The Federal Communications Commission has moved forward to revitalize a dying industry, AM radio, by releasing their AM Radio Revitalization Report and Order late Friday afternoon.
FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai said the order will ease regulatory burdens on AM broadcasters and address practical problems and interference-related issues that have long plagued AM stations. It includes multiple actions to expand access to FM translators, which are used to enhance the quality of AM signals.
“Over the last two years, AM broadcasters from Kansas to Mississippi have told me about the importance of the FM translator window proposal. Translators have helped them boost listenership and advertising dollars in a major way. Now, translators are not the answer for the technical problems plaguing the AM band. But those problems are not going to be solved overnight,” Pai said.
“Of course, our work on AM revitalization does not end today; we also tee up many ideas that stakeholders gave us in response to our Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. I look forward to reviewing the record to be compiled on those ideas and hope that we will move forward swiftly on those that have merit,” Pai said in a statement.
Among the changes provided by the order are relaxation of daytime community of license coverage rules for existing commercial AM stations; relaxation of nighttime coverage rules; elimination of the AM “ratchet rule”; allow wider adoption of Modulation Dependent Carrier Level control technologies; and reducing the existing AM antenna efficiency standards by 25 percent.
FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said, “This Order will allow the smallest AM stations that face the largest challenges to be the first in line for relief, both for the modification application window that will take place early next year, and for the auction window that will happen in 2017. It also provides for outreach and assistance to those that are most resource-challenged.”
“Giving preference to these Class C and D stations will revitalize AM radio, our broadcast service with the highest percentage of ownership diversity.”
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler had expressed his commitment in April to adopt new rules to help AM radio flourish while also preserving the values of competition, diversity, and localism. “Today, the Commission unanimously adopted an AM revitalization plan honoring that commitment,” Wheeler said.
“This Order will ease regulatory burdens on AM broadcasters and address practical problems and interference-related issues that have long plagued AM stations. In particular, it includes multiple actions to expand access to FM translators, which are used to enhance the quality of AM signals.”
“First, the new rules allow a one-time waiver for stations to relocate existing FM translators up to 250 miles. Considering FM translators are often in one place when the AM broadcaster wants to use them in another, this provision will dramatically increase the usability of the 6,800 previously authorized translators on the market and should result in significantly lower prices. I’m pleased that the rules prioritize relief for those most in need with a 6-month exclusive modification window for the 4,500 smallest AM stations. This quick, targeted relief will help get translators in the hands of small stations by early next year. 250 miles. Considering FM translators are often in one place when the AM broadcaster wants to use them.”