FCC Chairman Calls for AM Radio Rules Update

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler penned a blog post this week indicating his interest in advancing the agency’s “Revitalization of the AM Radio Service” proceeding (MB Docket No. 13-249), which was initiated under previous Acting Chair Mignon Clyburn.  Chairman Wheeler declared,

AM radio stations currently face unique technological challenges that limit their ability to best serve their listeners. In some cases, outdated regulations make it difficult for AM stations to overcome these issues. In other cases, interference concerns that are unique to AM stations are an obstacle. In the coming weeks, I intend to conclude this open item with a Report and Order that will buttress AM broadcast service and ease regulatory burdens on AM broadcasters.

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai applauded the announcement.  Indeed, this proceeding was stirred in large part by his calls for action. For example, at the 2012 National Association of Broadcasters Radio Show, Commissioner Pai highlighted statistics about the current health of radio, including the fact that 93 percent of American adults listen to radio each week, average weekly listening is 14 hours, and more adults listen to radio than surf the Internet each day. He did note, however, decline in AM radio listenership, particularly striking in the 12-34 age demographic, among whom less than 10 percent of radio listeners tune in. Pai then proposed that the FCC launch an “AM Radio Revitalization Initiative,” a subject he returned to on numerous occasions, including at a meeting of the NRB Board of Directors.

NRB’s formal filing in this proceeding discussed a number of technical considerations, such as day/night rules, as well as broad concerns about timing, costs, and incentives for any possible transitions or modifications required for AM operators. NRB particularly urged the FCC “to remember the value of smaller market AM stations that super-serve their local communities. If ‘revitalization’ is to be realized, then it surely must mean revitalizing the whole of AM radio, including both large market and small market stations.”

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: April 17, 2015

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