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Pai, WRDN Owner Discuss AM Band

Durand, Wis. owner suggests FCC drop skywave protection, allow AMs to use daytime power at night

Brian Winnekins co-owns WRDN(AM), Durand, Wis. with his wife Karla. Brian Winnekins recently met with FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai about the state of the senior band.

Pai says Winnekins gave him several suggestions for helping AM, as well as letters from citizens of Durand, thanking the Winnekins for bringing back the station in 2012; the station had been dark for five years. The documents include letters from the local fire department, churches and the local school district.

In a statement, Pai says “in places like Durand, a local radio station is an important way — sometimes one of the only ways — for folks to feel like they really are a part of the community.”

Several of the letters, Pai says, note that WRDN has helped local residents who were elderly or physically impaired stay informed about what’s going on in their town, such as church services and weather updates.

Pai, who’s been pushing the commission to pay attention to AM and figure out ways to help AM station owners, says the letters had a strong impact on him and help illustrate why the commission should start an initiative to help AM.

Winnekins suggested the commission make it easier for AMs to operate on FM translators and to move those translators, if need be. He told Pai that since there’s no available translator in Durand, under existing rules, he’d need to buy one and hop it several times to Durand. Each of those moves would be expensive and the entire move could take years, according to Winnekins.

He sees HD Radio transmission gear as being too expensive for his station. Expanding the FM band in order to accommodate AMs, too, would be expensive and he would need to replace his transmission gear.

What can the FCC do?

Start enforcing Part 15 interference rules, according to Winnekins, noting the commission has been lax in enforcing its rules that prohibit computers, televisions, overhead electric lines, florescent lights from causing harmful interference.

He suggests dropping rules stop forcing many AMs to power down at night to protect skywave transmissions. “In 1930 it might have been important to have larger, regional stations serving large rural areas and smaller stations like us has to ‘clear the channel,’ but that is not the case any longer.” Winnekins says his station needs to power down at night to protect a station in St. Louis and he receives complaints that his local listeners can’t get WRDN at night. “Instead, they hear this station in St. Louis.”

The FCC should have a temporary rule allowing all AMs that have night power to increase it to their daytime power level up to a maximum of 2,000 watts and allow AMs that can already broadcast at a higher power at night to retain that power level. The agency could allow the change from Sept. 1 to March 31 as a test. He believes it would work well and the rule could be left in place. AMs would benefit by being able to air local programming at night such as high school sports, using their current transmission gear, he believes.

Winnekins also suggests AMs be allowed to broadcast again with high bandwidth, noting that now, rules prohibit AMs from broadcasting above 9 kHz.

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