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NAB’s AM Study Is Welcome

Association says 'everything's on the table'

Paul McLane is U.S. editor in chief.

There are some 4,800 AM radio stations in the United States. For every one of them that thrives, you can find several whose managers will tell you that running an AM is a real challenge thanks to general financial pressures, new noise on the spectrum, changing consumer tastes and the lack of AM capabilities on new devices.

So I welcome the news that the National Association of Broadcasters is exploring ways to help AM.

The NAB Radio Board has given Kevin Gage, the association’s new executive VP and chief technology officer, permission to spend money on a study to explore “options for AM broadcasters from an engineering perspective with a focus on where technology will be in 5–10 years,” according to a meeting summary.

NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton told me an important reason for the study is increased interference from the host of consumer electronic devices on the market. This led me to think that the study might focus on fairly narrow issues of interference resolution, so I asked him if bigger options might not be part of the study, such as spectrum repacking or moving.

“Everything’s on the table,” he replied, to help AM radio survive and thrive. So this study is very much worth watching.

About two years ago Radio World explored the relevance of AM in a series of articles. Some readers were offended, others embraced the discussion; but overall reader reaction made clear that the future of AM matters to a ton of people. So we’ll have more on this NAB effort in Radio World as it develops.

All About the Relevance of AM (2009-2010 articles)