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When Your Product Is Struggling All You Need Is An FM Signal

Lance's Line RadioInsight Blog

NAB Radio Show FCC Clyburn AM Radio Proposal FM TranslatorAs the keynote speaker at today’s NAB Radio Show panel, Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn addressed the dilemmas facing the AM band.

Clyburn stated that she has issued a proposed rulemaking that among other things will open a one-time filing window “limited to current AM licensees and permittees, which will allow each to apply for one new FM translator station to fill in its service area.”

While the other parts of the proposal will enable AM stations to potentially save money in power costs and improve signals in their markets, Clyburn is backhandedly telling all AM stations that they need to be on FM if they want to succeed.

Just a few weeks ago, Bob Struble, CEO of Ibiquity wrote a blog post about how FM translators were the saving grace for HD Radio in order to gain listenership. As he states, over the past two years more than 2/3rds of all HD Radio station upgrades were in order to feed translators. If not for translators, the oh so successful HD Radio rollout over the past decade would be even less successful.

We’ve seen Conservative Talk and Sports stations move their formats from AM to FM with mixed results. In many markets the Conservative Talker has retreated back to AM after failing to bring younger listeners to the format regardless of where the station is located.

We have AM’s wanting FM translators, HD subchannels wanting translators, an upcoming LPFM window, but where are all these signals going to fit? In the largest markets there’s already no room for translators or LPFM’s, now every AM is going to be able to apply for one? How exactly will that work?

Just think if the industry was proactive about this 15-20 years ago. The large groups shot down options for an all-digital radio band to handle movement for all existing signals, an expanded FM band which would’ve put existing AM’s and FM’s on equal footing, and other proposals that would’ve enabled a technology that is reaching a century of use to retire gracefully as it reached its natural end of life. Instead we’ve reached a point where all you need is to crowd the FM band to solve everyone’s problems.

Profile photo of Lance Venta
Lance Venta is the Owner and Publisher of RadioInsight.com and a consultant for RadioBB Networks specializing in integration of radio and the internet. Lance has two decades of experience tracking the audio industry and its use of digital platforms.

5 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Steve Varholy


    This is exactly what is going to save the AM band. Put the same automated, satellite fed, conservative talk or sportstalk feeds with no local content on FM.

    Crap no one cares to listen to will be crap no one cares to listen to, whether it is on AM or FM.

  2. Profile photo of Steve Bradley


    How about this idea? Take back all translator licenses except “fill in” and “unique educational programming”, spelled out “NPR”, “Classical” and “Jazz.”. That should open some room. If you can’t do the last part, limiting it to “fill in” status should take care of the top markets and then some.

  3. Profile photo of Bongwater


    “Just think if the industry was proactive about this 15-20 years ago. The large groups shot down options for an all-digital radio band to handle movement for all existing signals, an expanded FM band which would’ve put existing AM’s and FM’s on equal footing, and other proposals that would’ve enabled a technology that is reaching a century of use to retire gracefully as it reached its natural end of life. Instead we’ve reached a point where all you need is to crowd the FM band to solve everyone’s problems.”

    The problem is the radio industry is one that NEVER looks at the future and dismisses all the warning signs until the future is suddenly in their faces.

  4. Profile photo of K.M. Richards


    Meanwhile, due to physical market growth you have Class A FMs simul- and trimulcasting in the largest markets to try to get coverage of as much of their metro as they can.

    If these translator proposals go through, I’d like to see the second-adjacent rule waived so some of these stations can upgrade to full market signals. If LPFM can have second-adjacent waivers, why not marginal full-powers?

  5. Profile photo of jaywalker


    Meanwhile, due to physical market growth you have Class A FMs simul- and trimulcasting in the largest markets to try to get coverage of as much of their metro as they can.

    In Dallas Ft.Worth those “Class A FM tri/simulcasts” were former local stations ripped out of local markets as far north as central Oklahoma to become worthless rim-shots in Dallas Ft.Worth, so it’s hard to feel any empathy or a desire to provide protection for them.

    Jay Walker

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