A-M signal can/does get ratings with solid programming.” But Patrick sums it up best for those of us in rural areas with his comment “Don’t kill a good horse.”
Give us an opportunity to represent and unify our communities with good programming for the majority of the people we serve. It will take a little more time, but it can and will be done.
Right on, Poe!
And another uninformed person makes a comment about which they have no clue whatsoever. Number one, TV channels 5 and 6 are not going anywhere! Due to the repack and ATSC version 3 coming along, the channels will be used again.
the difference between television and radio is very easily seen no pun intended! TVs could use an external converter but how the hell are you going to do that in millions of automobiles? When you dig your head out of your………….dash and tell me the answer I’ll be glad to hear it otherwise you need to grow the hell up!
AM is not dead and can be fixed if the FCC would only do it right! we don’t need naysayers like you running around saying that it’s dead give it up! I’m sorry but I have a large investment in AM and I intend to keep it and I don’t intend to see it get drowned by people like you with a piss poor attitude about the service
Only thirty TV stations will be repacked into low VHF. That’s a non-issue
Just another grabber headline and Ed Ryan’s favorite old picture of a kid from 80 years ago to stir the pot. Technical aspects, you say? Why then are you and millions of others enthralled watching a You-Tube with crappy audio on a cell phone? Oh. That’s right-because it’s cool now.
Hmm…I’m not sure the analogies you’re using, Bob, are on point.
But, the YouTube videos I watch on my phone sound pretty good when listened to through earbuds or Bluetooth…and certainly much better-sounding than today’s analog, monaural AM radio…from a technical aspect.
‘Cool’, to a lot of us, would be the best of the AM programming — again, a different issue, though — heard in wonderful, all-digital FM. If the content is great on AM, it will perform equally well on better-sounding digital FM.
The AM band will still be there, you can’t move the band. 540-1700 KHZ is still around. That’s just physics 101.
So what he is sugesting is just the same thing as the FCC is doing with the FM Translators for AM except on a different frequency.
Channel 5 and Channel 6 are at 76 and 85 MHZ repectively. This would be just an expansion of the FM band to 76 MHZ to 108 MHZ. Nothing new here.
Is that a good idea, yes, then take 88-91.9 MHZ and move all those to the AM band, along with all the religous broadcasters (i.e. EMF) to all the open AM frequencies. Then 88.1 to 91.9 can be used for new commerical stations.
The big issue would be the addition of 76-88 MHZ to all radios.. That’s a 10 year progression.
At any rate, the BCB band will be around for quite a while even if this idea could be implimented.
So how would the author suggest the FCC implement this? He is using the TV change to digital as an example of why the AM needs to be abandoned and FM needs to be all digital, but when TV made the switch, the government funded the converter boxes for consumers to purchase. From what I understand, there is no such converter box for radio. So what would happen to those that do not have an HD capable receiver in their vehicle or at home? If there is a converter box, would the government fund consumer purchases of such boxes? Would consumers even care?
I would submit that right now there are many AM’s that could move to digital FM now, especially in the urban areas were station groups have digital FM sub channels. I have seen some AM owners put the AM on a digital FM sub-channel. So why are they not turning of the AM signal then? They would save money on electricity, maintenance and could sell off valuable tower site land. As a matter of fact, why are there so many FM translators rebroadcasting FM HD sub-channels? Could it be that even the owners are not convinced that HD radio will have the reach that analog radio has?
I’m all for using new technology, but lets be careful before the industry jumps head first into something that may make things worse. Last I checked, my truck still uses wheels that were developed a long time ago!
It IS all about programming. But, when you roll it off at 3K, playing music doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
It’s time to pressure the manfacturers for better receivers…that’s the problem..
My stereo AM xmtr sounds great on a wideband mono radio and beats the local FM competition in quality on a Sony FM/AM stereo tuner!
The manufacturers are all in China. Good luck getting them to do what you want.
Yes, the FCC, even with my idea for all-digital, expanded-band (and the incumbent 88 – 108 MHZ band, as well) FM, would have to mandate that all broadcast radio receivers include both the expanded band frequencies (76 – 88 MHZ) and digital decoding.
As has been mentioned, the FCC’s ‘let the free market decide’ AM stereo decision in the early ’80s was a debacle…and, that was not the only neglect that the Commission obviously let happen with the AM band. Now, as I contend, it is just too late…
As we’ve seen, the FCC and the US government have no sway with China. They will do whatever they want, and don’t care about US mandates. Selling broadcast radios isn’t much of a business for them, and no one is chomping at the bit to replace them. They make more money with internet radios (like the Echo) and phones. Any mandated digital radio service will face the same fate as HD Radio.
