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Local Listeners Are Speaking Up in AM Debate

It isn’t just broadcast associations and stations that have chimed in on the AM Radio Revitalization issue.

It isn’t just broadcast associations and stations that have chimed in on the AM Radio Revitalization issue. Local listeners have been submitting comments to the Federal Communications Commission on how its Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will affect the AM radio service.

Listeners like David Drier from Arkansaw, Wis., expressed support for the commission’s proposal to change nighttime rules to allow local AM stations to increase power at night. “I live five miles away from our local station, WRDN, and at night we cannot receive them as they have to lower power for a station in St. Louis,” Drier wrote in his filing. “It makes it difficult or impossible to listen to the station’s local programming, including their high school sports broadcasts and emergency weather report. It makes sense to change the rules to allow our local stations to serve their areas.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by WRDN listener Roger Mock from Mondovi, Wis., who relies on WRDN for farm news, weather information, and local and national events. “It’s very frustrating to lose the ability to listen to [a] race or event when the station has to power down at night for a distant station 600 miles away,” he wrote.

Others favor a compromise of allowing more AM stations to broadcast at full power until 10 p.m. “I am not a radio engineer, but this seems to be a good compromise until such time as alternative means become the most widely accessible choice for listeners,” said Jim Seeman from Seattle, alluding to wider adoption of satellite radio or regular WiFi hot spots for accessing streaming radio.

Another listener expressed support for allowing AM stations to petition for better coverage. “Any station that can show how they really serve their community should be allowed to expand and provide a better service,” said Marcus Davenport of Lansing, Mich.

Listener Robert Pelke from Durand, Wis., requests that the power of small, local AM stations be increased so that listeners can listen to the station regardless of time of day. Pelke said his local station focuses on local news, events and weather in a way that is often overlooked by larger broadcasters in neighboring cities.

“The station focuses on things that I view as highly important and applicable to my life. As such, the station has proved to be nothing but beneficial to our community. While larger radio stations have their perks, they do not benefit smaller towns and regions like Durand, because they do not have the time or resources to focus on such a small area…. I would like to see the FCC revise their regulations in order to benefit all stations and individuals, regardless of the size of the community they are based,” he said.

It was simply put by listener Amanda Crescowle of Ionia, Iowa: “For many of us that are just outside of the broadcast area when they power down at night, it is hard to know about emergency alerts that may directly affect us as the nearest big station may be 40-plus miles away and not even mention our area at all,” she said in her filed comment. “Please help keep our AM station strong and help them keep us safe.”

The National Association of Broadcasters remains active on this issue. According to an ex parte filing, representatives met with members of the FCC Media Bureau to discuss certain issues in the rulemaking. “Specifically, we sought further information about the proposal to change the daytime protections for AM Class B, C and D stations,” stated Larry Walke, NAB associate general counsel of legal and regulatory affairs, in a filing. “We also considered whether requests and implementation should be managed through the commission’s minor modification process or some other mechanism.”

Comments are being accepted via the ECFS database until March 21 under proceeding number 13-249.