Japan: Some broadcasters running trial suspension of AM radio

(Source: Japan Today)

Is Japan witnessing the death of AM radio?

Since February, some commercial radio broadcasters have begun a trial suspension of AM radio, with a real possibility the pause will extend to a permanent discontinuation across the country as broadcasters look to cut costs.

Thirteen of the 47 commercial operators in Japan have shut off their transmitters to see what effect the temporary end of AM broadcasts will have. AM was launched in 1925, bringing Japan into the radio broadcast age, but may not last long enough to see its 100th anniversary next year.

“Radio was at the center of the home, a medium enjoyed by the entire family,” said Tadanobu Okabe, curator of the Japan Radio Museum in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture. [Continue reading…]

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17 thoughts on “Japan: Some broadcasters running trial suspension of AM radio

  1. Ben

    Japan like here in Taiwan sit in a very active earthquake zone and basically have the same system. So for example the on April 3 at 7.3 magnitude jolted Hualian on the east coast of Taiwan. Five seconds before it was felt the Central Weather Administration sent out a warning. Now Taiwan’s population is 23 million, but there are 30 million mobile phones in use as a number of people including myself have two. They all sounded at the same time.

    The message translates to “Earthquake warning from the Central Weather Administration and the Office of the President of The Republic of China. Please take caution”.

    At the same time a message is broadcast at the bottom of the screens on television and on radio.

    The message only sounds off when an earthquake is over 5.9.

    What i found amusing is how this was covered overseas compared to here. Hualian is a 3rd tier city and one of the only places in Taiwan that still has a a number of buildings built before the new earthquake codes were introduced in 1990/91. Yes certain buildings are going to collapse. Unlike Taipei, Taoyuan, Taiching, Kaoshiung, and Tainan on the west coast. Where buildings must be able to withstand 8.1 earthquakes. In Hualian nearly all 9 story plus buildings were built when the code was set at 5.5. But, there wasn’t as much damage as people outside Taiwan were hearing about. only a few people does, which was nothing.

    The east coast highway between Hualian and Yilan only took 72 hours to clean up from landslides, before it was reopened. There is only one small section that is opened from 10am to 12pm, 2pm to 4pm, 6pm to 8pm. But, this will be opened up to regular traffic in another week, while they secure the mountain next o it.

    The last few majorish earthquakes we had. The main source for the Earthquake Weather Warning System. Was via mobile phones. Not on radio.

    Even the traffic radio stations in Taipei, Kaoshiungm Tainan, Taoyuan and Taichung. Announced in 2022. That at the end of 2025 they are leaving AM and FM. Most stations have already migrated to FM, but now they are migrating to streaming only as ad revenue has fallen like a stone. Those who have already switched to streaming have been making 3 times the ad revenue.

    In Japan is pretty much the same story. As both Taiwan and Japan worked on the same system together.

    There is only one place in Taiwan where you can not get a mobile signal. Thats mostly when you pass 2000 meters of mountain regions. But, this is already being addressed and by the end of the year. There will be mobile services at all mountains as high as 4000 meters.

    Even the longest tunnel which runs 25km has service,

  2. Fabrizio

    Here in Switzerland, the FM band is also set to disappear. I believe at the end of 2026. All that will be left is DAB+ digital radio…. We’re going to end up with radios equipped with useless AM and FM….

    1. mangosman

      I would like to point out that AM radio started in the era of the ‘T’ Model Ford. FM is over 60 years old.
      Australia has lots of AM,FM and DAB+ in the main population centres. It is hard to buy an AM radio here. Most of the radios in vehicles and on the portables are DAB+/FM/ and a bluetooth tranceiver so you can listen on line provided there is mobile broadband available.
      AM radio contains a carrier which is between 67 % and 100 % of the transmitted power and contains no sound. AM and FM can only carry one program per transmitter. DAB+ can carry 18 programs saving a lot of electricity and maintenance costs.
      In 2017 switched over their main networks to DAB+. They did it because all of their FM transmitters were ageing and needed replacement. The refurbishment saved a lot of money and more programs are provided and they are popular.

  3. Tom Servo

    I figured it was only a matter of time before Japan started looking into cutting back their extensive AM networks. It’s important to remember that AM thrived in Japan longer than perhaps anywhere else because for the longest time their FM band was crippled, running from 76-92 MHz. They did expand it to 108 MHz and stations are quickly coming on air in the expanded band. So now that FM is 76-108 MHz and therefore larger than anywhere else in the world, the AM band is going to see a quick decline, I believe.

    The people talking about emergency communications seem to forget that a 50-500 watt FM transmitter on a mountain top (of which there are one or two in Japan) will run far longer than a 50-150 kW AM transmitter will on backup power after an earthquake or tsunami. Emergency messages can be more tightly tailored to affected areas instead of broadcasting to hundreds of kms of unaffected prefectural land.

  4. Andy

    Oh please please please STOP this DRM / DAB is great crap.

    NOt a single receiver on the market can last 5 hours on batteries.

    The MUX’s rely on GPS timing, often jammed.

    A few years ago half of England lost DAB and DTV because of this.

    It’s a total joke.

    And I’ve tried the HF DRM stuff that is awful quality and often drops out.

    DAB is a joke, just a duplication of national stations and a smattering of minority
    stuff with a receiver that dies after a few hours.

    It really is a sick joke, I gave them all up a few years ago.

    Standard AM broadcasting is great for coverage, batteries last for YEARS.

    FM is good too, more than enough quality audio and good coverage.

