Don’t Just Keep Us ‘Down on the Farm’
author is owner of WRNJ(AM) in Hackettstown, N.J. This is part of a
series featuring comments (filed to the FCC, or sent to Radio World)
about AM revitalization.
I’ve read all the
effusive articles in RW about AM improvement and can’t help but
wonder what is really going on, behind the scenes that is.
sense that the broadcast spectrum is slowly shrinking (UHF TV
auctions, for example). Consider that the tens of millions of dollars
spent to move television to new spectrum is far more than it would
cost to move AMs to vacant Channels 5 and 6 as other countries are
it possible that AM improvement ideas are really attempts to “keep
‘em down on the farm” and avoid any tangible improvement at all?
Consider that any real improvement is future competition for large
group owners, financially heavily encumbered, companies with huge
debts to pay.
Let’s look at it
from the local AM station’s point of view. IBOC or iBiquity uses a
pay-to-play approach. That’s bad. I think their interest is not AM
improvement, rather their bottom line. Take a moment to see who the
iBiquity stockholders are. That bottom line is in bad shape. Some
stations have discontinued IBOC transmissions. Others don’t receive
even one phone call if the HD Radio is down.
IBOC and digital AM is out. Has any country on this planet gone for
digital AM or even proposed it? Just one, right?
about shrinking broadcast spectrum? The FCC is allowing television
licensees to effectively auction away some, or all, of their new UHF
HD spectrum to be used for data. Now, who is going to buy that
spectrum, in all probability?
it be Verizon or the other massive spectrum licensees who are now
providing broadcast type services with their data streams? Yes, I
think so. But there’s no spectrum there for AM improvement, which
would be tantamount to improved service to the public.
the way, do the spectrum “licenses” bought by the cell providers
have expiration dates of 3 a.m. EST as ours do, or are they not
licenses but rather spectrum Bills of Sale?
where’s this going?
have very large companies now owning broadcast facilities (investing
in iBiquity) and experiencing rather minimal competition in their
marketplaces except amongst themselves. They bought up all the “best”
properties with unlimited, albeit borrowed, money. These very same
companies are major “stockholders” in the NAB, the organization
that’s supposed to represent all broadcasters. Remember, the NAB
does not represent the listening public, only the (substantial)
common sense in here for a moment. Do readers think for a moment the
NAB and group owners are going to let new-and-improved broadcast
services to the public happen?
don’t think so; and the proof is in the Channels 5 and 6 pudding.
There sits available, idle, mostly vacant, not digital-TV-friendly
spectrum. At present that same spectrum is being converted to serve
the public in other countries (some considered “third-world”) as
we hold back new and improved service to our local public here. See
the recent article in Radio World about Brazil, fifth-largest
population in the world changing AM to Channels 5 and 6 (“Brazil
Broadcasters Push AM Migration,” radioworld.com,
similar to what we use for AM has been abandoned by LORAN,
non-directional beacons and other countries because it is unfit for
public service anymore. Keeping AM where it is protects highly
leveraged properties of large companies. It’s that simple. The
public interests in local service are not being seriously considered.
the answer? One answer is your local congressman. In New Jersey, a
local broadcaster in a large city was a tennis buddy of the late Rep.
Matthew Rinaldo, who slipped into an unrelated bill that any city
with more than 100,000 residents must have a full-time AM radio
station. Elizabeth, N.J., gained a full-time AM station. It was that
the fast way of solving the AM problem. Got friends in Congress who
want their constituents to have superior, full-time radio service? If
so, familiarize yourself with the advantages of the Channel 5/6
transition at www.broadmax.org.
For an example of how easy it is to change and expand the use of
spectrum, see http://1.usa.gov/1eNAEgu.
file your own comments at the FCC go to http://apps.fcc.gov/ecfs//,
click on submit a filing and then enter 13-249 in the proceeding
number box and you are good to go. This refers to MB Docket No.
13-249, the “AM Revitalization” NPRM. [Ed. Note: As of press
time, public comments were due Jan. 21 but the FCC will take reply
comments through Feb. 18.]
don’t think it could be any clearer that the only improvement to
the AM band is the transition to new spectrum as others are already
doing. Anything else appears to limit competition in broadcasting and
limit benefits the public has a right to expect.Other
proponents of an AM transition to the Channels 5 & 6 band could
well be the SESAC, BMI and ASCAP organizations; it would mean more
exposure for their members along with improved local service to