The FCC opened a rulemaking proceeding, MM Docket 13-249 on the Revitalization of the AM Radio Service. In it, the Commission proposed a modest list of items which were likely to be of help to the beleaguered AM broadcaster. The press release is here.
The first was to open an FM translator filing window just for AM broadcasters. FM translators would give AM stations a small FM presence that duplicates the AM signal in perfectly clear FM, in addition to the decidedly “lower-fi” AM signal. The idea was that an FM signal would be a lifeline to the AM broadcaster.
The second was to propose loosening the requirements for AM stations to put a strong signal over the better part of their “principal community” during the daytime. AM stations that are forced to move their transmitters because the land that the antennas take up became too valuable, or because the town grew “behind” the directional antenna now have a problem finding any site that can meet this requirement.
The third was to propose loosening this same requirement at night.
The fourth was to propose deleting the universally despised “ratchet rule” where any station that made changes in its night signal had to decrease the interference by to any other station by 10% (which means 19% power decrease).
The fifth was to propose to make Modulation Dependent Carrier Level Control Technologies to be automatically authorized. Now stations have to get special permission to use them. These technologies can decrease an AM station’s power bill substantially, while causing little decrease in the signal.
Presently AM stations have to use tall towers to meet the requirements of a minimum Antenna efficiency rule. When engineered with care, antennas can be made smaller, but you need more power to make the same signal, because short towers are inefficient. The FCC proposed to decrease or eliminate this requirement.
And finally, they opened the door for “Further Proposals”.
Overall there was a very robust activity filers, from listeners, station licensees, state broadcasters groups, LPFM advocates, consulting engineers and trade groups. From the selected filings we reviewed, from the 150 comments in the FCC database, most supported the FCC’s initiative and the seven proposals, but many said that the proposals were far too modest, and that AM regulation needed a complete overhaul, with many detailed additional proposals. Nearly everyone deplored the high noise level from electronic gadgets, and Compact Fluorescent Lamps, computers, etc.
We will be posting updates on this proceeding, as we wait with great anticipation for what actions the FCC will undertake to rebuild broadcasting’s senior service. The FCC will now accept reply comments, with some filers agreeing with some proposals, some disagreeing, or expressing caviats. Let us hope that a consensus emerges on many issues so Medium Wave broadcasting can be assured a bright future.