FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has responded to the concerns of two Congressmen regarding potential interference to class A AM radio stations and the possibility of impacting Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) alerts by way of a form letter, expressing mild gratitude for their interest in what could be a matter of national security.
In identical letters dated Nov. 17 to Reps. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.) and Donald Payne (D-N.J), Wheeler thanked the members of Congress for expressing concern about the “Revitalization of the AM Radio Service” proceeding’s impact on FEMA’s ability to provide timely emergency alerts and warnings to the public.
He added, “This issue is one of many that Commission staff is considering as they review the record in this proceeding. In the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, we specifically asked what effects, if any, would changes in protection of Class A AM stations have on Emergency Alert System Primary Entry Point stations during emergencies.”
Wheeler then reminded Donovan, Chairman of the Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications Subcommittee, and Payne, the subcommittee’s ranking member, that they noted in their letter to Wheeler that the FEMA Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Program Management Office filed comments in the proceeding.
“I can assure you that Commission staff will take FEMA’s comments and views into consideration as they continue their review,” Wheeler said. “Your views are very important and will be included in the record of the proceeding and considered as part of the Commission’s review. Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.”
It is the view of Donovan and Payne that the nighttime signals of Class A AM radio stations are a matter of Homeland Security, in that any interference could “impact the ability to provide timely alerts and warnings to the public.”
Donovan and Payne are based in districts where some of the Class A AMs include New York-based giants WFAN-AM 660, WOR-AM 710, WABC-AM 770, WCBS-AM 880, and WBBR-AM 1130. At night, these stations can be heard in nearly 38 states and in parts of Canada.
RBR + TVBR OBSERVATION: There are always two sides to every story, and FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn is likely an influential voice when it comes to AM radio stations and why nighttime Class A protections might need to be lowered. The National Association of Black-Owned Broadcasters (NABOB) favors a loosening of the protections, on the grounds that minority broadcasters would be able to better reach their audiences, thus leading to increased ratings and bigger opportunities for profits. We certainly understand the importance of reaching multicultural listeners in the most effective way possible, but a unilateral reduction of Class A protections could result in a cacophony of chaos in a time of emergency. Despite what some may think, the AM band is still vitally important. Go watch the Will Smith film I Am Legend and pay close attention to the scene where he transmits his S.O.S. broadcast on “all AM frequencies.” This isn’t Science Fiction: AM is what will keep our nation together should a catastrophic event occur. Making sure WABC’s signal is heard clearly in Pittsburgh at 11 p.m. may not seem important, but it is a matter of a national security. The same goes for being able to tune to WLW-700 from Cincinnati while driving between Dothan, Alabama and Panama City Beach, Florida, or hearing WOAI-AM 1200 in San Antonio in Mesa, Arizona after dark. The FM band has been screwed up enough with the ill-advised placement of translators in areas like the Upper Hudson Valley of New York, resulting in a MHz Mess for drivers of Route 28 between Kingston and Woodstock. Let’s leave the big AMs alone. Our lives may depend on it. NABOB may wish to have their members collectively create a fund for FM translator acquisitions should increased reach be of maximum interest.