AM radio proposal has Class A broadcasters upset

WHKY-AM-Radio-Tower(Source: Times Union)

When the sun goes down, AM radio signals travel much farther. You can listen to 50,000-watt stations such as WGY hundreds of miles away.

But that could soon change, if the Federal Communications Commission goes through with a plan to let more local stations broadcast through the evening hours and potentially makes changes in the daytime signal of WGY and other powerful stations.

The proposed change in protections to Class A stations such as WGY would ease restrictions on the smaller stations, which are now required to reduce power or change the direction they broadcast their signal so they don’t conflict with the more powerful Class A stations.

WGY has begun an online petition drive to oppose the changes.

Called “Save AM Radio,” the petition opposes reducing WGY’s so-called “protected service area.”

The changes, WGY says, “will make it very difficult for many of our listeners to receive our programming, especially at night and during morning and evening drive times.”

[…]The FCC, meanwhile, says the changes are being considered in an effort “to help revitalize the AM service.”

More local stations would give listeners a wider choice of programming, supporters of the change argue.

[…]WGY’s online petition is at
The FCC is accepting comments through March 21 and replies through April 18, at www.fcc/ecfs. Click on “submit a filing.” The proceeding number is 13-249.

Read the full article at the Times Union online…

I’m very curious what Post readers think about this proposal from the perspective of both access to regional information, as well as from MW DXing. Will this move crowd the AM broadcast band or give local stations a stronger voice?

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42 thoughts on “AM radio proposal has Class A broadcasters upset

  1. Allan Jayne

    Unfortunately the FCC cannot grant power and coverage allocations to stations based on their content. Content and format can change without notice while the FCC broadcast license remains fixed for a period of time.

    Incidentally, when there is a local emergency when some stations are unable to broadcast, AM stations that are still on the air can use daytime power and facilities during nighttime hours for the purpose of delivering emergency information..

  2. Joe Means

    I’d like to see the FCC to make exceptions for Class A’s that have a proven record unique programming especially during the night time hours (i.e. Grand Ole Opry, locally/regionally originated programming, a record for excellence in service during disasters like WWL during Hurricane Katrina, etc.).

  3. David Jay

    The sad truth, AM broadcasting is dead in the water. You cannot “revitalize” dinosaurs. AM broadcasting will eventually go the way of the Dodo bird. There are virtually no young people who listen to that trashy programming and static in the internet age. Just think of all the money that the FCC gets for licensing fees for something that is completely irrelevant and hasn’t served the public interest in decades. Maybe they should shutdown the internet so that CB radio can be revitalized too. Or maybe they should force all ham operators to use only morse code so that it can be saved. What a bunch of morons.

  4. norm

    first we need to get rid of the republiccon talk shown.all stations double your power.we need to hear norman goldman thom hartmann etc.

    1. Dave Mack

      Agreed. Maybe the FCC needs to start considering formats. If what you do is basically the same as everyone else then you lose protection. Right wing talk is right wing talk. If that’s what you do you lose! And if you do something else and then change to a useless format the FCC should immediately revoke the night coverage or protection.

  5. Rick Kaplan

    As stated above the 24 hour all news stations and the 50,000 watters that do local talk at night and overnight should be allowed to keep their designations. In New York, for example, syndicated talk dominates WABC and WOR. You can hear “Coast to Coast” and “Red Eye Radio” on virtually any station. Interesting,the only 50,000 watt station in NY that does local programming at night and overnight is WFAN with a sports format, WGY is the worst offender. they are wall to wall syndication outside of AM Drive, What a waste!

  6. Roger Johanson

    Could it be that the White House has an interest in diminishing access to AM talk shows that have been critical of their left of center policies? Don’t fewer broadcast stations means less program availability?

    1. Mark

      Whoa. As a lifelong broadcaster, I’m embarrassed that I didn’t think of this angle until reading your post, Roger.

