Clear Channel Supports All-Digital AM Operation

Many commenters to the FCC say the time of AM stations protecting nighttime clear channel skywave signals is past and it’s time to drop those protections.

Clear Channel Media & Entertainment disagrees. In comments filed with the FCC on AM revitalization this week, the broadcaster says the FCC should preserve existing interference protections, including nighttime skywave protection for Class As. “Class A AM stations are among the only AM stations with interference-free nighttime coverage and are also among the only AM stations that still garner substantial listening. Clearly, any proposal that would increase interference in the AM band is not a solution to the band’s problems,” writes Clear Channel.

The company says its Class As have suffered from interference — losing them coverage and annoying listeners — when AM daytimers fail or “forget” to power down at night. The broadcaster has 239 AMs.

Clear Channel also urges the commission to review the impact of short antennas on the existing standards for nighttime skywave “to ensure that service to the public is not degraded.” The FCC had asked for comment on whether to reduce minimum field strength values by 25%.

Clear Channel pushes for all-digital operation on AM as well, proposing that the FCC allow that on a voluntary basis, now that more broadcasters have implemented digital AM operations and as more vehicle and consumer digital receivers are available. “Initial testing of AM all-digital operations has proven very positive. Particularly if an AM station can pair an all-digital AM operation with an analog FM translator, it can serve listener expectations while implementing a transition to all-digital,” according to the broadcaster.

Allowing AMs to go all-digital on a voluntary basis would allow stations to determine the best means, whether analog, hybrid or all-digital, to reach the listening public, according to Clear Channel, which suggests stations be allowed to just notify the commission once they’ve gone all-digital.

Watch our page for summaries of other comments to the FCC NPRM.


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Comment List:

