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Letters: AM Doesn’t Have to Go Away

It provides important services though some operators are negligent

Jon Yinger and Dan Ramos have both predicted the AM radio band will be sunset by the FCC. I would hope that they are wrong. AM radio is still a viable method off reaching out to a broad area of the country.

Here on California’s Central Coast clear channel stations can be heard from San Francisco and Los Angeles. From 25 kW KNZR in Bakersfield to 50 kW KMJ, KFIG and even 5 kW KGST in Fresno come in with listenable signals albeit with some background noise.

[Read: Where Is Terrestrial Radio Going?]

Night-time the listening range can extend to several surrounding states. These stations, especially the 50 kW operators provide continuous signals while driving long distances. In times of an emergency like widespread power outages they could be the only information source available.

During a two-county power outage a couple of years ago the only source in information came from KNX in Los Angeles. All the local stations were off the air. Cellphones were limited to text messaging and for five hours we sat by candlelight not knowing what was going on. Fortunately the local hams started relaying information and after almost two hours KNX reporters finally had reports from PG&E.

[Read: Readers Respond to Yinger]

I don’t think AM radio should go away. I think the local low-wattage operators should fold up shop. They don’t appear to be good stewards of broadcasting. Many times they are off the air or they have a carrier but no modulation for hours at a time. One weekend a station’s automation hung up and aside from a backfeed of news from the network on the hour there was no program material or station ID for two days until I called them on Monday morning, when the receptionist arrived. No one was monitoring the operation and no live answering service.

This kind of stuff goes on all the time. Why bother taking up space? We need to give the big stations more power and encourage the low-budget operators to leave the band.

Jan Lipski

Lompoc, Calif.

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