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iHeartMedia Presses Its Case for AM Skywave Protections

Company officials met with Commissioner Pai last week, worry about “significant harm” to the AM band

iHeartMedia officials are keeping up an active presence at the FCC, talking about protecting the signals of big Class A AM stations. The company owns 18 of those stations and worries that proposed rule changes could do “significant harm to the overall health” of the AM band.

On March 17, Jessica Marventano, senior vice president for government affairs for iHeartMedia + Entertainment, and Dan Dukes, its senior director for government affairs, met with Commissioner Ajit Pai and with Matthew Berry, Pai’s chief of staff, to discuss the status and timetable of the AM revitalization proceeding, according to an ex parte filing.

They reiterated the company’s concerns about proposed reductions in interference protections. In particular, they expressed concern over the potential elimination of skywave protections and “critical hours” protections for Class A AM stations.

Changes “would result in significant losses both in terms of listeners and in terms of geographic coverage within the FCC’s own recommended protected contour for Class A AM stations,” wrote Marissa G. Repp, counsel to iHeartMedia, in the filing. “iHeartMedia stated its position that adoption of these proposals would actually do significant harm to the overall health of the AM band.”

As Radio World has reported, iHeartMedia has been vocal with the commission on this issue. Last week’s meeting was only the latest in a series between iHeart officials and commission staff.

[Read “17 Questions for the FCC About AM Class A Protections,” Oct. 2015]

A change in nighttime skywave rules may let smaller stations boost power but it would also presumably eat into the effectiveness of the big “boomers” that have long enjoyed great geographic reach far beyond their cities of license.

IHeartMedia has estimated that there are more than a half-million listeners of Class A stations, “accounting for 13 million listening hours per month,” who would lose existing service. It has argued that the “anchor” stations that would be most affected are the very stations that have served to attract and retain listeners on the band, drawing analogies to the anchor commercial tenant in a retail development that helps attract and retain customers.

iHeartMedia Makes a Preemptive Strike (Dec. 2015)