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Clear Channel Supports All-Digital AM Operation

Broadcaster suggests to FCC that skywave protections be maintained

Many commenters to the FCC say the time of AM stations protecting nighttime clear channel skywave signals is past and it’s time to drop those protections.

Clear Channel Media & Entertainment disagrees. In comments filed with the FCC on AM revitalization this week, the broadcaster says the FCC should preserve existing interference protections, including nighttime skywave protection for Class As. “Class A AM stations are among the only AM stations with interference-free nighttime coverage and are also among the only AM stations that still garner substantial listening. Clearly, any proposal that would increase interference in the AM band is not a solution to the band’s problems,” writes Clear Channel.

The company says its Class As have suffered from interference — losing them coverage and annoying listeners — when AM daytimers fail or “forget” to power down at night. The broadcaster has 239 AMs.

Clear Channel also urges the commission to review the impact of short antennas on the existing standards for nighttime skywave “to ensure that service to the public is not degraded.” The FCC had asked for comment on whether to reduce minimum field strength values by 25%.

Clear Channel pushes for all-digital operation on AM as well, proposing that the FCC allow that on a voluntary basis, now that more broadcasters have implemented digital AM operations and as more vehicle and consumer digital receivers are available. “Initial testing of AM all-digital operations has proven very positive. Particularly if an AM station can pair an all-digital AM operation with an analog FM translator, it can serve listener expectations while implementing a transition to all-digital,” according to the broadcaster.

Allowing AMs to go all-digital on a voluntary basis would allow stations to determine the best means, whether analog, hybrid or all-digital, to reach the listening public, according to Clear Channel, which suggests stations be allowed to just notify the commission once they’ve gone all-digital.

Watch our page for summaries of other comments to the FCC NPRM.