ACTING CHAIRWOMAN MIGNON L. CLYBURN
Re: Revitalization of the AM Radio Service, MB Docket No. 13-249
AM radio is part of the foundation of our media landscape, which has tied communities together
for generations. Today, it is one of the more diverse parts of our dial. Female-owned and minority-owned
stations make up a greater percentage of stations on the AM dial than the FM dial. And my professional
career was buoyed on an AM station in South Carolina, so I have a special affection for the AM service
and its place in our culture.
But there are many threats to AM service. Listeners are migrating to newer, higher-fidelity media
services, which is leading AM stations to shut down and listenership to dwindle. To help AM stations
weather the tide, this item identifies challenges that should be addressed and proposes remedies. For
example, due to the propagation characteristics of AM signals, many stations must reduce their power at
night, and some are unable to broadcast at that time. We propose to modify the nighttime coverage rules
to keep more stations on the air after dark. Moreover, reinforced buildings and structures with steel
frames or aluminum siding can block AM signals and lead to poor reception in many urban areas. Our
proposals to open an FM translator filing window just for AM licensees and to modify the daytime
community coverage standards intend to give licensees more flexibility to deliver their programming to
listeners in urban areas. Finally, electricity bills for AM broadcasters can be high. Our proposal to let
AM licensees use Modulation Dependent Carrier Level control technologies or algorithms is intended to
reduce those bills and lower operating costs.
During my tenure as Chairwoman, the Commission has taken a number of steps to provide relief
to AM broadcasters. This summer, the Commission simplified the licensing procedures and technical
requirements—including allowing “moment-method” modeling—which can save licensees over
$100,000. And this year, the Commission has actively expanded the inventory of translator stations. In
fact, by the end of 2013, the Media Bureau’s Audio Division expects to have increased the number of
authorized FM translators from 5,700 to about 7,300 – a 28 percent boost. This item represents the next
significant step in our effort to buttress AM broadcast service and ease regulatory burdens on AM
broadcasters. These steps, along with the changes proposed in today’s item, will help AM radio stay
vibrant into the future. Who knows, maybe a future FCC Chairwoman is getting her start at one today.
I would like to extend a warm thank you to Peter Doyle, Jim Bradshaw, Tom Nessinger, Susan
Crawford, and Lisa Scanlan for their hard work on this item. In addition to other vitally important tasks,
Peter’s team in the Audio Division has worked tirelessly on the achievements I list above.