  7. Ron Seggi

    This new ruling is decades over due. The unfair competition that AM stations have faced for years, does no service for medium and small markets, who lose there signals or signal pattern at various day parts and season, only to protect clear channel frequencies.
    If this ruling is not passed by the FCC, it will be another nail in the coffin of unfair business practices established with the Commission to favor monopolies in the industry. The last major “screw up” by the FCC was the permission of multiply ownership of broadcast stations within the same community of license or service area. That ruling also favored the large companies the ability to destroy the single owner broadcaster. The claim then was that the economies of scale would strengthen the financial stability of broadcast stations…..but the result was the extinction of fair competition and the loss of the spirit of “service to the community” broadcasters, who built the foundation for a competitive atmosphere. The FCC and the Federal Government, in the infinite wisdom, should have only enforced industry regulations and not mingle in the world of fair competition. I do not think that was the initial intend of the founders of the FCC. Shame on you!

  8. Dick Camnitz

    Wish the rule would have been changed back when I was in radio. Constantly had listeners in surrounding towns cry to us that they could only hear us in the daytime before power/pattern change.The local connection was lost.

    1. Steve

      I’m wondering what’s happening on the Canadian side
      I’ve heard nothing about this from the CRTC.

  9. Dave Graichen

    I think the time has come to do away with the protections for these huge Powerhouses. There was a time when they needed to cover the country, but no more. It is insane that I should have to reduce power to 9 watts so a station hundreds of miles away can come into MY market.

    1. Randy Pugsley

      You must of realized the ramifications of buying a class “D” when you bought it? Any chance you can apply for an FM, Translator?

      1. Mark

        Randy, you nailed it right there, my friend! Daytimers are lucky to have the 9 nighttime watts they didn’t have a generation ago.

  10. Gregory Simmons

    Leave the clear channels alone. Everyone wants local programming, and wants the monopoly talking heads to go out of business. Have some graveyard frequencies to stay on 24 hrs and create their mush, but leave and perhaps grant a few more clears that will have what every American wants, NON CORPORATE PROGRAMMING!

  11. John Figliozzi

    Frankly, the phrase “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” comes to mind here. Of course, more local programming would be welcome; but this proposal won’t provide it. The vast majority of the smaller, local stations program the syndicated fare that we already hear all over the dial at night when skywave reception is active. A couple of perfunctory local news stories and a canned weather forecast won’t count for “more local” to this listener’s ears. At least the 50kw-ers have bigger budgets and the ability to program local fare (even of many of them don’t do it either). The FCC has been pushing this trend for decades now going back to the Reagan Administration and all we get is more of the same old, same old — nothing new. If the FCC really wants to revive AM, it will reinvigorate its lax regulatory policies and force licensees to program more locally, break up the monopoly multi-station owners and either relicense stations to new owners or de-license the ones that are failing, while restructuring its frequency allocation plan to once again designate wide area (clear channel), regional and local stations and make the latter provide services accordingly. Will it happen? Nope.

  12. John Smith

    When we had a flood a few years ago only 1 local station kept people informed. The others just kept broadcasting the syndicated right wing talking heads junk. AM is crap anymore.

  13. TP Reitzel

    I agree with the Class A stations’ opposition to another attempt by the FCC to trash AM broadcasting…. The MW band in the USA is already too crowded. I’d make one exception, though. Allow strictly digital HD broadcasting (no hybrid mode) on the MW band for 24 hours per day and consequently reduce the protection zone in half (~ 350 miles) for Class A stations broadcasting a non-hybrid mode of HD at night. If a Class A station doesn’t want their protection zone halved while broadcasting a non-hybrid mode of HD at night, then those Class A stations can still broadcast analog at all hours with the original 700 protection zone. Regardless, the number of AM stations needs to be reduced significantly. I’ll sign WGN’s petition as the mess created by the FCC currently stands.

    1. TP Reitzel

      Naturally, once a Class A station starts broadcasting a non-hybrid mode of IBOC, their protection limit is forever halved, i.e. ~ 350 miles. Due to the differences between digital and analog, the reduced limit shouldn’t be much of a problem for both the station or its listeners.

    2. W4VEY Jeff

      This proposition of yours is very interesting to me as it could solve my local problem of my local station getting stomped on by Mexico at night, but it would solve it without implementing what would cause the crowding concern. I’d be fine with listening to my local strip-mall style iHeart station via digital (heck I have to listen to them on the internet at night after the current, evening power cuts anyway) but it wouldn’t overcrowd evening AM MW analog.

