A reader, an engineer who asked not to be
named, emailed me to express the opinion that all the recent talk about AM “revitalization”
wasn’t giving enough attention to interference caused by consumer electronics
and other sources.
I sent him a link to the FCC NPRM, pointing out that there is some discussion of
that topic there; he replies as you see below. I’m sharing this because of
the intense interest in the overall question of AM’s future … and as always, I
welcome your comments.
Paul, after you gave it to me, I read the
FCC AM report; and yes they mention interference to the AM band — at the very
beginning of the report in Section 2 background Paragraph 5.
That is that only mention. Nowhere
do they talk about reducing the noise that plagues the AM and all bands
below 30 MHz.
I talked recently with two knowledgeable people in the industry
and they also ask the question I’m asking. One suggested maybe the FCC should
look at its Part 15 rules and make them tighter.
So my question is: Why don’t they?
Why does a plasma TV have to generate so
much interference? Why do CFL lights and wall-wart power supplies have to be
noisemakers? Filter them better; it can’t raise the cost of the item by much.
I was told that there are two kind of
light dimmers on the market — with and without RF suppression. Why don’t they all
have RF suppression? I did some research on light dimmers made by one
manufacturer; it seems the user is the one who must do the work and is “stuck”
with getting rid of such interference. One emailed me to say their
dimmers do have a built-in radio/TV filter but that if I’m still experiencing
an issue, I
should go to
RadioShack and purchase a line noise filter for the radio.
Can you imagine an average “Joe” having to do this? He will simply stop listening.
If it is the nature of the product, maybe better
suppression is needed in these devices.
How about PCs? I’ve seen PCs that generate
much noise, and others that don’t. What is different about the ones that don’t
generate heavy RF noise?
Again, years ago we were told to move the radio
in our house to another area in the room if it suffered from interference. Why
do I have to do that? Why can’t these interfering devices be made better so
they don’t interfere? If I move the radio from one side of the room to another
in today’s house, the radio ends up near another
device that generates RF noise. Many devices in the home have
microproccessors that generate noise. Frequencies below 30 MHz don’t have a chance
in the home today.
Maybe the FCC has decided, because of lobbying by the electronics
industry, that the frequencies below 30 MHz are useless. Why make a device that
interferes better if you just meet present FCC regulations? And the electronic
makers of today can do with they want because the FCC doesn’t really care about
these frequencies. If they did, they’d tighten up on these RF “noisemakers.”
Look, we all know that
AM radio and bands below 30 MHz have been bothered by interference for years, especially atmospheric noise and some man-made noise. But what has happened in the
last 10 to 15 years is really adding insult to injury. Devices that pollute the
bands are all over the place; they need better control.
The AM broadcast band is
unique because of its skywave. And in emergencies, if phone circuits are down
and the Internet is dead, most of us can still turn on a cheap $25 battery
operated radio and hear the news from stations local and far away — at
night on AM; you can’t do the night thing on FM.
AM “analog” broadcast is unique but we are
gradually killing it with the RF pollution added by the new electronic “noisemakers.”
Thanks, reader, for these comments. I feel
certain that cost pressures on CE manufacturers certainly play a role; but perhaps
we as an industry also need to unify our voices if we feel that more stringent
regulation of such devices is in order. Certainly now is your opportunity to
tell the FCC. Comments are due to the NPRM on Jan. 21. The commission
website indicates that only 33 comments have been filed in the past 30 days,
though many often are filed at deadline. Also share your own thoughts below.
Meantime I recommend that anyone
interested in this topic read the interesting comments filed by Cris Alexander and Burt Weiner, at the
AM comments page of our website. Watch that page for more about this issue too.