Could AM Boosters Save The Band?

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According to Puerto Rico station owner Wilfredo Blanco-Pi, “no one would listen to an AM radio” in a noisy city like San Juan with just 5 mv/m.


Even with 25 mv/m, “noisy power lines, computers, microwave ovens, fluorescent lamps, thunderstorms, etc. could make a listener switch to FM radio.”

Simply stated, “It’s extremely difficult to tune to AM stations inside a building without noise,” Blanco-Pi said in an FCC petition shared by Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth’s CommLawBlog on Tuesday.

That’s why he’s asking the FCC to allow AM stations to use synchronous boosters on a permanent basis.


RBR + TVBR OBSERVATION (full text below, for subscribers only): Ahh … AM radio. That thing Grandpa Irving used to listen to when Fibber McGee and Molly were on that is still consumed by a huge segment of U.S. consumers. From WCBS-AM in New York to KABC-AM in Los Angeles — home of the Los Angeles Kings hockey club’s play-by-play to small-town voices like little 1kw WKNY-AM in Kingston, N.Y., AM radio still matters in America. The problem is, for how long?


Individuals and radio operations that wish to comment on the proposal, which would amend Part 73 of the rules, must submit them via the FCC’s online filing system by December 29.

“Although the idea [of AM Revitalization] sounds good as in the Titanic, there are no sufficient ‘lifesavers’ for everybody until the FCC decides to migrate to entire AM band to FM,” Blanco-Pi wrote.

An engineer, Blanco-Pi and his son have been using AM synchronous boosters as a test since 1988, and under experimental FCC licenses.

As noted in CommLawBlog, Two AMs were 680 kHz: WAPA and WA2XPA. Three AMs were synchronized on 1260 kHz: WISO, WI2XSO and WI3XSO.

A 2011 application for a fourth station at 1260 kHz was denied.

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who helped push AM revitalization initiatives at the Commission, agreed with the majority in denying the additional booster.

But, he stressed that this order shouldn’t deter AM broadcasters who want to perform “legitimate experiments with AM synchronous boosters from coming to the Commission.”

As part of the AM Revitalization effort, Blanco-Pi is revising the petition for the fourth synchronous transmitter for 1260 kHz. He also wants to give all AM station licensees the opportunity for permanent synchronous transmitter operation.

 

RBR + TVBR OBSERVATION: Ahh … AM radio. That thing Grandpa Irving used to listen to when Fibber McGee and Molly were on that is still consumed by a huge segment of U.S. consumers. From WCBS-AM in New York to KABC-AM in Los Angeles — home of the Los Angeles Kings hockey club’s play-by-play to small-town voices like little 1kw WKNY-AM in Kingston, N.Y., AM radio still matters in America. The problem is, for how long? Let’s consider synchronous AM boosters, at least during daylight hours. It could give the AM band a few extra years before it is silenced for good. In Ireland, there are now AM (or MW) signals on the air anymore. In Canada, AM stations have been migrating to the FM band for years. In the U.S., we’ve fumbled AM stereo and now HD Radio. But, HD can be salvaged by migrating AMs to HD1 and HD2 signals. All it takes is the realization that the stick value for an AM heard in 38 states at night may have value today, but in 15 years it will be as useful as my VCR.


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Adam R Jacobson is a veteran radio industry journalist and advertising industry analyst with general, multicultural and Hispanic market expertise. From 1996 to 2006 he served as an editor at Radio & Records.