Radio Waves: Loss of AM in Cars, AM Radio Op Ed, BBC Sues Over Loss of Service, and Czech Radio Celebrates Centennial

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Dennis Dura, Dave Porter, and David Iurescia for the following tips:

NASBA on Loss of AM in Cars: “1,300 AM Stations Could Be Left in the Dark” (Radio World)

State association questionnaire finds one in three AM stations have no FM translator

The National Alliance of State Broadcasters Association (NASBA) is reporting insights it discovered after polling AM stations about the removal of over-the-air AM in new cars.

The data collected from more than 1,000 AM stations shows that many do not have an FM translator and/or do not stream their signals over internet connections, NASBA says. The group is hoping to use the information to rally proponents of AM to help convince companies like Ford, Mazda, BMW and others to keep reception of AM in their new vehicles.

NASBA says the automakers “are cutting corners on expensive new electric vehicles” by eliminating AM radios, which means more than 4,000 AM stations in the United States are at risk. But its survey results show that AM radio across the country provides a diverse mix of music and talk and is a vital link for millions of listeners. [Continue reading…]

Letter: AM’s Downfall Is Poor Programming, Not Audio Quality (Radio World)

“It was the music without the spots, that made FM,” says a reader

The comments written by Dave Bialik in the latest Radio World hits the nail right on the head. The average person, which is about 95% of the population, couldn’t care less about audio fidelity. The days of “audiophiles” are gone. The downturn of AM listenership is almost exclusively due to poor programming, poor content. Yes, FM in its early days was mostly easy listening, beautiful music and classical music. It catered to the audiophiles, and had a very limited audience even though it sounded great and in 1963 by offering multiplex stereo.

Once a few of the FM guys realized people were fed up with the 45 minute commercial breaks on AM stations with popular music, the format was adopted on FM, but with none or few commercials (because no one wanted to advertise on FM). Once people found out they could get the rock and pop music on FM without all the talk, the band switch started taking place. It had nothing to do with audio — remember at this time people were buying 8-track tapes by the millions and they were technically several steps below AM radio. It was the music without the spots, that made FM. Once that happened, most of the large and middle market stations threw all of their eggs into the FM basket and put something on the AM just to hold the license.

I once worked for an AM station owned by one of the large groups. In its heyday, in the 50’s–70’s, it was THE top 40 station. In a market of 40 stations, it had a 60 share. Once the group owners bought a big FM signal, they blew the AM away and loaded it with satellite talk. After a few years, that 60 share was .5 — yes point 5. After a few years of this, and it becoming unsellable, one of the staff suggested to management that they should go back to a music format playing the hits of the 50’s and 60’s (this was in 2002). [Continue reading…]

BBC sues over fire that left one million licence fee payers without TV (The Telegraph via MSN)

The BBC is suing the owner of a huge telecoms mast that burnt down almost two years ago, leaving more than one million households without TV or radio services.

A blaze destroyed the Bilsdale transmitter on the North York Moors in August 2021, sparking chaos across the region.

More than one million homes in North Yorkshire, Teesside and County Durham were unable to access FM radio or Freeview, with many disconnected for months.

The BBC has now filed a lawsuit against Arqiva, the company which owns the mast, saying it has failed to fully restore services more than 18 months later.

The public service broadcaster has accused the infrastructure group of breach of contract and is seeking tens of millions of pounds in damages. [Continue reading…]

A hundred years is just the beginning. Czech Radio celebrates its centennial (Czech Radio)

Czech Radio celebrates a significant anniversary this year. 18 May 2023 marks exactly 100 years since the start of regular radio broadcasting in the Czech Republic, then Czechoslovakia, when the private company Radiojournal began broadcasting from a humble scout tent in Prague’s Kbely.

For the occasion of its monumental jubilee, Czech Radio has prepared a rich programme for the public, new broadcasting highlights and a unique exhibition at the National Technical Museum. Celebrations throughout the year will illustrate the remarkable journey of the most trusted public service media in the Czech Republic.

“Czech Radio will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the start of regular broadcasting. It is an honour for me to be at the helm of this public institution at a time when we are recapitulating important past moments, revisiting our history and remembering outstanding radio personalities. But this extraordinary anniversary is also an opportunity for us to show that 100 years of radio broadcasting is only the beginning. We are ready to launch the next century of our existence with new programming projects and technological innovations. The entire project of our anniversary celebrations aims to support the position of Czech Radio on the media market and also to show that it is an important partner for other institutions. I believe that with an imaginative programme we will not only delight current listeners, but also attract new ones,” said René Zavoral, Director General.

The celebrations will officially commence on 10 March with a formal ball at the Municipal House in Prague, where the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Gustav Brom Radio Big Band and musical guests Ewa Farna, Mirai, Dara Rolins and No Name will perform.

