Commentary: 5 kHz Cake Walk

I would like to extend an open "thank you" to Clear Channel and AM stations everywhere that opted to reduce their bandwidth. Let me explain.
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The following was submitted as a letter to the editor of Radio World.

I would like to extend an open "thank you" to Clear Channel and AM stations everywhere that opted to reduce their bandwidth. Let me explain.

For years, I have struggled with the whole "loudness" issue with my PDs and managers competing with many others on the AM band. You see, I am one of those old-school guys who plays by the rules. And the rules say you may not exceed 125 percent positive peak modulation on the AM broadcast band. I have fought with stations with which I am entrusted in an effort to keep them legal.

All the while, I have been taking much grief from station personnel as to why we were not as loud as them. By "them," they usually mean Clear Channel-owned AMs and others that run 150 percent or more positive peak modulation as a rule.

In fact, one corporate-owned station in my market borrowed me to install some audio processing equipment at its transmitter. I was told to run the positive peaks to 150 percent. I refused. (This was not a paying job, but a favor to their engineer.)

The station then sent one of its staff engineers to the site behind me to make the illegal adjustment, saying it was "company policy." Keeping my stations legal was way more important to me than some silly program director loudness competition.

Okay, fast-forward to today. Most of the AM stations in my markets have reduced their bandwidth - except mine. I refuse to diminish the quality of our AM signals.

But suddenly my stations sound so much louder and fuller than our competition. Without breaking any FCC rules, my stations with full 10 kHz bandwidth sound louder and better than the stations that used to be slightly louder than us because of their illegal operation. Naturally, this has made the station managers pat me on the back for my "great work" and the "improvements" to the stations, when in reality I have done nothing.

This wonderful twist of fate has even given me an idea. The stations in my market of which I am not the chief have reduced their bandwidth, so I am going to go one step further. I am going to install the "green" high-frequency emphasis curve filters in my 9100s, boost the high end in my 9200 processors and take advantage of the wide gap in audio quality my fellow stations have created.

My life is cake now. I can run legally and satisfy the program director's tastes for ultimate loudness over others. And I don't even have to bury our audio deep into the clippers to do it. Feel free to "save" bandwidth and I will graciously use it up. The winner will be the listeners and our advertisers.

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