FCC might reduce AM clear channel power

(Source: Tom Taylor Now)

Are the protected night signals of monster 50,000-watt AMs “an anachronism?”
And is the FCC poised to do something that will frustrate late-night DX’ers? The Commission tries again to balance the role of Class A signals like KMOX St. Louis/1120, designed to serve listeners hundreds of miles away, with the desires of local AMs. The “skywave” debate is decades-old – but particularly urgent now, given the rising noise floor from all kinds of interference. The Commission just issued a “Second further notice of proposed rulemaking,” noting the rise of “FM stations, satellite radio and other media.” The first notice drew “a voluminous and diverse set of comments,” with some pointing out that “AM skywave service is sporadic and unreliable, often subject to overwhelming environmental interference, and unlikely to consist of programming tailored to the needs of distant communities.” But then there are questions about hurricane and other weather/safety warnings. In this notice, the Commission has ideas about changes to daytime, “critical hours” operation after sunrise and before sunset, and “nighttime hours.” One observer tells this NOW Newsletter says that cutting through the thicket of details, “It’s clear that there will be a further reduction in protection to the clear channel Class A stations, particularly at night. The main questions are how much protection they will retain.”

Click here to read at Tom Taylor Now.

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10 thoughts on “FCC might reduce AM clear channel power

  1. Jack K.

    Not that I think the average consumer is going to care much, but as we move further into the 21st century – it’s crucial to examine what makes each specific content delivery system important. FM, Internet, Satellite and Cellular each have their strength and weaknesses. For me, AM’s strength has always been its ability to travel further distances, terrestrially speaking. I can hear the NY sports teams outside of the FM range and beyond. Otherwise it’s an audio-challenged signal prone to interference (from receivers themselves!) That’s not to say it can’t sound more than acceptable – but you really can’t purchase an AM receiver (alone or as part of another device – say an automobile) that performs as it once did.. And a 50K transmitter is an expensive set-up just to provide information during blackouts and natural disasters.

    But protecting the weak will just make the strong weaker. And that’s a move in the wrong direction – no matter what the WCBSs, KMOXs & KFIs decide to program in the future. Their worth are their signals.

    Reply
  2. dl4no

    50 kW a “monster station”? From a European perspective this is somehow anachronistic: When we had AM stations here in Germany only a few gap-filling stations worked with less than 1 kW and about every German state (200-400 km diameter) had at least one 100 kW station. Stations like Radio Luxemburg or WDR (less than 200 km apart) were in the 500 kW to 1 MW (output!) range. Even Radio Tirana was in this class, distributing communist propaganda all over Europe.

    There are still AM stations in this power class like Radio Romania. From what I can receive from Spain at night they also have such stations.

    The argument “no programs for remote audiences” is astonishing to me: Many people move around in your country. I could imagine not every move is from one coast to the other. These clear-channel stations should be an important link to the past for many listeners. At least for me, my roots are important! Compare to the discussion here about Irish radio in the UK.

    Reply
  3. Jake Brodsky

    I tend to agree that we need MORE protection for clear channel stations, not less. Unlike FM or digital modulation, there is no capture effect on AM. The FCC made an insanely stupid move, allowing so many channels to be reused at night.

    I regularly listen to WSM out of Nashville, and CFRB out of Toronto, to the extent that they both have buttons reserved for them in my car radio. If the FCC continues to prove that they do not understand how to manage the radio spectrum properly, then it needs to be rebuilt from scratch.

    Reply
    1. Ed Aceman

      I felt and still feel much more disgust with FCC chopping the top off the frequency response of AMs than I do this. I can’t listen to AM ; too “muddy.” I hardly ever DX anymore. Too hard to identify stations when all sound alike.

      Reply
    1. DL4NO

      Here in Europe Radio Luxemburg was something like this from the 1950s: The German broadcasting system knew no private stations and very limited advertizing. For a large part of Germany, Radio Luxemburg filled that gap with pop music, financed by advertizing. The only alternative were the foreign military stations like AFN or BFS.

      This changed in the 1980s when private stations were allowed. Next to all of them were and are FM stations with some new or migrating stations using DAB+ these days.

      Reply
  4. Erik Ra

    I enjoy pulling in stations from utah, nevada, new mexico (ktnn) here in california. I get more variety that way because i live in a very conservative place with mostly, religious, and conservative viewpoints.
    Once upon a time, in the eighties, i was able to pull in 90.7 fm kpfk regularly from over 170 miles away! Ironically, the supposed opening up of frequencies to lower power locally controlled stations led to mostly religious broadcasts covering over the few good stations i could recieve. The result was that i stopped listening to radio( until rediscovering shortwave). Is this whats gonna happen to AM?
    Oh yes, would someone please elucidate as to what exactly is an illegal television? Does it pull in stations illegally? I dont get it.

    Reply
    1. Tony Morrison

      I think Tom is living in a place in his deluded mind which thinks he’s under attack for being American or something to that extent. I wouldn’t be surprised if he started to get paranoid and put out jammers against his migrant neighbours who are probably very nice people and yet he’s probably nasty to them.

      The radio blasters sound a great idea!

      Reply
    2. DL4NO

      You might try to receive those FM DX stations with a SDR: Reduce the bandwidth to 100 kHz or even less. This reduces the fidelity of these stations and defeats the stereo component. But it easily allows you to listen between two stations that are 250 or 300 kHz apart. To understand news, a 50 kHz bandwidth should be enough.

      A RTL-SDR with its 8-bit ADC might not have enough dynamic range. But I have done this quite successfully using a SDR with a 12-bit ADC.

      Reply
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