Wheeler's AM radio ideas for FCC don't go far enough for some

Apr 14, 2015 7:35 pm
Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler signaled with a blog post April 13 that he's ready to move forward on the AM radio "revitalization" plan, with a Report and Order that, "will buttress AM broadcast service and ease regulatory burdens on AM broadcasters." Inside Radio reported that Wheeler's post, "landed with a thud at the [National Association of Broadcasters] NAB Show in Las Vegas." Many commercial broadcasters hoped for an AM-only filing window for FM translators, but Wheeler wrote that he has “concerns” about that idea. "I have two concerns about the record and whether opening such a window is necessary, given the current state of the marketplace. The first is whether there is an insufficient number of FM translator licenses available for AM stations.... The second unanswered concern is why, if it is necessary to open the translator window, it should only be opened for one group.... But if we are to assure that spectrum availability is an open opportunity, then the government shouldn’t favor one class of licensees with an exclusive spectrum opportunity unavailable to others just because the company owns a license in the AM band." Instead of AM broadcasters getting first dibs on some FM frequencies, Wheeler's Report and Order will tweak regulations, making a few burdens less on broadcasters. Giving, "stations more flexibility in choosing site locations, complying with local zoning requirements, obtaining power increases, and incorporating energy-efficient technologies," is what Wheeler's proposal will do. It will get support from AM radio owners, but it won't be any special cause for the broadcast industry or activist groups, and it won't do anything to reverse the cultural change away from analogue to digital radio. NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton issued a statement after Wheeler's post went public saying the "NAB is grateful Chairman Wheeler has announced plans to circulate an item to his FCC colleagues designed to revitalize AM radio. AM broadcasters have uniquely served local communities for nearly 100 years. The time is ripe for the FCC to follow through on the tremendous efforts of Commissioners Clyburn and Pai so that AM broadcasters can continue to play a vital role in the fabric of our nation. We look forward to working with the Chairman and the Commissioners to help ensure the item ultimately adopted serves the American public in the best manner possible."
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