    3. Tony

      I’m in VEHEMENT opposition to taking the MW band to all-digital! Too many old radio exist which do not allow for such an upgrade. Moreover with the physics of the Medium frequencies being what they are, this will only wreak havoc on the band! I feel the AM band needs to be improved, but eliminating the clear channels and all-digital broadcasting are the WRONG answers.

      I propose the following: first, go to a high-quality ANALOG transmission standard. This way old radios won’t become obsolete. Then I’ll propose one of the following considerations: either go to a 9-kHz interval skip as exists in Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania (531, 540, 549, 558….1611 kHz). This way more channels can be created to move troublesome stations to. The other alternative is to move the most troublesome stations to the expanded band (1600-1710 kHz). I’ll suggest giving incentives for Class D stations on clear channels to obtain FM translators under the condition that they forfeit nighttime broadcasts on their AMs.

      1. TP Reitzel

        I thought I was clear (pun intended) enough, but evidently not. I proposed a non-hybrid, i.e. no analog fallback, mode of IBOC for those AM stations willing to broadcast that mode with a concomitant protection contour of ~ 350 miles.

  14. W4VEY Jeff

    I must admit I’m conflicted on this. Despite my enjoying DX listening regularly (which if I’m correct would not be affected on SW by this move), one problem I have is my favorite local AM broadcast station 970 WLFA Tampa, FL USA is the only one I can hear my favorite syndicated show on, Coast to Coast (unless I get a rare, unstable DX signal from Tenessee or something for a while). Unfortunately this favorite, hours-long show is on after WFLA has been forced to lower and redirect their signal, and some miserable “tropical” signal stomps all over my local station, belching out their giant signal all night. There are already so few English stations coming in at night in Florida with anything on but sports or religion. I have to say it’s absurd I cannot pick up WFLA Tampa Bay when I am in the closest corner to them of my zip code 33556. I’m in a null spot after they are forced to reduce power. Powerless, handmade hobby crystal sets would work better in the evening, too, and our boy/girl scouts who tend to make them typically do so long after school and after school activities cease. After the PM power gets cut they can only hear one out of otherwise numerous, fun local daytime stations here (and of course it’s a religious station alienating half the kids). Even as a DX listener I may have to vote yes to the local stations on this. There are SO many people who as me why their local AM stations go to heck at night. I could cater to them and still twist my dial a little more around these areas most affected while DXing.

    1. W4VEY Jeff

      P.S. I have tried everything including a beverage antenna to isolate my close, local station 970 WFLA at night, yet the low evening power and directional concerns still have the miserable carbon-copy tropical station from afar stomping on WFLA, yet WFLA is so close this is absurd.

  15. Randy Pugsley

    The proposed FCC Rule making will only result is so much added interference, that AM, will become unlistenable after local sunset. The best solution is to turn off the class “D” stations at night. They were originally daytimers for good reason. If anything, give the low power AM’s modest FM, translators. Which the FCC, is already attempting to do.

  16. DanH

    There are only ten 24-hour all-news AM stations left in the USA. Four of these are located west of the Mississippi and all are located on the West Coast. From my location in Northern California I can tune in three of these stations reliably after dark. KOMO in Seattle is the most distant for me at nearly 650 miles. KNX in Los Angeles is about 350 miles. KCBS in San Francisco is a next door neighbor that I can listen to all day long. The big three are all 50 KW stations that may be heard across several western states at night. I enjoy hearing news coverage from them all.

    I maintain that these powerful night time broadcasters serve a vital role to the public. In an age when most radio programming originates from relatively few national programming corporations and most of that programming is canned, where else can radio listeners hear comprehensive live news coverage on American radio?

    I don’t care at all about overnight talk shows and don’t see any need to offer these broadcasters protected interstate coverage.

    24-hour interstate news stations are another matter. These stations are valuable to the public and should continue to operate under current power and antenna configurations.

  17. erik

    I tell you, I miss AM 660, out of Navajo Nation, here in california, due to a ‘local’ newer station that is, you guessed it, another christian station.

  18. Scot I

    I am totally against this. While NYC has many local stations most are horrible and play nonsense that most do not listen too. Some say radio stations is a dying format due to the rise of podcasts and satellite radio but e fact is if you give people more options they will listen.

