FCC Approves Digital AM

FCC Federal Communications Commission Radio AM FM TranslatorThe FCC approved today the adoption of a rulemaking allowing AM stations to transition to all-digital operation.

Hubbard Radio’s “The Gamut” 820 WWFD Frederick MD has been operating in all digital mode since July 16, 2018 in collaboration with HD Radio owner Xperi. The new rulemaking will allow AM stations to go all-digital and establish operating parameters for doing so.

The FCC today also is opening a comment period on the removal of the programming duplication rule adopted in 1992. The rule limits AM or FM stations from airing more than 25% of total hours in an average broadcast week of duplicative programming. The rule applies to commercial stations in the same service (AM or FM) with substantial contour overlap that are commonlyowned or subject to a time brokerage agreement.

The Federal Communications Commission today adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that recommends giving AM stations the flexibility to voluntarily adopt all-digital broadcasting.

Many AM stations experience interference from electronic devices and other sources that affects audio quality. All-digital broadcasting offers AM broadcasters the potential to improve their signal quality and area of listenable coverage, as well as offer additional services that FM broadcasters currently offer, such as song and artist identification. It also holds the potential to allow AM stations to increase their programming options to include music formats.

In today’s NPRM, the Commission proposes to allow AM stations to voluntarily transition to alldigital transmission. The Commission also proposes establishing operating parameters for alldigital stations to minimize any risk of interference. Finally, the Commission proposes adopting the industry-approved standard for hybrid and all-digital broadcasting.

This Notice of Proposed Rulemaking continues the Commission’s effort to revitalize AM
broadcasting by enabling it to provide a better listening experience and enhanced service
offerings.

Action by the Commission November 22, 2019 by Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 19-
123). Chairman Pai, Commissioners O’Rielly, Carr, Rosenworcel, and Starks approving.
Chairman Pai, Commissioners O’Rielly and Carr issuing separate statements.

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The Federal Communications Commission today released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking asking whether to modify or eliminate the radio duplication rule. The rule limits AM or FM stations from airing more than 25% of total hours in an average broadcast week of duplicative programming. The rule applies to commercial stations in the same service (AM or FM) with substantial contour overlap that are commonlyowned or subject to a time brokerage agreement.

The Commission adopted the radio duplication rule in 1992. Since that time, the industry has significantly changed. The number of radio stations has grown dramatically from 11,600 to 19,500, radio content offerings have expanded through websites and mobile apps, and through the Commission’s revitalization efforts, AM broadcasters can now use the FM band, with thousands of FM translator stations already authorized.

In the proposal, the NPRM asks whether the rule remains necessary to promote competition and programming diversity, or if allowing broadcasters additional programming freedom would better promote these goals. Additionally, because radio broadcast spectrum is fully utilized and demand for spectrum continues to grow, the NPRM asks whether the rule remains necessary to promote spectrum efficiency.

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