If your going to get the FCC to mandate the receiver manufactures get the expanded band fm(which they won’t by the way), then why not just mandate receivers that get AM-AM-Cquam-AMHD-FM-FMHD, with variable bandwith and have the radio tune from 540am-108FM with no “band” switch? Then let the owners decide what they want to do.
This is truly a head heart conflict. There are minimal people between the ages of 18-49 that will flip to the AM band for any reason. They have grown up in a world where, except in isolated incidents, where it didn’t exist. They have been educated that radio is FM. Those who listen to AM today, grew up with AM as a viable option. As those people, of which I am included, reach the end of the treadmill of life, AM usage will disappear. Until all the of the technological advancements of our day are invested into the AM band, it will never recover. That was supposed to happen 30 years ago. The AM radio in most cars is still using 1950’s technology. The amount of RF noise in the city destroys AM listening. That issue will not be addressed. There are four 10kw AM signals for sale in one top 50 market at this moment with no takers. They can not compete for revenue. I would love to see the AM band revitalize, but in the right way. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that will happen. The track record speaks for itself. You hate to give up spectrum, but where is the convergence taking us. The real questions for us all is what is more important; The preservation of the AM band or the insurance that radio is united and strong viable free service to the community?
actually the technology for AM radio in modern cars is much better than it was in the 1950s with the exception of one thing, but first let me touch on the improvements. Phase lock loop tuning, digital readout, bass and treble control, and for those lucky enough maybe even AM stereo if they have an older receiver that can still work there. The major problem, narrow IF filters and narrow audio bw filters that rolls off the frequency response at a horrible mid-range point. We need to get manufacturers to actually come out with AMAX qualified radios with decent bandwidth, AM stereo, noise blanketing and other features to improve the AM reception but until we get pressure on them they’re not going to do a damn thing
If I was going to respond it would be varbatim your post!!!
You are right and I’m scared that you are the only person pointing this out! Does anyone look to see what stations are selling for in their markets? It’s a pretty good indicator for what your station Is worth. Nobody under 45 listen to AM radio in a top 30 market (so says Nielsen)! WTF are we talking about, (serving the public is secondary) if we can’t monetize an AM signal there won’t be any serving the public. I’m trying to make money. The dollars spent on the AM signal are tiny compared to the FM dial. Case in point…….
Pull up your MKA report and see how much money was spent in one month on the entire AM dial. Now look at your MKA report and compare how much money was spent in your market on digital in that same month.
Times change, AM is riding of into the sunset. Technology is king and we need to embrace that quickly.
And word on the street is Beasley is shutting down two of their three South Florida AM properties (Boca Raton; between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach) that rest on a common piece of land in Northwestern Broward–an area that has HUGE construction boom with housing, apartments, and strip malls. The agressive progress in the arae squeezed them out. Selling the land is more profitable than relocation. So that tells you that both stations, one an LMA and the other a pay-to-pay operation, weren’t making enough money. In fact, the story goes that BBGI has had them on the block since they pulled out of Miami–and they had no takers. And, it is to be noted that both stations had dual FM translators. So much for the “AM Reviatalation Plan.” So, argue Mr. Lee’s point all you want, but AM radio is dead.
In Buffalo, AM radio has huge ratings, including my station WECK. How is that considered dead? I do agree, I wish it sounded better.
WECK, I notice, uses **two** FM translators to reach listeners in the Buffalo area.
Why did WECK ownership decide to invest in **two** FM translators, if the AM signal was performing ‘hugely’ on its own? How many of your listeners have migrated away from the AM station to listen on your two FM ‘stations’?
Way to call out his BS Robert.
He wouldn’t be able to say that on a stand alone AM. Why are people so scared to admit this in a top 50 market???
Nothing personal, your baby isn’t ugly, blah blah blah….
Long live AM baby. It’s above the noise of traditional FM that has embraced voice-tracking and cookie cutter formats. In Marietta Ohio WMOA AM 1490 is the horse of our operation. Give me vinyl, give me ‘live’ keep it local on the drive!
Completely agree…The current technology just doesn’t work in today’s environment! Digital is real and listenable!..In fact, all radio should be just digital!