  19. Brian, W9IND

    Please note, however, that my opinion is based on the question of “How do we save AM radio by making it more popular?”

    If the question is “How do we make AM radio more interesting for medium wave DXers?,” then naturally the answer is to implement the FCC plan.

  20. Brian, W9IND

    A former boss of mine used to dismiss pie-in-the-sky ideas with the phrase, “Think what you’ll get.” And that explains my opposition to this plan, because I envision a large gap between how it might work out (if all goes perfectly) and how it will actually work out.

    Here’s my initial take on it, subject to revision:

    1. AM radio is already fading in popularity to the point where many young people don’t even consider it an option when driving.

    2. At least clear channel stations can command a loyal multi-state audience throughout the night.

    3. Adding more stations to their frequency won’t spark more interest — it’ll only create more interference, which will eventually result in fewer people having the capability to hear either the former clear channel stations or the new stations consistently.

    4. So everybody will lose — clear channel stations and the newcomers — because they’ll be stepping on each other all night. And the AM radio audience will continue to shrink.

    Again, I’m always willing to reconsider, but here’s what’s behind my thinking:

    1. Last time I checked the Arbitron ratings, the only AM stations that were anywhere near the top of the standings were the powerful full-service stations. Making them less dominant will only drag them down, not raise other stations up, unless the new stations are also 50,000 watts, which isn’t likely.

    2. I grew up 20 miles south of Indianapolis. Once the sun set, stations in the big city (some of which had powered down) became difficult to hear consistently — not only from my home, but even on the edge of Indy, and even when they were cranking out a 10,000-watt signal. Their directional antennas made it hopeless to hear their stations all night unless you were in their path, and I expect similar frustrations if this FCC proposal goes through.

    That’s my “Think what you’ll get” scenario, anyway.

  21. Tha Dood

    There perks and jerks about this. The perks, local (Non-clear channel), stations may have an extended night range. Seems to work in Canada, with the exception of some border stations that move their arrays due north. The jerks, more interference from DX stations rockin’ at full daytime power 24/7, so local coverage could still be limited. Gee, wasn’t moving to the extended AM band, 1620KHz to 1710KHz, suppose to help alleviate this problem? Yeah, that worked out well.

  22. Paul walker

    I’m all for the changes… And I’m a DXer and broadcaster!!

    Who cares about WGY in Boston or Pittsburgh? Who cares about KDKA in Cincinatti or NYC?

    Reduce Class A Statiobs protection down from 750 miles to 300 miles and be done with it. Most people, if they really wanna listen to WGY or KDKA from far away listen online.

    The only people this 750 mile rule really help are DXers and the few distant distant listeners who don’t have Internet.

    Why service a few at the sacrifice and cost of many?

    1. Dan

      You don’t live in a a rural area where we have NO local AM stations at all. I am about 250 miles from WBZ, and luckily its across the ocean. I get perfect reception during the day, but at night, all the garbage from all over the western hemisphere piles up and leaves it in the dust. That’s with a 750 mile protection already in use. There are many people who have internet service, but it is NOT unlimited, so streaming hours in the evening, most evenings is out for us. I can remember 8 years ago listening to WSM in Nashville in eastern Maine, now it’s buried among western peanut whistle stations and Spanish stations from Cuba and God knows where. WSM plays music day and night. I do somewhat agree if it’s talk radio on a station, limit them, because going up the dial, I can hear the same yapping on 10 places on the dial. You won’t revitalize AM, you will simply kill off the big guys in favor of smaller guys who are automated. I will agree some of the flame throwers are automated too. At night, in eastern Maine except for a couple of New England stations with bizarre nighttime patterns, AM is already dead.

  23. James M. Surprenant

    Frankly I’m in favor of more local programming. You have these large ‘clear channel’ stations but the vast majority of them just play syndicated angry talk shows that you end up hearing up and down the dial regardless of whether you’re tuned to a DX station or not.

    There are some real gems still out there – take for instance WBZ 1030 kHz out of Boston Mass with the overnight local talk show Jay Talking with Bradley Jay. Local talk done right.

      1. Mark

        Interesting idea, but the FCC (for first amendment reasons) has steadfastly stayed away from dictating programming content for licensed radio stations.


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