It’s been a year already since I received a copy of the “home game” from
Clear Channel Media & Entertainment IHeartMedia. While no reason was ever given, I’m sure the little missive below was reason enough. I get it and accept the punishment. I broke ranks.
I thought some about how I would rewrite my most infamous blog.
Referring to the National Association of Broadcasters or N.A.B. Convention as a “circle jerk” may have been a little much. I’ve been to a few of these conventions and had my share of free drinks and nice dinners. So in the interest of disclosure…
“Industry rags” was insulting and wrong since I consider many who write for these publications friends. I owe each of them an apology, especially Radio Ink. While they were never mentioned in the blog, they did name me one of their “Programmers of the Year” three times and honorably mentioned me more than a few times too.
The truth is each phrase was used to get attention. I guess it worked! I rewrote the blog numerous times thinking at one point it needed to be “jazzed” up a little.
You will note over a year later, not much has changed for AM radio. No help with interference. No help from the N.A.B. nor the F.C.C. As it was over a year ago, the ideas are just a lot of talk, with no intent for any real plans of action.
And of course there’s that brilliant idea of giving AM stations low power FM translators, which won’t help an AM station because the translator is on FM. Am I being too logical?
So here it is again on its first anniversary. The blog that got the radio industry buzzing, the bloggers blogging and me a severance package.
If you would allow me the indulgence of being the radio suit that I am in real life for just one blog, because something has me irritated in a major way.
There is finally a call, as the Federal Communications Commission put it recently, to revitalize the AM band. You know create and ease rules to allow station owners to be relieved of horrible burdens. You may have read about this in the press or online. If you’re in the broadcast industry you may have read about it in one of the
You think just one of these
industry ragswould speak the truth about the FCC’s ideas, suggestions and concepts? Nope. As Kevin Bacon’s character in Animal House said, “Remain calm. All is well.” What a joke the FCC is. And sadly, what a joke the people in the radio industry are who are nodding along without thought or the ability to intelligently reason the basic concepts of physics.
While AM radio may suffer from numerous other issues, this will focus on technical limitations of the broadcast band and the ideas the FCC has moving forward.
AM radio or “amplitude modulation” was first. Even back in the 1920’s and 1930’s companies like RCA which sold radios, owned stations and had the NBC Radio Networks knew of limitations on the band, limitations such as “static.” RCA was so concerned about static they, through a really smart guy they employed, invented FM or “frequency modulation” and then buried the FM technology because they had too much money invested in AM stations. The “static” you hear on AM radio is interference.
The AM signal travels farther at night than during the day. Most AM radio stations change their signal patterns and/or reduce power at night to keep from interfering with other stations on the same frequency or adjacent frequencies. Stations like 700WLW are considered a “clear channel” station, meaning the station’s signal is broadcast in a non-directional pattern and is the only station on that frequency at night. The power is a booming 50,000 watts. Stations such as WSM-AM, WGN-AM, WLS-AM and WCBS-AM are also “clear channel” stations.
Today, besides interference from other stations, the AM band is also being interfered with by computers, cell phones, even those new energy savings light bulbs. This is why it may be more difficult for you to receive a good signal from an AM station these days.
Just last week at the yearly “circle jerk” gathering of broadcasters called the NAB/RAB Radio Show, FCC Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn announced a “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” with 6…count ‘em…6 ideas to rid station owners of horrible burdens. What do these 6 ideas do? Increase interference! And no one. Not one freaking person in the industry press will talk about this. Obviously, they’re too busy copying press releases for their publications and pretending to be Kevin Bacon’s ROTC character.
Here are the 6 ideas proposed by the FCC.Opening a one-time filing window, limited to current AM licensees and permittees, which will allow each to apply for one new FM translator station to fill in its service area.
An FM translator is a very low power FM signal, normally about 99 watts. The FCC figures there’s so much interference today on the AM band, as stations interfere with each other, why not spread the pain and cause more interference on the FM band. BRILLIANT!
Relaxing the AM daytime community coverage rule to allow existing AM broadcasters more flexibility to propose antenna site changes.
Translation: Stations that are non-viable can change their tower locations. (1) Non-viable stations probably don’t have the money to move a tower site, which will cost in the millions. (2) If a non-viable station does change its tower site, rules would be relaxed on these stations allowing for more interference with other stations. (3) If a non-viable station simply changes its daytime pattern at its current site it will cause more interference with other stations. BRILLIANT!
Relaxing the AM nighttime community coverage standards, which will also provide broadcasters, who may have difficulty finding suitable sites, relief for towers and directional arrays.
Remember what I said about the AM signal traveling farther at night? More AM band interference and more difficulty for the consumer to receive and hear programming. BRILLIANT!
Also, does the FCC really think a non-viable AM station will be moving its tower site? 700WLW’s tower site is 40 acres. Two towers, one almost 900 feet tall. What do you think this would cost to build? This is a non-starter.
Eliminating the AM “ratchet rule,” which requires an AM station to “ratchet back” its nighttime signal to reduce interference to certain other AM stations.
Here’s where I worry about the FCC and attendees at the recent NAB/RAB
“circle jerk.”Really? You applauded this idea? They are saying they are in favor of increasing interference on the AM band and making it more difficult for listeners to listen to stations. WOW!
Permitting wider implementation of Modulation Dependent Carrier Level or MDCL control technologies, which allow broadcasters to reduce power consumption.
I know. What the f*** does this mean? Basically, by controlling the algorithms of modulation with the main carrier and the side-bands of the signal the station can reduce its electric bill. But, as with every immutable law in physics there is give and take. (1) By reducing the power and use of electricity needed, it makes the signal weaker and creates more interference on the listener’s end. (2) The FCC has noted that a reduction in signal power at certain modulation levels “inevitably exacts some penalty in audio quality.” This means if an AM station uses the MDCL control technology audio distortion is created on the signal. You guessed it. More interference.
Modifying AM antenna efficiency standards by reducing minimum effective field strength values by approximately 25%, thus allowing the use of shorter towers.
“Reducing minimum effective field strength values” means a weaker signal. 700WLW’s main tower is what is called a “half-wave tower.” That’s why it’s so big. Stations that have shorter towers have what are called “quarter-wave towers.” A half-wave tower creates a better and stronger signal. The shorter towers proposed mean? Yep. More interference.
Hey FCC. The answer is not MORE interference. The answer is LESS interference. And you do that by turning off non-viable stations. And before station owners start crying poverty, many of these non-viable AM stations have one thing that is worth a ton of money. The land their towers sit on.
What do you think those 40 acres in Mason, Ohio are worth?