AM Revitalization Springs Forward

Last October, the Commission took the first steps in over a quarter-century to revitalize the AM broadcast service.  AM radio has traditionally been the backbone of the broadcast service, and has time and again kept the public entertained and informed, as well as serving a vital role in times of emergency, disaster and severe weather.  The Commission’s goal is to assist AM broadcasters in the face of increasing technical challenges to their service, such as interference from electronic devices.

I am happy to report that those efforts have borne fruit, and that AM broadcasters are reaping the benefits of the Commission’s actions in the AM Revitalization proceeding.  One of the cornerstones of the Order was the opening of an exclusive window for the lowest-powered and most vulnerable AM stations, to relocate FM translator stations in order to re-broadcast their AM signals.  This gives the stations the ability to expand their service by broadcasting at night when their AM signals may be significantly reduced.  Hundreds of AM broadcasters have taken advantage of this opportunity.  To date, over 600 applications to relocate FM translators for AM rebroadcast use have been filed since the window opened on January 29, 2016.  Audio Division staff have already granted 80 percent of those applications, and will continue to process these quickly to provide relief to the AM broadcaster applicants.  This will continue through the end of this window in July, as well as the three-month window to follow, which will be open to all AM broadcasters.

Other aspects of the AM Revitalization Order have likewise proved successful.  For example, the Commission streamlined the procedures for AM stations to employ new energy-saving MDCL technologies, eliminating the requirement that they seek permission to do so, now requiring only that they notify us by form.  Since this new procedure became effective in March, we have seen a 25 percent increase in the number of AM broadcasters employing these new technologies.  This is just one example of the ways in which we at the Commission hope to reduce the burdens on AM broadcasters that want to move their service into the 21st Century, and to remain a vibrant and essential part of America’s communication infrastructure.


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