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AM Station Owner Has Hope for Band’s Future

By programming current pop hits, small Tennessee station finds life

Tom King’s recently wrote in Radio World, “Owners Are Investing in ihe Future of AM” (Aug. 15).

As an owner of a small AM station, I have jumped right in there, and for the past seven years, I have been playing a music format called “hot adult contemporary.” It’s all of “today’s best hits.” And I have found that this format works for us.

I have enjoyed the success of some listeners coming back to AM when they find us — people in the highly coveted age demographic of 19–45.

I am the one of the few “AM owners” noted in the article who dares to be different. During the morning commute, we still have a live DJ, traffic reports, two and a half minutes of local news each hour … but we are playing a music that most people consider to be FM format only.

A survey we completed found that “local & national news/talk/sports” formats are going out the door on AM, moving to FM in our area.

I feel that AM does not have to take a back seat and gear itself toward stereotypical content for people age 60 and up. (For example, filling broadcast time with total back-to-back religious programs, boring talk formats or nostalgic music/oldies.) We found we can play the current popular hits for young and middle-aged adults, and it can sound good.

Artists like Katy Perry sound just as good on AM as she does on FM, if the owner/operator uses the latest technology, solid-state transmitters, up-to-date processing and wide-band antenna systems, like the folded unipole we use on a large, self-supporting tower.

I have concluded that we don’t need an FM translator to make this suburban, 1,000 watt AM station work. With a population of 30,000 people and growing, we are competing with Nashville’s FM stations in our suburban area and surviving.

Programmers, programming consultants and technology of the ’80s and ’90s — not listeners — killed the quality of AM and made it sound like a CB Radio. Today, they talk like the AM band is dead, yet this is totally untrue.

I would like to thank Tom King of Kintronic for giving us owners of AM stations a positive outlook for the future. And AM will be here to entertain with today’s most contemporary music, and still keep listeners informed on what is going on that is most important to them in this 24/7 world we now live in.

Scott Bailey is president and general manager of WMRO(AM) in Gallatin, Tenn. The station, Magic 1560, is a Cumulus Media affiliate station.