Is AM Going the Way of the Dinosaur?

For as long as we can remember, there has been an AM radio in the dashboard of an automobile.  In the coming model year at least one model will be arriving on dealer lots with an FM-only receiver.  It’s a sign of the times.The average number of Americans listening to AM radio in any given quarter hour dropped from 3.6 million to 3.4 million from Fall 2011 and Spring 2012, according to Arbitron data.  At the same time FM use actually increased from 21 million to 21.6 million listeners.  Over the course of a week AM radio does somewhat better.  Arbitron says it had a weekly cume of 66.3 million, reaching 28.2 % of listeners in fall 2011.

So it seems that FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai wants to save the AM service and wants to the FCC to undertake a study to do just that.  Proposals floated at the recent NAB Convention included an across the board increase in power, replacing high powered transmitters with synchronous lower powered transmitters, and the development of “anti-skywave” antennae systems thus eliminating the need to power down at night.  Not proposed was reinventing the AM service by moving it to the audio portions of Channels 5 and 6. Pai’s initiative is currently being dubbed as the AM Radio Revitalization Initiative and he would like to see it take place in 2013 with a delivery date of 2014. Is It Really About the Band?  We mean the channel band, that is.  Is it about AM versus FM?  Is AM going to be relegated to second-class citizenry via non-radio inclusion?  Or is it maybe about the programming?

If it’s about the band, why not just move all AM stations over to the channel 5 and 6 spectrum and be done with it?  That certainly makes more sense to us than forcing a digital conversion that no one truly wanted anyway.  That makes more sense than forcing new EAS CAPS standards, that makes more sense than excluding LPTV stations from must carry and now using “repacking” to simply force some existing stations out of existence.

That makes more sense than allowing large translator aggregators to flood limited spectrum space with thousands of applications.  Why not break down the barrier between reserved and non-reserved band utilization?  It seems to us that there are more non-commercial stations in the non-reserved band than vice versa.

While we’re at it, why not let owners with both legacy and expanded band AM stations sell one or the other keeping the one that makes best business to them?

That’s 30 For Now…For What It’s Worth