On the day of its 100th birthday, Czech Radio will hold a grand concert in the Riegrovy Sady park for listeners and the general public. The concert will include performances by the band Chinaski, as well as musicians Aneta Langerová, Mirai Navrátil and Marek Ztracený, who will be the first performer broadcast on Czech Radio in its second century of existence. [Continue reading…]

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16 thoughts on “Radio Waves: Loss of AM in Cars, AM Radio Op Ed, BBC Sues Over Loss of Service, and Czech Radio Celebrates Centennial

  1. Aubrey Young

    I do a lot of AMDXING at night and in general, enjoy the various talk radio format. “Coast to Coast” as an example.
    So for me, not happy with this decision.

    Given above, I have various radios and so, no real list of AM unless, AM as a medium dies.


  2. Dan

    Great read and I agree. While I’m in that 5% category, I never abandoned AM after FM came to town. I grew up with WIXY 1260 and WHK in Cleveland, Ohio. Wow! Great stuff, that shaped my musical taste that I have till this day. There was a show in the early 80’s with a guy named Count Monalesco. I think it was on WERE. Anyway, one night it was Astronomy, the next Medicine, then Astrophysics. You get the picture. I never missed it. Fascinating! And, this was in my college days. Now, all you Hear is Politics and depending on the station, very slanted one way or the other. So sad, so boring. I only listen on AM now for our local sports teams games.

  3. Chris Hunter

    We have one AM music station of any note left here in the UK. Radio Caroline was the first of the offshore pirates broadcasting to the UK in the 1960s, and they have broadcast from ships for many years, whilst campaigning for land-based legality. A couple of years ago, they got their wish, and were granted a licence for 1kW on 648kHz, from a site on the east coast of the UK, about 90 miles NE of London at Orfordness – a transmitting site formerly used by the BBC World Service for their (now discontinued) European MW service. Their studio centre is on their old broadcast ship – the Ross Revenge – that’s moored up a river in Essex.

    More recently, Caroline were granted a power increase – to a whopping 2kW! Their signal covers (patchily) much of East Anglia in the daytime, but is a pointless waste of electricity at night because it can’t be heard just nine miles away (where I am) – it suffers significant interference from European stations and one in the Middle East on the same frequency.

    They also don’t do themselves any favours with their modulation quality – it’s dissappointingly “muffled”. Their content is OK, but they’re getting more listeners online than to their MW service – sooner or later they’ll realise that operating their transmitter is largely symbolic, and (honestly) a waste of time and money!

    In terms of MW DXing, we can hear several of the Dutch low power MW stations here – on a good day. I’ve logged about a dozeen of them since they were granted their licences a few years ago.

    1. 13dka

      Yes, so many European countries have paved the way for RFI-spitting EVs long ago by turning off their MW. Of course, the only remaining station you really want to hear got squeezed onto a channel with “Radio Murski Val”, which you obviously can’t really null it out if you’re located north of Orfordness. I’m on the other side of the puddle and I still have trouble with it, particularly in the second half of the night when the fading gets deep and Slovenia gets loud.

      BTW according to Caroline has 4kW, which is enough to make it one of the loudest daytime stations over here, 567km to the east and if the equally bad ECUs in my gas-guzzling vehicle wouldn’t inject some nasty whine on 648kHz I could even enjoy it in the car all day, despite the anemic antenna it has. Makes me wonder why this isn’t working well so much closer to the transmitter?

      1. Chris Hunter

        According to their licence, it’s 2kW. Their nightime coverage used to be much worse when there were other stations on 648 kHz in Eastern Europe – it’s improved, but still not “entertainment quality”.

        As far as I’m aware, they’re using a Broadcast Warehouse DSPX-AM audio processor. It’s pretty nasty! I used to use the Inovonics processors, and could get them sounding “just so”. My little domestic AM transmitter (running a few 10s of milliwatts into the proverbial “bit of wire” antenna) has an Inovonics 222 (modified for European bandwidth) feeding it, and sounds great!

  4. JD

    The exceedingly poor quality of AM programming has driven me to podcasts. If I’m in my truck, I’m listening to podcasts or streaming, NOT listening to local AM syndicated talk.

  5. Aubrey

    I’m a AMDxer and not happy at all for the lost of AM radio in new cars. I figure at seventy years of age, I’ll just keep my old car with my old AM/FM radio! AJY

  6. Bob W6ACU

    My 2017 Chevy Volt has very good AM reception. The antenna is apparently part of the small fin antenna on the roof that also contains the FM, Sirius and LTE elements. There’s no sign of noise/interference from any of the onboard EV elements. The only AM noise I hear is from power lines. It’s hard for me to understand why 2023+ vehicles can’t easily provide the same level of performance!

  7. Bill

    There is little point in putting AM in an electric car that produces enough RFI to block it
    It is time to consider switching AM over to DRM or such, just as television was shifted from NTSC to digital.

    1. mangosman

      The Federal Communications Commission has exempted all transport vehicles of any type from having to keep unintentional radiation to the limits other RF device has to comply!
      I agree with DRM where no radiated power is wasted, using the now vacant TV channels 2 – 6 will increase available data rates for emergency warnings including pictures and indexed text as well as detailed police road closure information to the vehicle navigation system.

