Library of Congress Launches Local Radio Preservation Project

I mentioned this initiative a few months ago when I first heard about it, but the details have only recently been released. Can you help us assemble a national archive of local radio broadcasts?

The official name of this project is the Radio Preservation Task Force, being conducted under the auspices of the LoC’s National Recording Preservation Board. For many years, the NRPB has pursued various study-strategies to get a sense of just how much of our nation’s broadcast history has actually been preserved.

Turns out, it’s not much: sure, you can easily find and watch pretty much any of the “Big Three” national TV newscasts of the last 40+ years, but radio has no such archive, and local radio is especially unremembered. The Radio Preservation Task Force hopes to change that, with special focus on radio broadcasts from 1922-1980, and especially those from the noncommercial, educational side of the medium. Read More

AM and HD Fading from Some Vehicles

When Radio Ink publisher Eric Rhoads breathlessly reported in March 2013 that auto manufacturers were considering doing away with AM/FM radios in their glass dashboards, the reaction was disbelief. But new developments are undeniable: BMW announced the specs of two of its new electric vehicles earlier this month, and neither include AM radio (or a CD player).

BMW says the cars’ electric motor interferes with AM reception. Could this become a trend among other electric-powered vehicles? Broadcasters obviously hope not, and the NAB has reached out to BMW asking it to reconsider. Coupled with Disney’s recent decision to get out of AM broadcasting, one wonders if the oldest broadcast band is inexorably shuffling toward obsolescence. Read More

Library of Congress to Expand Radio Archives

I was recently invited to join a new national project devoted to archiving local radio history. It’s tentatively called the Radio Preservation Task Force, and it’s working under the purview of the Library of Congress’ National Recording Preservation Board (NPRB), in conjunction with the National Archives and several major broadcast museums.

The task force’s primary goal is "to develop strategies and tools to collect and preserve historical broadcast content"—more specifically, content from "public, educational, local, and regional radio" stations and organizations. In simple terms, ample archives exist of national radio and television broadcasts, particularly at the network level and on the commercial side of the dial. But there’s been no coherent preservation strategy beyond this, and that needs to be rectified. Read More

Reply Comments Filed in AM Revitalization Initiative

In addition to gearing up to scrap with the FCC over its definition of journalism, I found the time last week to file some Reply Comments in the agency’s AM Revitalization proceeding.

I kept my comments confined to the FCC’s suggestion that AM stations might begin to adopt the all-digital version of HD Radio. The whole thing (10 pages) is worth a read, but the high points are: Read More

Preliminary AM Revitalization Comments Roundup

With the first round of public comment on the FCC’s AM revitalization initiative due next week, it’s not a bad time to sample the feedback that’s come in so far: just about 65 comments in total.

There are some general points of consensus across most commenters. The strongest involves the increase of interference across the entire AM dial. Much of this comes from improperly-shielded consumer electronics, lighting fixtures, and power lines, which can wreak absolute havoc on AM reception in localized areas. The FCC has the authority to require that all such devices meet standards to reduce harmful emissions—but the huge influx of cheap sh*t from overseas is far, far more than the FCC can handle without a substantial increase in enforcement resources.

Another point of consensus is that the FCC should require AM radio receivers to work at a certain level of quality. Another side-effect of the influx of cheap electronic componentry means that the sensitivity and fidelity of modern AM receivers (especially in automobiles) is actually worse than they were, say, two decades ago. There is regulatory precedent for the FCC to consider and adopt minimum AM receiver-standards, but the power of the consumer electronics industry in D.C. will strongly resist any such notion. Read More