Expand the Band? Beware - Radio World

Expand the Band? Beware

It's interesting to see the responses to the proposal suggesting Channels 5 and 6 be converted to radio use. Wouldn't the unloading of all the AM directionals, day/night power, short-spaced FMs and daytimers be wonderful?
Author:
Publish date:

It's interesting to see the responses to the proposal suggesting Channels 5 and 6 be converted to radio use. Wouldn't the unloading of all the AM directionals, day/night power, short-spaced FMs and daytimers be wonderful?

I note that the RW responses so far are all about engineering/modulation/spectrum criteria and nothing about the financial reality of "be careful what you wish for, you may get it"!

With new spectrum available comes new go or no-go engineering limits. "Oh," you say, "there's going to be lots of new spectrum and all can be accommodated." Well, you're probably correct.

Not only can all the AMs that want to move be accommodated but the broadcaster "wannabees" will also be filing applications at the door of the FCC. Too, let's not forget the usual en masse religious broadcaster filings. How would you deny a technically correct application?

Yes, new competition right in your own town, cutting rate cards to compete in order to pay their bills. With the new stations in your area comes reduced income. We already see what reduced billing is doing to employment in the broadcast industry: layoffs and downsizing.

As the saying goes, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Remember the 80-90 docket that turned loose hundreds of FMs, pre-engineered by the FCC? Drop-ins, I think they were called. Many stations saw a brand-new competitor show up in their market and the gross billing dropped. When the billing drops, so does the quality of the programming you so carefully put together and paid top dollar to your talent to present.

Localism depends on a good cash flow. No cash flow and it's automation. The community is the loser.

Some folks may not be aware that when the FCC dropped the ownership limits, group owners bought up stations to the point that only one owner in a market had virtually all the stations under their wing. Many covertly told advertisers that if you don't buy from "him," the lone independent, we'll give you extra spots on our group of stations. Yes, it happened right here in New Jersey, and a very well run, high-billing, locally involved station went nearly broke and had to sell to, you guessed it, a group owner. Today it's automated. Would groups again buy up the demised competition?

But wait. It gets better.

Once the proposal comes before the FCC, if it ever makes it that far, you'll have all the large-group owners at the NAB lobbying against the new band. They're not going to sit back and watch the value of their stations diminish with every new competitor generated by the Channel 5/6 proposal!

The NAB will take the position that everything is fine just the way it is. Short of that, they'll take no position and the large group owners will do their own lobbying.

I think most know and understand that the FM band could easily accommodate newcomers but for the artificial shortage of FM spectrum due to overly restrictive adjacency/power rules. Not too long ago, discussion over the third-adjacent garnered a lot of negative response but tests showed third adjacent-distance rules to be overly restrictive. The restrictions remain.

Unless you can restrict newcomer applicants from occupying the newly proposed 5/6 spectrum, it'll be a financial disaster for the entire industry, an industry that has finally admitted that the plethora of new media is formidable. There are too many radio stations in some markets and billing is not increasing during these recession days. What happens when more show up?

Finally, if you're aware of station sales, you might want to reflect on the number of stations for sale that aren't selling ... at any price. The new spectrum would be wonderful, but the devil is in the details.

Larry Tighe
Owner
WRNJ(AM)
Hackettstown, N.J.

Related

Expand FM Band

There's a new FCC chairman, and Congress as I write was in the process of extending the date for implementing digital TV signals.

FM Band Expansion

Besides content, if AM is going to survive it will have to be able to get through all the electronic static that has occurred the last 30 years.

How to Fix the AM Band

Forget HD Radio, forget moving AM broadcasters to a new FM expanded band, forget requiring satellite receivers to carry HD Radio, even forget the old AM stereo.