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10/1/2009 10:44 AM
 

Few articles in RW recently have generated as much reader reaction as "Is AM Radio Still Relevant?" in the Sept. 1 issue. Intended as the first in a series exploring both successes and challenges of AM, the initial article looked at current obstacles facing AMs in general and included some pretty downer observations from several industry experts.

RW will be publishing commentaries from AM advocates in response. But what do you think? Long-term, does AM radio in the U.S. have a future? What are its strengths? What are its obstacles? Log in and comment!

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10/2/2009 2:57 PM
 

Paul,

AM will be relevant when it moves back 2 steps and takes 3 steps forward as outlined below.

1: A realignment of the AM band not seen since the 1940's.  Realign the clears for 20KHz to 30KHz spacing.  Restore the AM clear channel frequencies to true clear channels (only one per frequency) and mandate power increases for clears to make them 'super power stations' with 750KW to 1MW.

2: All of the new clear channel superstations will be analog only, no IBOC, the digital portion of signal limited to transmitting Call Letters and EAS (can be done with low speed pilot tone signals).  Analog stereo audio required (take your pick as the tuners will be able to automaticlly decode which method is used: Motorola C-Quam, Kahn ISB, Harris, Magnavox (which had a low-speed data option).  Audio frequency response to be restored all the way out to 20KHz.

3: NTSC TV Channels 5 & 6 absorb all the AM's that are NOT clear channels as new FM stations. Note: if they remain FM analog, the existing AM/FM/TV radios will be able to pick them up on the TV portion, so the tuners are technically already out there!.

4: Most important part of the package: mandatory receiver standards.  Any FM tuner must also meet AM tuner minimum reciever standards.  AM tuners must have automatic noise blanking, automatic or manual bandwidth selection, minimum bandwidth of 10KHz (with better units out to 15-20KHz with bandwidth selections), automatic stereo decoding, and data decoding display (call letters / EAS).

5: FCC to strictly enforce switching power supplies interference into the AM broadcast band (LED traffic signals, dimmers, etc) in an attempt to police the noise pollution on the AM band, although the 1MW should help a bit.

AM WILL again be relevant when all these items occur, but they need to be done within the next 5 years or sooner.  The clear channel superstations have a reason to run decent programming as it will cost them some money to pay for and operate their megawatt stations.  The megawatt clears will also prove to be priceless during disasters and as EAS LP-1 stations as portable AM radios might be the last form of communication that works when all the chips are down.  The AM superstations will compete for satellite radio listeners, and the return of music - especially on the overnights.  Imagine, FREE programming - people will be surprised with the "new" AM band for the 21st century! 

  

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10/4/2009 1:20 AM
 
As a broadcaster who remembers when AM radio was relevant, it appears to me the current dilemma is the result of the FCC's hands-off decisions of the 80's that would not establish mandatory standards for receivers or transmitted audio. Instead we let the marketplace decide through the voluntary effort of the "suggestions" of the NSRC. Then to put the proverbial cherry on top, lets just open the gates to the a number of local kilowatt signals to go full power all night. Then enter the digital age with an increase in atmospheric noise. Is it just me or does this seem like a totally irresponsible way to manage a public trust? AM broadcasters should also bear the responsiblity of a declining Am band by not promoting the band or making a concerted effort in the face of FM to develop technology that makes sense to the listener and is affordable by hometown broadcasters. It is little wonder non-profit and non-commerical broadcasters are scooping up these cheap signals that the big boys can't seem to turn a profit with. More power to them and anyone who still believes there is life in the old girl. A little lip stick and a new dress and the old girl just maybe popular again.
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12/14/2009 3:21 PM
 
Apparently nobody wants to tackle this question. I'll chime in though. Yes, AM radio is still very relevant. It all boils down to the kind of programming offered on any media outlet if it is going to attract an audience. Offering good programming on a 5 to 9 khz high end will attract listeners while lousy programming on a 15 khz or higher high end on FM will not. Live and local is the key to keeping AM radio alive. Corporate media has forgotten what keeps America tuned into radio and they keep supplementing local programs for syndicated fare that has limited appeal or a niche fan base in most markets. Very recently I've found links to a number of radio stations that have gone dark in recent months and it is likely that they will not find buyers and return to the airwaves. The economy and bad programming is largely to blame. Either one or the other applies and in some cases, both. Newspapers are losing readership in droves and viewers are leaving television in substantial numbers as well. Ad revenue is down substantially in the entire main stream media including FM broadcasting. This problem is not exclusive to just AM broadcasters anymore but the entire main stream media! The best way to save the AM band or at least keep it alive is to permit new entrants into the field that can jump start a dying team. Believe it or not, legal unlicensed broadcasting in the form of Part 15 AM broadcasting is already having a positive effect in this regard. More and more people are buying transmitters that are FCC Type Accepted for ANY kind of use the user sees fit to use the transmitter for on the AM dial and many are now creating commercial and professional non commercial radio stations. As a result, despite having a limited broadcast radius, many of these stations are attracting listeners and sponsors as well as advertisers. Cities that used to have live and local programming on AM but now don't have an opportunity to listen to a local, friendly voice that offers a pleasant music format, local news, weather sports and information around the clock. Businesses that cannot afford the ad rates on licensed stations can afford to advertise on a Part 15 AM. Then, if they can grow their businesses through the use of the Part 15 AM marketing campaign, they will then have a chance to spend some money advertising with the licensed stations. Sadly, some corporate broadcasters have taken exception to this and are trying to silence legal Part 15 broadcasters simply because they feel threatened by a station that has perhaps a mile or two broadcast radius on AM. If this behavior continues then yes, the AM band will become a vast wasteland of syndicated programs with limited appeal and we'll continue to see hundreds or even perhaps thousands of AM and even FM outlets go dark and stay dark.
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1/29/2010 9:59 PM
 
As an Engineer here in the Philippines, i can not speak for US, but i want to say that AM radio here in the Philippines is still POWERFUL in the sense that this is the medium Politicians use specially during elections. (interviews, ads etc.).

also, during disasters or calamities, like earthquakes or typhoons, people don't open their FM radio or TV sets, instead, they get there AM RADIO. AM radio here is equated to NEWS.

 lakay pogi - Swara Sug Media Corporation (Sonshine Radio)
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