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AM Owners Weighing in

Filing deadline is Monday; commenters continue to press for changes to fill-in translators, environmental noise rules

If past practice holds, we’ll see a rush of filings from larger interest groups right at deadline in the AM revitalization proceeding. But in the meantime, AM radio stations are continuing to file their own comments to the Federal Communications Commission about how AM radio revitalization efforts will affect the service.

For Tom Susman, an owner of WMOV(AM) in Ravenswood, W.Va., it is imperative that the FCC follow through on proposed changes in coverage area for FM fill-in translators.

Those changes would modify the coverage contour language for an FM translator rebroadcasting an AM station. They would allow a station like WMOV to increase the height of its FM antenna, which would reduce the interference caused by local mountains as well as increase the listenable coverage area within the market, Susman said in comments filed with the FCC.

The station is a Class D daytime station in a rural, mountainous area in West Virginia. An FM fill-in translator allows the station to serve its community in the evening and overnight, Susman said.

“For AM stations with translators located in flat terrain, the current restrictions may be sufficient to be commercially viable; however, that is not the case in our mountainous market,” Susman wrote in his filing. “The terrain issues impair the ability of residents residing in southern Jackson County to receive local news carried on our translator; the proposed change is a solution to this problem.” He said station is the only one in the county with local news and community affairs programing.

Other stations are pressing the FCC to consider the ongoing issue of environmental noise as well as the potential reduction in nighttime and critical hours protection.

“Both these steps are strongly supported as they would significantly enhance the ability of stations to survive economically and, just as importantly, provide better service to the public in our broadcast area,” said Henry Remmer, CEO of Daly XXL Communications, licensee of WMEX(AM) in Boston.

Current FCC restrictions limit WMEX’s ability to serve its market area properly, Remmer said. “The adjustments as proposed would go far in allowing us to serve the community of Boston, from the workplace to the home,” he said. “There are hundreds of thousands of local listeners whose communications access is severely impinged by the limited and twisted signal pattern we now use.”

Reached by Radio World by phone, Remmer said that the commission needs to consider the needs of stations like WMEX, which has a heavily contorted signal and would benefit from being able to make use of a single, tall tower to improve signal interference. “Even though there are a lot of politics at work, [these issues] need to be rethought and reworked,” he said.

In his filing, Remmer said that in addition to long-existing issues of limited nighttime and critical hours and daytime environmental signal interference, “a growing issue in today’s world,” he said, AM stations like his are struggling with the 2002 adoption of the NRSC-5 digital HD Radio standard. “The unintended result of this is to further degrade our signal and range, and [increasing the signal to overcome environmental noise] would assist in service in this area,” he said.

“We strongly believe that the adoption of these steps as proposed will go far to help ensure the survival, and regrowth of (especially) Class B AM stations in markets like Boston,” he said. “Furthermore, these changes will allow us to serve our community from the home through the workplace, helping to fulfill the FCC’s community service charge, while not onerously impinging on listeners in the non-service community, and maintaining jobs. The critical nature of these changes cannot be overemphasized.”

The pending Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is soliciting comments until March 21. Comments are being accepted via the ECFS database; use proceeding number 13-249.

Local Listeners Are Speaking Up in AM Debate