Big commercial and religious radio industry execs are applauding the FCC’s intention to revitalize AM by giving AM broadcasters a free FM station. A few observers, like me, see this plan will move AM to FM, not a revitalization of AM radio.
As I pointed out yesterday, giving AM broadcasters FM licenses seems counter-intuitive to me. When someone is listening to AM programming on FM, they are listening to FM, not AM. This FCC proposed rulemaking [link] is a disingenuous wolf in sheep’s clothing.
I am glad to say that some observers agree with me:
PAUL RIISMANDEL, RADIO SURVIVOR [link]
[T]he big solution for revitalizing the AM dial is... make it easier for AM stations to get stations on the FM dial.
Beginning in 2016 AM stations will have two opportunities to obtain translator repeater stations in order to rebroadcast their signal on the FM dial. What does this mean for the average AM radio listener? It means that in many cases she’s going to become an FM listener…
But if all that sounds to you like it hardly revitalizes the actual AM dial, you’re not alone. In the end, these policy efforts should be categorized more accurately as migration, not revitalization.
There are hundreds of translator construction permits that are close to expiring. These all come from the last translator application window in 2003…because an unprecedented 13,306 applications were filed, an overwhelming number of which came from applicants whose only apparent purpose was to resell them at a profit…
JOHN ANDERSON, DIYmedia.net [link]
After a flurry of heavy lobbying by commercial broadcasters and their allies, including former FCC Commissioners, the agency capitulated and approved plans that will give AM broadcasters increased opportunities to secure FM translators.
For the first time, the FCC acknowledged the vibrant market that exists for FM translators, though it downplays the market’s vibrancy, noting simply that “the vast majority of stations” sold over the past year went “for under $100,000, and a substantial majority of those for less than $50,000.”
[Note: Yesterday we reported on FM translators selling for millions.]
[FCC Commissioner] Ajit Pai, who has made this a personal policy priority, admits that giving FM spectrum to AM broadcasters does little to address the problems that plague AM, but thinks they will serve “as a vital bridge to the future” while they make a longer-term assessment of the band.
Commissioner Mike O’Rielly genuflected to Pai and his efforts moving this suite of policy changes forward, though he wonders aloud about the future fate of AM: “The American people will ultimately decide the fate of AM radio and its place in the American entertainment and information marketplace…
Broadcasters will argue that the economics of running an AM station are no longer sustainable…In the end, these policy efforts should be categorized more accurately as migration, not revitalization.”
COMMERCIAL & RELIGIOUS BROADCASTERS CELEBRATE AM ACCESS TO FM
With dwindling AM listening, FM translators are seen as the best immediate option for the struggling legacy band. Comparing the AM band to a shopping center that few visit, Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan said moving AM stations to FM will be a “game-changing” move. “This is really good news for the American radio industry,” he said.
NATIONAL RELIGIOUS BROADCASTERS
This order takes important steps to improve this long relied upon and relevant radio band serving local communities.
As NRB's membership comprises numerous AM radio stations, this effort is of great significance. NRB previously filed comments in this proceeding that, among other recommendations, urged an AM filing window for FM translators…
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BROADCASTERS
This is a great day for AM radio and for millions of listeners across America. … the Media Bureau [is] taking important steps to improve and expand AM radio service.
The translator section of the order eventually will help many more daytime AM stations use 24/7 FM translators that do not sign off at night. Translators are the solution that make the most difference to small to medium-market broadcasters.
BRIAN WINNEKINS, AM BROADCASTER AND INCOMING PRESIDENT OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FARM BROADCASTERS
I appreciate the commission's compromise on allowing AM's that do not have a translator to apply for one. After some reflection, I'm not convinced FM translators are the answer. First I don't believe there is enough room to accommodate all the AM's that would apply for one, and second, if the commission is going to allow this, in my view it would make more sense to just move everyone to the FM and abandon the AM all together.
Tom Taylor, TK Media Inc. said it best:
You can foresee a mini-Oklahoma Land Rush, can’t you?
I will be contacting Senator Al Franken’s office to see if anything can be done to stop this windfall for the nations largest radio broadcasters.