AM Revitalization? Clay's Dramatic Suggestion

Clay Freinwald, CPBE, has been active in radio broadcasting for more than 50 years. Responding to Radio World’s coverage of the AM revitalization debate, he offers his own suggestions. Freinwald is a past recipient of Radio World’s Excellence in Engineering Award, broadcaster of the year from the Washington State Association of Broadcasters and twice winner of SBE’s Engineer of the Year award.

Realize AM’s technology and spectrum have served its purpose and move on. Here is what I would do if I were given the authority to make all the changes I wanted:

1 – Open up the spectrum immediately below the existing FM band (TV Channels 5 and 6 have been suggested) for aural broadcasting.

2 – Enact an all-channel radio rule that would require all receivers manufactured be capable of receiving the existing 88–108 MHz as well as the new expanded band (think expanded band AM radios or the all-channel TV rule).

3 – Create an allocation scheme that would ensure that all existing AM stations would have a level playing field and be treated equally.

4 – Set a date-certain for the process to start.

5 – Accept applications for the new band for one year.

4 – Grant construction permits with a required two-year period to construct.

5 – Require simulcast operation for a period of 10 years.

6 – Sunset the existing AM band at the end of the 13th year.

Other thoughts:

– Do not grant more FM translators to AMs; all this does is clutter up the existing FM band, and there is not enough spectrum for every AM to have a translator.

– Perhaps require that all new-band stations operate hybrid mode until year 13 when analog FM could be turned off.

– Admit that AM HD and AM stereo are failures and eliminate any further use of HD Radio on the existing AM band.

My $.02.

Freinwald is employed by Washington State University and has his own business servicing clients in the Seattle area. He has worked in management and staff engineering for Entercom in Seattle, Tribune Communications (Tacoma), KMO(AM) and KCPQ(TV).

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Comment List:

If you're going to move radio in to the TV 5 and 6 band, you're going to have to wait decades for people to buy enough new radios to receive it, and you're still talking about "old fashioned analog" (not a good selling point nowadays). There are millions of receivers already in peoples' homes that can receive those channels....they are called "Digital TV sets". Use them.
By Ken W. English on 4/30/2013
I agree with all of the article's points! WHY would TV stations want to hold onto low-performing, low-band frequencies? The spectrum from 72-88Mhz would be ideally suited to an expanded FM band. Let the MW band be used for large-coverage stations, only. (20Kw+) VHF is far better suited to LOCAL.
By Willie Barnett on 4/27/2013
Corporate-owned AMs may be able to afford this proposal, but small-town, locally owned stations could be bankrupted by having to build all-new facilities. If this proposal is carried out, it will be the last gasp for most locally-owned AM radio stations. If that's what you want, fine. But then quit calling radio "local".
By Phil B. on 4/20/2013
The VHF band should be digital and should use our own North American version of DRM. DR-A would be like DRM except it would use the free open source codec Opus instead of AAC. Each "AM" station could have as many as five audio programs broadcast simultaneously. New radios would be needed for the new band anyway so it would be as easy to make them digital as analog.
By Peter Wankerman on 4/19/2013
What a refreshing idea! Those who believe that all "radio" will be delivered via the Internet anytime soon are living in a fantasy world. Over-the-air radio--programmed and presented properly, will be America's primary aural medium for at least the next 50-years. Let's get with it! Fix the problems, don't abandon radio!
By John Hendricks on 4/17/2013

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