    Same again with battery life, a receiver lasts for YEARS on some C or D cells.

    And to be fair, I’m not some cave man who is anti digital.

    I mean just look in reality how digital TV *is* superior quality to the analogue stuff.

    But for audio broadcasting it’s a dead duck.

    1. mangosman

      Please keep up to date. The new CML DRM1000 module has been designed for parts of the world where electricity is not available which also rules out the internet. This module digitises the signal from the antenna and it stays digital until it gets to the speaker output.
      It will receive any broadcast frequency band from Low Frequency (LW), Medium frequency, High Frequency (SW) and VHF. It will decode AM, FM and DRM in all bands.
      The power consumption is 0.217 W with the volume on minimum and 1.24 W when producing 1 W feeding the speaker. It is more than 30 hours from a pair of AA batteries. This is means that it could be solar or hand cranked powered.
      I should point out that currently there are no DRM broadcasts aimed at North America. Until the BBC moved their Singapore transmitters westward, I used to listen to them regularly for an hour a day in DRM 4000 km away in the opposite direction of the antenna target. It rarely broke up.
      Some years ago the South Africans did a comparison of AM and DRM in the medium frequency band. The drop outs occurred when the AM signal was not listenable.

      1. qwertyamdx

        I think Andy is perfectly up to date and brings up excellent points showing in detail why DRM has been rejected by the industry and the listeners – it tried to fix what’s not been broken and failed miserably to do so. I can confirm that DRM can hardly provide a stable decoding and even when it does, the audio quality is just horrible, the digital distortion can easily cause an headache. It’s similar to first internet radio streaming services from the late 90s, but we have 2024 not 1999 and no one is going to accept such bad audio quality that’s worse than a phone call. As for the module, are you recommending us to buy a $55 “demonstration and prototyping kit” to listen to DRM? Please show an actual consumer receiver, name its price and where it can be bought. DRM has been introduced 2 decades ago so there must be a plenty of them available… or not?

  5. mangosman

    shows the NHK International high frequency transmissions from Yamata which is West of Yokohama.
    I don’t know if these transmitters are used in disasters.
    The Chinese are transmitting DRM in HF and have now made it compulsory to put DRM receivers in new vehicles. Japan could do the same. When a transmitter is put in the DRM mode the electricity consumption drops a lot making emergency back up power for the transmitter much easier and less expensive.

    1. qwertyamdx

      These Chinese DRM broadcasts are for test purposes only, so it’s nowhere near a successful deployment. One thing which still puzzles me, though, is the fact that totalitarian countries (you’ve mentioned North Korea in one of your previous posts) continue to run these DRM tests long after the rest of the world has given up on them. Perhaps because they would like to isolate themselves from all “enemy” voices coming from abroad? DRM makes jamming a child’s play.

  6. mangosman

    They use satellite distribution to TV stations, Radio Stations and the cell phone networks. They also have loudspeaker vans as well.
    The USA is the only country to use Weather Radio in the world. It uses FM radio in the 160 MHz band.
    Considering that blackouts in these conditions are common, the need for a sizeable amount of electricity to run TVs is not very practical particularly after the event, FM radio requires a tower for the antenna and I don’t know about emergency backup power. The cell phone network has the same problems it has in every country, ie very small coverage area from each base station and battery backup doesn’t last more than a couple of hours.
    The best option is to use radio because the transmitter can be outside of the disaster area due to larger coverage area. Now there is a new digital radio receiver module which uses the same low power requirements it can be hand cranked, battery operated and solar operated. The advantage of DRM is that it has an Emergency Warning Functionality which wakes the radio, selects the announcement, increases the volume and makes the announcement. It can also display maps and detailed text instructions along with police road block information for vehicle navigation systems. This signal can piggy back on esisting normal programming.


    To complete my previous contribution:

    NHK & Current EAS Research & Development in Japan

    Japan Early Earthquake Warning System (EEW)

    The digitization of signals (radio, TV, telephony and Internet) requires a lot of transmitters, which can be taken out of service when natural disasters follow (earthquakes, forest fires, floods, tsunamis, etc.), making it impossible to contact affected populations.

    So, I think it’s necessary to maintain long-distance means of transmission, unless the public authorities rely solely on the capabilities of amateur radio operators who use HF transmissions…


    J-Alert is the early warning system used in Japan. J-Alert was launched in February 2007. The system is designed to quickly inform the public of threats and emergencies such as earthquakes, severe weather, and other dangers. The system was developed in the hope that early warnings would speed up evacuation times and help coordinate emergency response.

    To read the rest of this wikipedia article, follow this link : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J-Alert

    See also:


  9. Robert Gulley

    Sadly most countries will probably drop AM radio, just as they have dropped shortwave. As radio folks we know the value of both modes, but sadly, governments (and corporations, apparently) do not. It amazes me that governments think nothing of dropping millions (and sometimes billions) of dollars on wasteful things, but do not support really necessary things.
    I suppose some terrible natural or man-made disasters will have to occur, knocking out the Internet and cell towers on a broad scale, before shortwave and AM radio will be appreciated for their physics-based usefulness.
    But I am just typing into the electronic nether land . . . . we never seem to learn from our mistakes or short-sightedness.

  10. Jock Elliott

    Here’s a question that perhaps someone here can answer: What does Japan do for emergency alerts?

    Do they have the equivalent of weather radio as we have here? Is there some sort of national alerting system on FM radio?

    Or is there some other solution for alerting the population when the fertilizer has hit the ventilation equipment?


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