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Japanese AM Distributes FM Receivers

After suspension, listeners lacked way to tune alternate ‘wide FM’ transmissions

A manga-style graphic proclaims “NBC will give you a radio” to promote the station’s distribution of wide FM-capable receivers in the wake of its suspending AM broadcasts. (Courtesy of NBC Radio)

NBC Radio Saga in Saga Prefecture, Japan, is giving away 2,000 small FM radios to help listeners disconnected by the suspension of its AM services.

Earlier in 2024, Japanese broadcasters began a one-year trial of suspending their AM services. The project allows stations and regulators to assess the impact of the loss of AM services on listeners, emergency response, and operating expenses. In total 34 AM stations across the country are participating in the suspension. In Saga and Yamaguchi prefectures, all of the commercial AM operators are participating.

Nagasaki Broadcasting Co. let NBC Radio Saga’s 1458 kHz transmitter at Arita and its 1116 kHz transmitter at Imari go dark for the trial. Listeners can tune the station via the streaming platform radiko, cable television, or via FM at 93.5 MHz in Saga and 92.1 MHz in Tosu, but those FM channels are in what’s known as the “wide FM band.” The two FM transmitters cover about 95% of Saga Prefecture, according to the station. Since 2014, Japan has licensed AM repeater services in the wide FM band from 90.0 to 94.9 MHz, but many receivers only tune the traditional Japanese FM band of 76.1 to 89.9 MHz.

According to a report in the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper, NBC Radio Saga heard concerns from listeners without newer FM radios that it was shutting down entirely. In response, the station began distributing 2,000 small wide FM-capable receivers at events across the prefecture.

The station scheduled the first distribution of 100 receivers for June 15 at the Youme Town Saga shopping center. Because of the expected demand, NBC Radio held a lottery for the units. Listeners had to register, and 100 names were chosen to receive the radio sets. The FM receiver distribution program will continue through the rest of the year.

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