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AM Daytimers Need to Begin Service Earlier, Some Say

Change would make them more competitive in their markets

Some AM broadcasters agree that daytimers should be allowed to begin pre-sunrise service earlier, to be more competitive in their markets during morning drive.

Their comments were filed with the Federal Communications Commission on Richard Arsenault’s proposal to allow AM daytimers on regional channels to begin pre-sunrise service earlier (RM# 11599).

Four broadcasters filed comments on the petition; all support the concept and most believe it should be expanded to include all AM daytimers. No one opposed the concept, and no non-station comments were filed.

Arsenault, who describes himself as an acquisitions and technologies consultant, said in his proposal that AM daytimers are at a competitive disadvantage during morning drive, which typically begins at 5 to 5:30 a.m. in most areas. Those AM signals are unlistenable at that time and most listeners won’t try to tune in an AM still operating with its nighttime signal, he argues. That’s why the New Jersey-based consultant proposed that the FCC allow Class D and Class B stations operating on regional channels to begin operations at 5 a.m. — rather than the current 6 a.m. — under PSR authority with up to 500 watts. He believes up to 2,063 Class Ds and Bs could benefit.

Much has been said in Radio World and elsewhere about the need to give AM stations regulatory relief, and it’s rather surprising that this proposal attracted only four comments, with none from smaller radio groups or from the NAB. Maybe other small-station owners feel that this proposal isn’t a big deal, or that the problem isn’t as big as Arsenault thinks it is. The number of comments might suggest it’s not a burning priority, even for those who often say that AM needs regulatory relief.

Bustos Media told the FCC the scope of the change should be widened beyond AM daytimers operating on regional channels, to apply to all AM daytimers. Bustos pointed out, for example, that “the need for an early morning start for many commuters has caused prominent local radio stations in the Washington-Baltimore area to start weekday morning radio programs at 5 a.m., rather than at the traditional 6 a.m.”

It cites a 5 a.m. start for the morning shows of WMAL(AM), 630 kHz, Washington, and WBAL(AM), 1090 kHz, Baltimore. AM daytimers that sign on at 6 a.m. or later “cannot effectively compete with their full-time AM counterparts who start live local programming at 5 a.m.,” Bustos wrote.

Bustos is the licensee of three AMs on clear channel frequencies: KZSJ(AM), 1120 kHz, San Martin, Calif. (San Jose radio market); KREH(AM), 900 kHz, Pecan Grove, Texas (Houston market); and KTXV, 890 kHz, Mabank, Texas (Dallas-Fort Worth). Radio consumers today “are far less reliant on clear-channel stations that required ‘non-dominant’ co-channel stations to sign off at sunset and remain silent until local sunrise,” the company stated in its remarks. “There is no real reason to discriminate between AM daytimers on ‘regional channels’ and AM daytimers on ‘clear channels.'”

K.W. Dolmar Broadcasting and Blount — that’s one company — also thinks the concept should be extended to all AM daytimers.

The broadcaster is the licensee of WFIF(AM), operating at 1500 KHz in Milford, Conn., and WVNE(AM), operating at 760 KHz in Leicester, Mass. Both stations operate on clear-channel frequency assignments and sign on at 7:15 a.m. in the winter, “too late to alert parents to school closings or travel delays,” writes the broadcaster. Because of the delay in sign-on, neither station can fully serve its community, it says.

Quinnipiac University, licensee of Class B standard WQUN(AM), Hamden, Conn., operates with 1 kW during daytime hours and 305 watts at night. “The station’s morning show has generated very strong audience ratings from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. but has suffered during the first hour of broadcast due to the poor quality of the signal prior to the 6 a.m. PRSA operation,” it writes.

And finally, Tuscarawas Broadcasting, licensee of WBTC(AM), Uhrichsville, Ohio. is authorized for 250 watts day and 5 watts at night; it too supports the proposal. “Those who listen in their cars may not even have a preset button for a station that is not on the air at 5 a.m., and not having a dedicated preset button is the death knell for AMs in particular,” according to the station.