FCC opens proceeding on AM revitalization


FCCMB Docket 13-249 will take up proposals to bring renewed vigor to America’s senior broadcast band, largely along lines previously announced by Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn. Your comments will be accepted upon publication of the proposal in the Federal Register.

The proposals include:

* Opening FM translator permits exclusively for the use of AM licensees

* Modifying daytime community coverage standards for existing AMs

* Modifying nighttime standards as well

* Eliminating the AM “Ratchet Rule” on grounds it didn’t fulfill its original purpose and inhibits action by current stations

* Permitting wider use of modulation dependent carrier level control technology

* Modifying AM antenna efficiency standards

NAB President/CEO Gordon Smith signaled the organizations full support of the initiative. He said, “NAB salutes the leadership of Acting Chair Mignon Clyburn and FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai for taking a strong interest in revitalizing AM radio, which has a long and storied history of providing America’s hometowns with news, entertainment, sports and community affairs information. AM radio is a cultural touchstone and jobs generator in cities large and small; many of the top revenue-generating stations are on the AM band. We strongly endorse the revitalization proceeding and stand ready to work with the FCC to develop meaningful solutions.”

Clyburn stated, “AM radio is part of the foundation of our media landscape, which has tied communities together for generations. Today, it is one of the more diverse parts of our dial. Female-owned and minority-owned stations make up a greater percentage of stations on the AM dial than the FM dial. And my professional career was buoyed on an AM station in South Carolina, so I have a special affection for the AM service and its place in our culture. But there are many threats to AM service. Listeners are migrating to newer, higher-fidelity media services, which is leading AM stations to shut down and listenership to dwindle. To help AM stations weather the tide, this item identifies challenges that should be addressed and proposes remedies. For example, due to the propagation characteristics of AM signals, many stations must reduce their power at night, and some are unable to broadcast at that time. We propose to modify the nighttime coverage rules to keep more stations on the air after dark. Moreover, reinforced buildings and structures with steel frames or aluminum siding can block AM signals and lead to poor reception in many urban areas. Our proposals to open an FM translator filing window just for AM licensees and to modify the daytime community coverage standards intend to give licensees more flexibility to deliver their programming to listeners in urban areas. Finally, electricity bills for AM broadcasters can be high. Our proposal to let AM licensees use Modulation Dependent Carrier Level control technologies or algorithms is intended to reduce those bills and lower operating costs.”

Added Commissioner Ajit Pai, “This is a great day. It’s been over two decades since we last comprehensively reviewed our AM radio rules. Over that time, the AM band has struggled. Interference problems, declining listenership, and other factors have brought the band low. But millions of Americans—myself included—still rely on and believe in AM radio. So last September, I proposed that the FCC launch an AM radio revitalization initiative. Today, we are doing just that. This Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) kicks off a landmark effort.”