All-Digital on the AM Band? The FCC Might Allow It Soon
AM radio station operators in the United States may soon have the option of switching their transmissions to all-digital.
It’s not a done deal; but the concept is about to take a step closer to reality, because the Federal Communications Commission will consider a proposal at its next meeting that would start a process. It will take comments on whether to allow AM band licensees to make the switch if they want.
Ben Downs, VP/GM of Bryan Broadcasting in Texas, petitioned the FCC in March to initiate a proceeding to authorize the all-digital mode of HD Radio.
Allowing stations to use all-digital transmission is an idea that some broadcasters feel could give business-challenged AM stations in the United States new life or at least another option. Turning off their analog signals would mean that most existing receivers could no longer pick up that signal; but many AM broadcasters are currently heard on FM translator simulcasts now. And adding the all-digital AM option could open up new possibilities for them as the number of digital receivers in the marketplace continues to grow.
[…]Chairman Ajit Pai described the proposal in a blog post Monday: “Just as the FCC is trying to keep pace with changes in the market, so are AM radio operators, and the commission wants to give them as much flexibility as possible to compete in the digital age,” Pai wrote.[…]
The FCC is seeking comment on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that is part of an overall plan to complete its transition to electronic filing, licenses, authorizations, and correspondence. The notice proposes to make all filings to the Universal Licensing System (ULS) completely electronic, expand electronic filing and correspondence elements for related systems, and require applicants to provide an email address on the FCC Forms related to these systems. Although much of the FCC’s ULS filings are already electronic, the changes suggested in the NPRM (in WT Docket No. 19-212) would require all Amateur Radio Service applications to be filed electronically. Under current rules, Amateur Radio applications may still be filed manually, with the exception of those filed by Volunteer Examination Coordinators (VECs).[…]
Many thanks to an SWLing Post reader who shares the following letter by FCC Commissioner Michael O’RieIly to NYC representatives regarding pirate radio operators.
This passage is of particular interest–I put one statement in bold:
“Since your Congressional district is located within or near the most prolific market for pirate radio, I wanted to seek your direct assistance on the issue. Specifically, I respectfully request that you discourage any of your constituents in the greater New York City radio market from facilitating pirate radio activities in any way, including participating in pirate operations, advertising with such “stations,” housing or leasing space to pirate operators, or tuning in to these harmful broadcasts. finally, I would appreciate any information that you or your staff would be willing to share regarding the location of known pirate operations, which will be swiftly directed to the Commission’s Enforcement Bureau for action.”
Thinking about the closure of the FCC and its effect on licensed operators, also made me think about unlicensed radio operators: a.k.a. pirate radio stations.
Are government shutdowns a potential broadcast opportunity for pirates that might not otherwise take to the air?
I’m curious if anyone noted new shortwave or FM pirate stations during the US government shutdown. Did the respite from FCC enforcement bring anyone out of the woodwork? Please comment!
PS: Can you do us a favor? In comments, please stay on topic (radio) and refrain from political arguments. Many of us appreciate the SWLing Post as a refuge from the toxic back-and-forth prevalent on so many other sites. If you would like to engage in political discourse, please check out Reddit. Thank you!
The FCC has proposed to de-fund community media through an arcane rule that determines how contributions from cable companies to public-access, educational and government (PEG) stations are counted. Because it’s arcane, the effort is flying under the radar. But we have two community media advocates to help explain what’s at stake.
Martin Jones is the CEO of MetroEast Community Media in Gresham, Oregon, just one of hundreds of PEG stations that would be affected. Sabrina Roach serves on the board for the Alliance for Community Media Foundation, the charitable arm of the group that represents and organizes PEG stations across the U.S. They tell us how proposed changes to the “franchise fee” structure would deprive PEG stations, as well as internet access at libraries and schools, from direct funding. If passed, this would decimate both community media and digital equity in most communities that have it. They also explain what steps we can take to oppose this change.
FCC fines Amateur Radio licensee $25,000 for operating unlicensed FM station
ARRL reports in an FCC Enforcement Bureau case going back to early 2015, a Paterson, New Jersey, Amateur Radio licensee has been penalized in the amount of $25,000 for allegedly continuing to operate an unlicensed FM radio station
The FCC issued a Forfeiture Order on October 30 to Winston A. Tulloch, KC2ALN, a General class licensee. The fine followed an April 2018 Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture (NAL) issued to Tulloch for alleged “willful and repeated violation” of Section 301 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, by operating an unlicensed FM radio station on 90.9 MHz in Paterson. Tulloch did not respond to the NAL, the FCC indicated.
“Commission action in this area is essential because unlicensed radio stations do not broadcast Emergency Alert Service messages and therefore create a public safety hazard for their listener,” the FCC said in the Forfeiture Order. “Moreover, unlicensed radio stations create a danger of interference to licensed communications and undermine the Commission’s authority over broadcast radio operations.”
Yesterday, a friend asked about tips for finding local radio stations throughout the US. His goal was to identify stations that he could then load into his WiFi radio and stream from abroad.
Of course there are always online radio station aggregators like TuneIn, but often you either need to know the station ID or name in advance to perform a search. Not all stations can be recalled with a geographic search either–especially if it’s a small local station that doesn’t market their online stream.
SWLing Post contributor, Gary Donnelly, recently shared the following searchable FCC database that lists all licensed stations on the air.