Shulz: AM Improvement Ship Has Sailed
The author is former engineer of WLS(AM). He is now retired.
Tom King of Kintronic Labs wrote in Radio World, “Let’s Save
a Vital National Media Resource: AM Radio.” He is right on in
his proposal and solutions. If anyone would know the answers, Tom would. Even accomplishing half of the suggestions would make a change
for the better.
The only problem is the ship has
Granted, the AM quality improvement
issues are significant but not compelling. But the FCC has done the
AM band many disservices over the years:
1) Part 15
noise (there is no way to get the noise genie back into the bottle, with too
many devices out)
2) too many stations
3) approving IBOC
4) dropping the clear-channel
5) ratchet clause
7) AM expanded band
And on and on. The AM band broadcasters should get a refund on
their annual spectrum fees they have paid! All the FCC needs is a mirror to
see what has happen to the band and what is wrong.
major-market coverage stations will survive. As an example, CBS WBBM(AM/FM) Chicago
is drawing down $42 million out of its market with a simulcast signal
(data here is based on Robert Feder’s article “Inside Chicago Radio’s Cash Register,” January 2014).
How can that be if AM is a dead band? And six more Chicago AMs are pulling a
total of $86 million gross billing among them. For these major-market AMs,
life is good, with a combined income of $128 million dollars. No band problem
for these major-market AM stations.
On the other hand, the
Chicago rim AMs are probably pressing hard to pay the electric bill.
Drop down the grid to regional and local and the party is mostly over
In the grand scheme the AM auditorium is an
empty room and the audience is not returning. The public at large has bought
their iPhone, iPod or you-name-it Wi-Fi devices, and they are happy. Programming is not compelling, people have invested in
personal devices at a near one-to-one ratio, and they are fully absorbed in those
devices. Users are walking into light poles, driving off the road and monitoring
them 24x7, sleeping with them on. Car manufacturers are dropping AM
radio sections, as they can’t or won’t spend the money to get the car’s computer
noise under control, and are putting in Wi-Fi hot spots for the sizzle.
With an automotive Wi-Fi device, Bluetooth-to-car sound system
and streaming, you can make contact with 10,000 choices. Why would you bother
with terrestrial or pay for satellite radio when your hot spot can fill your
Terrestrial broadcasting is a sinking ship. The
terrestrial broadcasters themselves tell you go to their website. What does
that say? Terrestrial radio and Sirius XM are riding the USS Titanic into the
ice field full ahead and should be handing out the life jackets. It’s a death
by a thousand cuts.
Emergency alerts should be moved off the
backs of terrestrial and onto cellular carriers for text alerts. Radio/TV/cable
are long-form alert information. In a loss of power you have less that 12
hours left on Internet connections and then only wireless terrestrial radio
will be your contact, as they too fade away with loss of power and generators
run out of fuel.
The U.S. public is living in a dream world. The listening
public does not care what AM issues are, there are too many other higher-quality
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