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Re: AM Radio proposal - FCC relief?

October 01, 2014 05:27AM
Well stated Boomer.

Full 10-kHz audio bandwidth capability with low detector distortion is essential to AM radio survival (540-1700khz). But its going to take a lot more to fix it. You are right there aren't many Chief Engineers watching their stations, because they have to watch over a dozen or more spread out over 100's of miles. Both as Engineers for Group broadcasters and Contract Engineers. They all have too many stations to keep on the air. When they are in their cars going from one station to another they are listening to their stations to make sure they are on the air. The quality issue went out the door years ago.

Just start tuning at the bottom of the band 540khz and go up 10 khz at a time. You'll hear everything from low level audio to distorted over modulated crap that bleeds over for 50khz in each direction. I've heard the admonition from owners myself, "Just keep it on the air, I don't care how". And sadly the worst of these are the religous broadcasters (not all but many) who want to buy up stations but keep running them on a shoestring staff. I've actually seen heritage (1920's) stations being run on a computer from a closet.

The FCC has its role in this but if you are looking for someone to blame, its the owners themselves. Around 30-years ago the MBA's the CPA's and bottom line bean counters became the standard. No longer did you have people who knew how to touch the community running radio or TV stations. "serving the public interest" was a line item to be checked off on a list for the Public File, not something that was a part of the soul of the station or a directive to staff. AM radio lost its soul and as we've all seen over the past couple decades its audience.

And here's a surprise. FM is losing its audience too. With the advent of flash drives, memory cards and satellite radio, FM is suffering what AM is losing. With BMW leaving AM stations off their radio's for new production cars, its time for AM radio owners to wake up and not just smell the coffee but pour it over their heads.

AM radio needs an injection of heart and soul. They could learn a lot from Pirate Shortwave broadcasters who reach out to listeners emotions and passions. I can hear an AM station GM now, "as long as it doesn't cost any money"! The FCC isn't going to "save" AM radio. Only AM radio can save itself. Giving AM stations FM translators isn't going to save AM radio. Like I said, FM is dying too. The only fix for AM radio has to be internal. That's not likely to happen in this economy or with this generation of owners.

The people who invested millions of dollars into broadcast properties suddenly become cheap when it comes to the staffing of their stations. They cut corners on audio processing, talent and promotions after spending millions to just get the frequency. Sometimes that doesn't include the towers or transmitters. I've often wondered, why buy the damn thing if you aren't going to make the investment to build up the station profile in the community? I see often the "flipper" buyer. You've seen them on TV buying up houses only to flip them quickly to the next buyer. Only problem with this tactic in AM radio is that the buyers are a quickly shrinking market. Smart investors aren't going to buy something they can't make any money with.

AM radio has a lot of problems. Most of them internal. The FCC isn't going to do anything that will save it, if the owners don't take the steps to save themselves.
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