U.S. radio industry is not the only one exploring ways to help AM
President Daniel Slaviero
radio observers expect their government to publish a decree in
November detailing an
process for AM radio to the FM band.
In cities where the FM spectrum can’t accommodate new channels,
it will be necessary to extend the spectrum using
television Channels5 and 6.
— the largest country in South America and home to the world’s
fifth-largest population — has about 1,800 AM stations.
President Dilma Rousseff okayed the migration concept in June, and
the Ministry of Communications formulated an outline this summer and
early fall. Rousseff was expected to sign off on the actual plan in
we’ve reported, Brazil sought to settle the AM migration issue
before deciding on a digital radio standard or standards for
shortwave, AM and FM. In pursuing this plan, the nation follows
partially in the footsteps of Mexico, which approved a voluntary AM
migration plan this year. Approximately 540 AMs there plan to migrate
of the Brazilian
Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters (ABERT),
talked with RWI freelancer Carlos Eduardo Behrensdorf about what led to
the AM migration decision and how the moves would proceed.
What do proponents say are the advantages of migration?
ABERT and the
state associations of broadcasters view the migration as critical to
the future of AM radio. On the FM band, [AM] broadcasters will gain
transmission quality. Being located in a lower position in the
spectrum, the AM band is very susceptible to noise and interference,
which increases with the urbanization. Also, the mechanical noise
caused by electrical networks and factories, for example, generates
spectral “noise” in the frequency bands, and AM radio is the
first to be affected, followed by shortwave. The interference also
affects other bands used for broadcasting, but with less intensity.
migration will also enable broadcasters to get better integrated in
the current context of technological convergence. The technical
characteristics of signal reception, especially the need to use large
antennas to capture the signal, have hindered the reach of AM radio.
For example, cell phones have FM reception. But many vehicles leave
the factory already without a medium-wave receiver.
How many broadcasters would move and what is the timeframe?
Since the migration is optional and costly, we don’t have a
ballpark figure of how many broadcasters will move. The government
estimates that the decree, containing the rules for the reallocation,
will be published this month. Therefore, the migration could be
expected to begin in early 2014. In small towns where there is space
on the dial, the AM stations will immediately move to frequency
modulation. But in large cities, where the spectrum is crowded, it
will be necessary to extend the spectrum of the FM band to television
Channels 5 and 6. In this case, the migration will take place
gradually as these channels get released after the analog television
signal is turned off, which will occur between 2015 and 2018.
Who conceived and led this effort and how did they win the support of
problems that AM radio faces, ABERT and the state broadcasting
entities agreed that the best solution for the AM is migration. We
proposed the migration to the government, which is now responding
favorably to the petition of the broadcasting industry.
Was migration a contentious issue?
No. There is a
consensus that the most important thing is to rescue the AM radio and
to ensure the provision of services, with more quality to the
listeners. The migration will strengthen the radio industry as new
media emerge and begin to take away attention from the traditional
AM stations pay for the costs of the transition? Is the government
offering a subsidy?
is not offering a subsidy. ABERT supports access to financing
options, but we have not gotten a reply from the government regarding
this issue yet. There is a clear indication that the broadcasters
will have to pay the price difference between the basic AM or FM
license, established according to the station power, coverage area,
etc. We are talking about the minimum cost of the license, set in the
cost, what other obstacles will individual stations face?
will have to pay for the costs incurred from any technological
change. Basically the stations will need to invest in order to adapt
their transmission systems.
sufficient receivers in the marketplace for stations to be heard?
Will there be a campaign to expand the number of FM receivers capable
of receiving these stations?
In the cities
where there is no need to expand the dial, listeners will receive the
signal in their current receiver. On the other hand, in cities where
the television Channels 5 and 6 will be used, it will be necessary to
increase the number of receivers. There are already receivers in the
market capable of receiving the signal. Some new equipment will only
require a software upgrade — for example, some new cell phones.
This will be a gradual change and the manufacturers will have to
adapt to the frequency spectrum. That’s why there will be a
simulcasting period when broadcasters will operate in AM and FM
happen to the vacated AM spectrum?
The vacated spectrum will be returned to the government and they will
conduct the appropriate research on new uses for the band. But since
the migration is optional, and not all broadcasters will make the
transition, this spectrum will continue to be used for the AM band.
countries that may be considering such a migration, what do
broadcasters and regulators need to know or be aware of?
It is crucial to
examine the regulations and to talk extensively about the issue with
every party involved. You should be aware that the FM spectrum may
not be sufficient to accommodate the migration, so it will be
necessary to make some changes, as is the case of Brazil, which will
extend the range of frequency modulation to the TV Channels 5 and 6.
Mexico, for example, the migration took place only in the cities
where it was possible to do it on the dial. In the cities where there
was no space, the change was not implemented and they have no plans
for the near future. We can say that in Mexico only one part of the
process was finished.
like to add anything else?
semester the Congress will review the government’s proposal and
will publish a law.
migration is very important for Brazilian radio. We are [talking
about] a robust market, with more than 4,500 commercial radio
stations — from these, 1,800 are AMs — and 200 million
in Brazil reaches approximately 50 million households (88.9 percent)
and, contrary to what one might think, its presence in day-to-day
lives grows, favored by the Internet and various devices such as
computers, cell phones, iPods, MP4s and tablets. These devices are
helping to expand the reach of radio, which now can be heard in new
ways. Once the quality of the sound and the scope of the reach are
guaranteed, our stations should constantly strive to improve their
content and therefore maintain the relevance of the media.