Clyburn kicks on NPRM on AM upgrade


Mignon ClyburnActing FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn is planning a six-plank NPRM to help revitalize the AM band, including among other things an opportunity to fill signal holes with an FM translator. The proposal quickly earned the full-throated support of Ajit Pai, making it a bipartisan agenda item.

She said, “We’re granting experimental authorization for all-digital AM operation and improving protection to AM stations from potential re-radiators and/or pattern disturbances. And I am happy to confirm that this morning I circulated a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which will represent the next major step in the Commission’s review of AM service, building on the work we have been doing over the last few years.”

Here’s what’s in the NPRML

* One, opening a one-time filing window, limited to current AM licensees and permittees, which will allow each to apply for one new FM translator station tofill in its service area.

* Two, relaxing the AM daytime community coverage rule to allow existing AM broadcasters more flexibility to propose antenna site changes.

* Three, and similar to the second proposal, relaxing the AM nighttime community coverage standards, which will also provide broadcasters, who may have difficulty finding suitable sites, relief for towers and directional arrays.

* Four, eliminating the AM “ratchet rule,” which requires an AM station to “ratchet back” its nighttime signal to reduce interference to certain other AM stations. The rule, while intended to reduce nighttime AM interference, has instead discouragedservice improvements and has apparently resulted in a net loss of interference-free AM, nighttime service.

* Five, permitting wider implementation of Modulation Dependent Carrier Level, or “MDCL” control technologies, which allow broadcasters to reduce power consumption. We propose to allow AM stations to implement MDCL operation by simply notifying the Commission, rather than having to seek experimental authorization or waiver.

* Six, modifying AM antenna efficiency standards by reducing minimum effective field strength values by approximately 25 percent, thus allowing the use of shorter AM antennas.

Pai commented, “I applaud Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn for circulating a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking aimed at revitalizing AM radio. The item outlines many promising ideas for improving the service offered by AM broadcasters and reducing the regulatory burdens placed on AM stations. AM radio is older than the Federal Communications Commission. It has been an integral part of American culture for decades. But the AM band faces many challenges today, which is why I proposed one year ago tomorrow that the FCC launch an initiative to revitalize it. Since then, I’ve heard from AM broadcasters and listeners all across the country asking the FCC to take action. Today, thanks to Chairwoman Clyburn’s leadership, we have taken the first step in responding to their voices.”


  1. The only viable solution is to remove the new stations (newer than January 1, 1970) and the “little” stations (less than 5,000 watts at night) from the medium wave band. The remaining stations would regain their quality of signal excluding the interference from power lines. The stations removed from the band should become digital stations in the 76 to 87.8 MHz digital audio band… Yes, we need a digital only band. Let’s use the Opus codec and make the system a variation of DRM. We can call it DRA or Digital Radio America. Each station would use a variation of DRM that allows five 72Kbps channels that could run as five independent audio signals or could be linked together in various configurations allowing up to 360 Kbps for the station. There are certain medium wave channels such as 1230 Khz and 1490 Khz that would be turned into higher power channels so the large areas with few stations could have service. I imagine that Arizona would have a high power station as Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico have now.

  2. These are relaxations of the ‘standards’ to help reduce or to boost interference as experienced by the average listener? Especially item #4, elimination of the night-time power reduction rule.

    In actuality, these proposed changes represent cost-cutting measures for both the FCC and the broadcaster, with a corresponding loss in future ‘quality’ on the AM broadcast band.

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