"A billion radios obsolete." Comparison is made to the DTV transition. TV still has must-have effect and more than a little diversity, the before/after difference is astounding, and it does have LOCAL news! Content drives that continuing like affair. Radios? I will not replace mine; all 11 of them. I have no content reason to do so. I have more alternatives that DO fit my listening-style than I can keep track of, and an abundance of means to get to them. CC is using the all-hd AM strategy to kill the AM band and drive us to iHeart. There is no other plausible reason. Excepting a too-small exemplary number, there is no choice. Only an echo. Big iron and tall steel no longer needed. Desktop radio! All-digital will mean the all-death of the band medium we all love. dB
By dave burns on 2/7/2014
Let's face it, IBOC on AM is a failed experiment! I consider myself fairly tech savvy, but I've yet to ever hear or see an HD radio! I've owned an iPad since 2010, and have the means to listen to Pandora, iHeart Radio, and many other sources of audio both at home and in the car. But I've yet to encounter an HD radio. I tried to shop for one this past Christmas season. Thought it would be nice to give HD radio a try at home. I did not find any table radios that were HD capable at all! Perhaps when I purchase my next automobile, it will come with an HD radio. But as I only buy a new car every 10 years or may be a while.
By Chris Kantack on 2/4/2014
I agree that going all HD will make many radios obsolete but they were able to do it with television. I'm sure that someone can make digital converters for current radios and hopefully the government can help with the migration process. Set a date and let's go. I'm ready to switch our stations to digital.
By JOE B on 2/3/2014
Cris Alexander: In the DFW area of Texas there are many stations that have ceased IBOC/IBAC "I-D) Radio" transmissions. KAAM, KLIF, WBAP, KFXR, KVCE, and KTCK. The stations that still transmit IBOC/IBAC "I-D) Radio" are: KMKI, KRLD, and KFLC. "Most AM stations" in the DFW area have stopped their digital transmissions.
By Peter Wankerman on 1/29/2014
Digital AM or IBOC AM don't matter. If the station doesn't carry your team or doesn't emit your favorite preacher's sermon, you ain't gonna listen. Nobody's buying IBOC am radios (I've never seen one). The technical issues are only part of the problem. The programming is THE issue. As for allowing short antennas, let's make a weak signal weaker. If interference is your concern, this is obviously counterintuitive. But then, we're dealing with broadcasters here . . .
By james walker on 1/29/2014
By transmitting "All Digital" the spectral bandwidth of an AM station is returned to +/-10 kHz and this significantly reduces the adjacent-channel digital "shhhhhh" that Ibiquity's AM HD-Radio produces in its hybrid form utilizing +/-15 kHz. The "All Digital" version is also far more robust. AM Multi-Casting-In-Band-On-Channel is not that far away, so the DRM-30 system and Ibiquity's AM HD-Radio system, which are based on QAM-OFDM, will be technologically obsolete sooner than most people realize. In any event, going "All Digital" will render over a billion AM radios obsolete in a blink, so I'm not sure that's in the public interest - at least not anytime soon.
By Peter Blake on 1/29/2014
Barry McLarnon keeps a running tabulation of AM-HD stations on the air. (Search for "AM IBOC Stations on the Air" and you'll find it.) As of January 28, 310 stations have deployed the technology...but just 172 still use it. And only 58 stations are confirmed to be using AM-HD at night. So 45% of AM-HD adopters have abandoned it. Not quite MOST (at least not yet), but the adoptive trajectory is clearly downward. Personally, I would love to see some DRM experimentation here, especially since it seems to be catching on elsewhere. But you can expect HD proponents to fight any idea along that line tooth and nail. And the FCC precluded discussion of alternative technologies 11+ years ago (before DRM was even a thing). If the industry/FCC were serious about digital AM, they'd be more open-minded.
By John Anderson on 1/28/2014
The "muffled" AM audio due to the narrowed bandwidth to fit the IBOC sidebands has lessened the listening quality. "Switching" between analog and digital --- especially when driving but also depending on the weather --- is irritating as well. As well, connecting a 'converter box' to a TV since TV's ususally stay in one place, was easy, where in a vehicle --- especially CLASSICS and ANTIQUES but also the other tens of millions of vehicles CURRENLY on the road --- as well as [portable] "BOOM BOXES" where it is an 'all in one set-up, would be rough. I received C-QUAM from Los Angeles and Seattle, in Reno, VERY nicely. Seemed more stable than even mono AM. Why not go back to that and maybe install single sideband above the audio B/W, if one wants to see a display of what is airing.
By Gregg E Zuelke on 1/28/2014
"Most AM stations that WERE using IBOC, have now turned their digital signal off." Really? What is your source on that piece of information? Clearly SOME have turned their digital carriers off for various reasons, but I'm fairly certain that doesn't qualify as MOST.
By Cris Alexander on 1/28/2014
It is interesting that 1190 in Dallas turned their iBiquity Digital signal off. It is OBAC when a station on 1700 transmits the "I-D)" Radio signal because the upper sideband is above 1710 (the upper limit of the MW band). I have heard that DRM does not work well in a moving car... Is that true? Regardless we need to use the free Opus codec instead of AAC on our own version of DRM. We can call it DRA = Digital Radio Americas.
By Peter Wankerman on 1/28/2014
I agree with most of the other comments, i.e., Clear Channel's comments are self-serving and off the mark. Ibiquity was and is a disaster. That is clearly not the "revitilization" answer. Drop the efficiency standards and allow ALL new tower technology especially Valcom's whip antenna. No paint, no guy wires, no lights = a tremendous reduction in expenses.
By Chip Giannettino on 1/27/2014
I agree with the others that the CC filing is somewhat self serving. DRM still has it's issues in a U.S. Implementation. The problem with AM digital is the digital carriers should never have been placed in the MW band. IBOC is not the accurate term for Ibiquity's solution, it is IBAC. We're using the first adjacents as the co-channel for our digital transmission. The band is crowded enough not having to deal with yet more carriers of broadband noise. During the day it somewhat works, but in the medium to big cities where you can hear second adjacents, this does nothing other than greatly reduce their listening area. HD Radio is not, nor never was a solution for AM broadcasters. The only solution is to get them moved out of the MW band.
By Scott Clifton on 1/25/2014
Most AM stations that WERE using IBOC, have now turned their digital signal off. What is Clear Chanel talking about? They are trying to save their 'defective' IBOC product. If the FCC had approved DRM, instead of IBOC, none of us would be having this conversation right now. The FCC should just ignore any comments from Clear Channel.
By Joe Barry on 1/24/2014
Of course CC wants to push digital, particularly since it is invested in the money pit of Ibiquity. If only it worked, I would support it. The best way to accomplish this is get analog/DRM compatible chips in new radios, then make a hard shutoff date, like TV. But if money can't be made by corporate leeches, it will never happen.
By DRM not IBOC on 1/24/2014

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