Longtime broadcaster Saul Levine thinks the FCC’s decision to allow all-digital on the AM band is “a breakthrough,” and he’s encouraging his fellow AM station owners to invest in new equipment and programming with an eye on eventually going all-digital.
For now, the president of Mount Wilson FM Broadcasters Inc. has just spent a quarter of a million dollars on a new AM transmitting system at his oldies-formatted station KSUR(AM) in Los Angeles.
And he has turned on hybrid AM HD Radio as an interim step, making him one of the few U.S. broadcasters to add fresh AM HD Radio service in recent years.
The project involves a new 25 kW Nautel main transmitter and a 12 kW Nautel standby, plus four new 200-foot towers and ground systems. Kintronic Labs supplied diplex phasing equipment.
He said that KSUR has a “significant” existing audience, so he views using hybrid mode as a compromise that lays groundwork for going 100% digital, which he anticipates doing in 12 to 18 months.
KSUR is a Class B directional station with 20 kW daytime power and a translator at 98.3 FM.
in 1959, Levine put KBCA(FM) on the air at 105.1, broadcasting from more than a mile above downtown Los Angeles as one of the first FM stations on Mount Wilson. “I placed FM 105.1 on the air in 1959 when FM set penetration was only about 25 percent,” he recalled. “It was a difficult time for FM, and the station did not become profitable for 10 years.
“I suggest AM owners who do not have a passion for radio and are looking for fast profits get out of the AM ownership business,” he continued. “Ultimately 100% AM digital will prevail and be successful. Initially, we have elected to go with hybrid HD digital/analog technology. The reason is that this allows continued analog listening while making the transition to all-digital AM.”
He said his analog AM sounds good and the digital component “is significantly noise-free, and provides stereo. KSUR 1260 is also simulcast in HD on our 105.1 FM facility with 100-mile coverage from 6,000-foot-high Mount Wilson.”
Levine told Radio World, “I see the recent FCC decision to approve all digital AM transmission as a breakthrough for the AM service [that will] will lead to financially successful AM stations. In my opinion initial operation with hybrid technology is a fast way to generate a positive outlook for the AM band, and lead to 100% digital technology within a few years.
“In the interim, I urge AM station owners to invest in AM with new equipment, and invest in unique programming to provide the audience with a reason to tune in, plus perceive digital AM radio as I did with FM 62 years ago.” He says if an AM station plans to go to a new format or needs a kickstart, “I recommend all-digital now. But install the digital equipment now,” regardless.
Read our 2007 article “Levine’s KKGO/KMZT Embrace HD Radio”