That’s right, Bruce.
Of the two broadcast media, TV and radio, the latter remains mired in decades-old analog mediocrity.
Broadcast TV has not only been ‘basic’ digital for several years, now, but it is going to be advancing to the next digital format, ATSC 3.0, with many programming and data offerings for consumers.
The FCC needs to overcome its decades-long neglect and too-late ‘AM revitalization’ and push broadcast radio into the 21st century with all-digital FM. Our neighbors, Canada and Mexico — and other countries — have, for several years, migrated away from AM radio and required their shutdown when a new FM frequency is granted and operational. Those nations and their policymakers get it; so far, the FCC just trails along, stuck in the past.
The FCC doesn’t “need” to do anything. They can handle it the way other govt agencies handle things: Benign neglect. The reason why the US can’t follow other countries is because of private ownership rather than govt ownership.
My general response: I am addressing the technical/engineering ‘death’ of AM radio, not its programming and content.
I listen to AM radio just about every day, to some great personalities and shows. And, because they are immensely popular and successful on AM radio, they will do equally well on the other band, in all-digital FM.
AM radio itself, is dead…not its programming.
Kill AM? Preposterous! To do what with? To abandoned precious spectrum to lie fallow? To alienate long distance drivers towards monopoly-controlled satellite channels?
AM is NOT dead! So much great radio listening happens only on wide area AM stations, serving thinkers, movers and shakers. AM radio remains, with or without static and FM translators, the oasis of choice for thirsty minds, amidst a violent sea of brain-numbing pop and country “music” and foul-mouthed shock jocks. If kids are growing up to be idiots, we broadcasters must share the blame for the trash we’re feeding them.
Radio broadcasting is NOT first and foremost about cheap entertainment, bottom lines and profits. It is a market place of ideas…news, dialogue, debate, thinking. The spectrum belongs to “we the people”, not just licensees. It’s about learning, exchanging thoughts, people building, and healing of our broken nation. The more varied the voices heard, the better our model of broadcasting works.
Expanding the FM band downwards, to include TV channels 5 and 6? Great idea! Long overdue. Digitizing? It’s highly spectrum efficient and cleaner sounding. And, yes, give priority to AM stations desiring to switch to the new band, but reserve generous space for genuine new entrants on AM, FM or Digital.
And by all means the Commission must move to eliminate channel hogging. Limit to ONE the number of stations (voices) anyone owns in a market and band. No one but fat cats is served by deregulation.
Improved sound quality? Diversifying operators and formats? Expanded choices? Awesome! But I conscientiously object to murder, and firmly reject any attempt to euthanize our priceless AM radio service!
AM radio started it all for broadcasting. Adaptive radiation is the mandate. An AM signal can/does get ratings with solid programming. It can also transmit or connect to FM, HD, www and all the ships at sea. Audio delivery need content, curation, connection and sponsors. Great on air can be heard anywhere. Work on what we delivery and use every creative resource and channel to do it.
Perhaps part of the conversation can attend to the fact that there are so many bad AM stations still on the air.
Anybody who drives through the night or are already picking up evening broadcasts from semi-distant AM stations can still enjoy having contact with the world – but only if that contact has value through programming.
I recall one of my PD’s claiming that: “AM, FM or Short Wave – it’s all about Programming.”
I will admit that my thoughts may be clouded by those years of working a clear channel, 50,000 watt blowtorch. It was a small thrill, but a thrill nevertheless, of being contacted by DX-ers from a thousand miles and more away.
This guy needs more fiber in his diet. AM is alive and well.
Bullsbreath: Let’s save AM Radio, even go to the idea of Cquam again. Truckers, and the community of the highway the backbone of this nation depend on AM radio. Don’t kill a good horse.
John Bolton once said if you lost the top 10 floors of the UN not much would be lost and the same if many marginal shoehorned operations left the air. In the end I’m voting for FEMA who understand the it will be the AM stations mapped as LINCHPINS for THE way when our citizens need to be addressed. I support the FEMA in bringing to light the highly touted Cell phone was today’s transistor radio that would reach the masses. How well did cellular work for us after Nine Eleven and since with other catastrophes . Regardless of how the FCC finally slices this pie my vote is with FEMA. Trust me they do have a plan.
B M E
O & O
You tell only half the story, Bruce, when you bring up FEMA and public emergency notices. FEMA also includes all the FM NPR stations across the country in its emergency notification infrastructure.