  8. Jason VE3MAL

    Finally, the reporting on AM acknowledging that this is just simple cost-cutting, and not buying the “EVs can’t do AM radio” line anymore. They don’t want to do proper RFI filtering, or install antennas outside of the body structure. The first part is bad for everyone else too.

    1. Rob L

      Hey Jason, Your comment “They don’t want to do proper RFI filtering, or install antennas outside of the body structure.” was right on target & sure rang a bell for me. Back in the day, my first car was a ’70 Impala and it not only had an AM only radio but also a very thin dipole built into the top of the windshield glass which made for poor reception on AM as well as the Audiovox FM converter that I added. Just another lamebrain “better idea” from the auto makers requiring me to drill a hole in the fender & install a normal car antenna. I cannot imagine a car without both AM & FM radio. The car makers are just plain numbskulls! 73, Rob

  9. Chris Hunter

    The BBC have nobody to blame but themselves. They used to construct, install and maintain all their transmitting plant – from Long Wave 198 kHz right up to the high UHF TV transmitters and their microwave links.
    Some years ago – in a completely misguided “cost-cutting” exercise – the BBC farmed out all their transmission services to several other companies. The knowledge and abilities built up in the BBC over many years were dissipated into a number of smaller, largely inept companies, who all scrambled to hire the ex-BBC staff. Of course there were not anywhere near enough of them, and the dilution of the skills and knowledge has resulted in generally abysmal “service” overseen by an equally inept OFCOM.
    On-air broadcasting in the UK has been slowly disintegrating as equipment reaches end-of-life (and isn’t replaced, because it’s too expensive), and the service companies are much more interested in leasing space on their transmitter towers to the mobile phone companies than they are in broadcasting.
    Most AM services in the UK are being switched off. This isn’t because there’s no call for them, it’s because nobody knows how to install, maintain and operate the equipment anymore.
    Back in the ’70s, I was proud to work for the world’s pre-eminent broadcaster, but these days the BBC has become an expensive embarrassment!

    1. mangosman

      The ABC and later SBS have never run their own transmitters. Initially they are installed and maintained by the Post Master General’s Department. That was split into Telecom Australia, Australia Post and the National Transmission Service. All became corporations with the Government as the only shareholder. Later all but Australia Post was privatised. The NTS was sold to investment bankers who eventually sold it to Broadcast Australia. Its biggest shareholders are the Canadian Pension funds. Now they have changed their name to BAI Communications as they move into the mobile phone/broadband infrastructure market “worldwide”. Now they are changing their name again to Boldyn Networks.

      The real problem is the power of the telcos internationally who have been trying and successfully convincing the management of government broadcasters including the BBC and the ABC and car manufacturers that nobody uses broadcast anymore so that the delivery costs between the broadcaster to the listener to be paid to them rather than by the broadcaster. For large audiences this is very wasteful, because it requires a two way channel between the broadcaster and each listener, where as broadcast is one to many. I am yet to see a broadcaster switch off their transmitters to become a netcaster. Sydney, Melbourne, Perth community TV in Australia was forced to do this and they vapourised.
      The World Cup Soccer before last, the Australian rights were bought by a telco. Their whole system crashed because they couldn’t supply the huge audience, individual signals. They had to give the whole program to a Government broadcaster. The last world cup was not bought by a telco. Considering the maximum radio audience, it is not economic for the telcos to provide all of the radio audience their own individual signal for a couple of hours a day. Not only does the number of transmitter/receivers in base stations are required, also a huge increase of RF bandwidth, which they have to hire.

      The telcos also keep quiet about their electricity consumption. Telecom Australia is one of 3 major telcos, has stated that they are amongst the highest electricity consumers in Australia. Remember we have aluminium refiners. Aluminium uses so much electricity to refine it it is ” solid electricity”.

      Lastly since nearly all broadcasters have no broadcasting engineers on their boards, this is why broadcasters don’t save lots of money converting to digital radio. (Does the BBC know how many DAB only receivers there are? Every other country has dropped DAB for DAB+.) The only reason it occurred in TV is that the telcos wanted the 700 – 800 MHz band for their own profits. In the USA has the National Association of Broadcasters pushing phone manufacturers to enable FM broadcast reception. It didn’t happen with Apple phones because they own itune! If you look at the bios all of the FCC commissioners they all are lawyers pledging allegiance to 5G.

  10. Mike

    I love listening to oldies format stations on AM.
    There is nothing for oldies on FM here. However the only choice here are low powered dx stations on AM here. I do listen to them. One big problem these days is the lousy sensitivity issue for auto radios on AM.
    They take a ” one size fits all ” approach that simply doesn’t work. This is why I use my old radios at home, and they don’t let me down! Thanks for keeping the hobby alive, and the memories.


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