Thanks to Translator-Mongering, AM Broadcasters Now Openly Advocating Band’s Abandonment

It’s still more than two months away, but in late November Americans will sit down with their families/friends and gorge themselves on food, then satedly lounge around giving thanks for their bounty. The U.S. radio industry’s going through that process presently, having spent most of the year scarfing up and then trading around FM translator stations.

In quick summary: FM translators are a class of radio station limited to a broadcast power of 250 watts but unlimited in antenna height (the key factor for good FM coverage). They are considered secondary services, in that they must rebroadcast another radio station. For decades, translators have been used as stand-in broadcast nodes by interests who wanted to build out radio networks on the cheap — by and large, these have been religious and public broadcasters who pipe in programming via satellite to air on a translator. Translators don’t require any staff and since they don’t originate their own programming all they need is a shack for the RF-boxes and a tower nearby.

This all began to change last decade when, after a multi-year freeze on new translator stations in order to implement the LPFM radio service, the FCC opened a filing window for new translators in 2003. Several cunning parties were well-prepared for this opportunity, flooding the agency with tens of thousands of translator applications — a 250-watt FM spectrum gold rush. Out of these came thousands of new translator stations, which in the intervening years have been fodder for speculative development of the FM dial around the country. Read More

Firming the Foundation for an All-Digital AM Mandate

The quiet collection of "evidence" on which to justify an all-digital HD Radio mandate for AM stations continues.

After some stealth experimentation on a CBS station in Charlotte, North Carolina late last year, there’s word of two other AM stations in the state conducting all-digital broadcast-tests this summer. The guinea pigs were WBT, a 50,000-watt station owned by Greater Media (also in Charlotte) and WNCT, a 50,000-watt (day)/10,000-watt (night) Beasley Broadcast-owned AM station in Greenville.

WBT secured experimental authorization from the FCC to conduct these tests just two weeks before they took place; WNCT also asked for fast-track authority less than a month before its all-digital broadcasts. Read More

All-Digital AM-HD Testing Planned

From the doubling-down department: the National Association of Broadcasters is recruiting candidates to test iBiquity Digital Corporation’s all-digital AM-HD Radio system.

So far, Beasley Broadcast Group has offered the use of one of its AM stations for the purposes of experimentation, and reportedly two other broadcast companies are also on board. When the tests will be conducted, and which specific stations will be involved, remains to be determined. Read More

NAB Plots Future of AM Broadcasting

Radio World recently published a long Q&A-style feature with Caroline Beasley, Executive Vice President of the Beasley Broadcast Group. A family affair, Beasley owns more than 40 stations in 11 markets around the country.

Among the many topics covered in the conversation, Beasley revealed that the National Association of Broadcasters has been quietly working on an engineering study that “outlines a number of different options regarding the future of the AM band.”

We have formed an AM Task Force that will be reviewing this study, along with the Radio Technology Committee. That committee is made up of engineers from the various groups around the country. So the AM Task Force, along with the Radio Technology Committee, will review the study and then report back…with the options that they feel that we should go with regard[ing] AM. Read More