As 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.