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Many Voices Support AM Radio

With technical suggestions and blunt sentiments, comments on AM revitalization order roll in ahead of Monday deadline

Culling through the many comments submitted to the Federal Communications Commission about the agency’s AM revitalization proposals — nearly 400 of them, if you count back to 2013 — one thing is abundantly clear:

With its reach, its personality, its focus on localism — and its ability to cover spectacularly huge areas of the country with good, clean, powerful signals— AM radiois still valued by many people.

The fondness starts among listeners. “Protect these stations from interference, raise their power so they can overcome the static and let them continue to serve the public,” wrote Allen Dunkin of Roswell, Ga., sharing his concerns about reducing the coverage area of Class A AM stations.

“These high-power stations provide the best way to reach the most people over a widespread area during emergencies and natural disasters,” he said, pointing to the broadcasts of WWL(AM) in New Orleans in the days following Hurricane Katrina. “These stations in many places are the only sign of life on the AM dial,” he said. “Please don’t take that away.”

According to listener Timothy Kruzan of Jacksonville, Ill., having a local source for local news, weather and other information is invaluable. So said listener Sue Shireman, also of Jacksonville. “I would like to express my opinion that our local AM radio station be allowed to stay on the air after sundown,” she said in her comment filing. “It is a vital station disseminating local weather, local sports and local news, as well as farming programs to the listening area.”

Others asked the commission to weigh further the real-world technical challenges that AM stations face and to take steps from there.

“The commission must temper its rulings and orders with knowledge of how the real world works and how such orders and rulings will impact those who actually operate under them,” said Lawrence Langford, a licensee of several stations in Michigan and a Radio World contributor. “In the case of [FM] translators, I feel the real world and the current regulations are at odds due to the rules of propagation versus practical application.” He suggests the commission take a close look at the issue of power versus height for translators. “Those AM operators that can find a commercial FM tower or TV tower to use can get amazing range if they are able to satisfy interference limitations.”

Langford also expressed support for proposed changes to the daytime protection of AM stations from .5 mV/m to 2 mV/m, but reminded the commission that it must also deal with the 1 kW cap now in place on six local frequencies that now allow 24-hour 1 kW operation.

The expanded band continues to be a priority for broadcasters like Bryan Broadcasting License Corp., which said in its comment filing that expanded band/standard band licensees should be allowed to keep both stations on the air until the next AM filing window. “Like other paired stations that have been identified by the commission, BBLC provides unique, local programming on each [of our stations],” the licensee said in its comment filing.

[Read more about Bryan’s filing.]

Others wrote in to express their support for relaxing daytime contours for Class B, C and D stations, and to “end discrimination of AM stations as it relates to moving to a more desirable frequency in their market,” said Bill Walters, president of W&B Broadcasting, licensee of WAKY(AM) in Louisville. “FMs are allowed to move to any frequency that will work. AM stations can only move three frequencies up or down from their current frequency,” he wrote. “Where is the wisdom and reasoning in this rule?”

The commission’s actions on AM revitalization received praise from various quarters. “The Federal Communications Commission is to be commended for its unusually proactive move on the issue of AM revitalization,” Langford said. “The method chosen by the commission to accept applications for changes and new FM translators is to be applauded. While not everyone will be happy, the method is as fair as can be done based on the varied needs and interests.”

But compliments were not universal.

As well as being an efficient means of making technical suggestions, the Electronic Comment Filing System has also served as a digital diary of sorts, allowing the public to share blunt, from-the-heart sentiments on what AM radio means to them.

“This is a hideous proposal,” wrote Rita Lake of Mount Juliet, Tenn. “It does smack of a ‘solution’ in search of a problem.”

“As a frequent long-distance AM radio listener, I was unaware that AM radio needed to be revitalized,” she said in her comment filing. “I guess I need to prepare to have my heart broken by the autocratic, anonymous bureaucrats far away from the heartland.”

Others wrote to say that AM radio needs to be recognized for the gem that it is.

“The AM broadcast service, among other things, has one very important and unique ability, and that is to be able to cover spectacularly huge areas of the country with good, clean, powerful signals,” said Joseph Paul Ferraro, licensee of WHVW(AM) in Hyde Park, N.Y. “No other service can do this, and we should take advantage of it, not only for entertainment but also for public utility and safety. Just in the case of EAS alone, one powerful signal is better than thousands of daisy-chained locals.”

AM station owner Jon Yinger wrote, “Time is of the essence.”

“Owners, such as myself, have been impatiently waiting for the opportunity to do a better in our markets,” said Yinger, who is licensee of AM stations in several Midwestern and southern states. “One way is through improved coverage. Contrary to popular belief, there are AM owners that want to upgrade their facilities. They still believe in the AM band and cannot wait to succeed.”

Comments are being accepted via the FCC’s filing database through today March 21 using the proceeding number 13-249.

AM Owners Weighing In

Upsurge of Comments Ahead of Deadline