(By Robert Lee) “It’s all in the numbers.”
What do these storied AM stations have in common: WOR, WCBS, WLW, KDKA, WOR, KNX, WLS, KMOX, KSL, KFBK, WBZ? And more.
Yes, they are all famous, legacy AM stations. Some have been around for 70-plus years. Yes, they are all big, 50,000-watt “flamethrower” Class A AM outlets.
And, these historic “little c” clear channel AM stations all now have an FM presence.
Whether on a full-power, co-owned FM station, an FM HD sub-channel, or an FM translator, the numbers show that 43 of the 58 Class A AMs in the lower 48 states are also being broadcast on the FM band. That is a 74% total — a so-called supermajority. That is the reality of where today’s radio station owners and operators see consumer listening to broadcast radio going. Or, as I’ve said, “AM radio is dead.”
And that supermajority number of AMs-on-FM is just the Class A AMs. Include the Class B, C, and D AM stations on FM, and the case is even stronger. The reality is what it is.
I recently penned a piece for this website that drew a lot of passionate responses from readers who, in many cases, used some strong language to essentially assert that I am engaging in heresy by calling for the end of AM radio broadcasting in the U.S. and migrating all AM stations to the FM band. In order to accommodate the move of thousands of AM signals to FM, I have proposed creating an all-digital expanded FM band in what is now the television Channels 5 and 6 bandwidth, along with eventually, by a mandated “date certain,” the digitization of the incumbent FM band at 88 to 108 MHz.
From a different perspective, AM station owner Ben Downs, also here in Texas, recently filed a Petition For Rulemaking with the FCC, proposing that AM radio can be saved by allowing AM owners to voluntarily convert their senior band stations to a particular digital format, HD MA3. His effort was also featured in a Radio Ink story.
So, I again write an AM-to-FM piece, first, because of the Downs proposal to the FCC, and, second, because Chairman Pai and the other Commissioners are currently engaged in a critical, Congressionally mandated Quadrennial Review, whereby the FCC commissioners and staff are directed to “…determine whether the rules remain necessary in the public interest as the result of competition” and to repeal or modify any rule it finds is no longer in the public interest.” While this Quadrennial Review does not specifically include any review of technical and engineering standards, it can be amended, with proper public notice, to do so. Meanwhile, there is the concurrent FCC Proceeding 17-105, “Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative,” which does address the updating of engineering/technical standards in radio and TV broadcasting. I filed comments to that latter proceeding, arguing for shutting down the AM band and moving the AM stations to the FM band, expanded and existing. I continue to believe that transitioning all radio broadcasting in the U.S. to all-digital FM is the way to go, and to put AM behind us.
Chairman Pai and Commissioners: Sometimes the numbers – and technical truths – don’t lie. As with broadcast television, let’s bring broadcast radio into the 21st century…on FM.
Robert Lee is the owner of QXZ MediaWorks in Waco, Texas, and can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org