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September 09, 2013



I would think that trying to save AM radio now is akin to trying to save cassette tapes in the 90s. The only thing that kept cassettes alive into the 90s was the fact that CD burning wasn't cheaply available; once it became available, cassettes dwindled away but still existed until their pretty much final demise with the rise of the mp3 circa 2000.

From skimming that article, two things stand out:

1) The FCC commissioner seems to have a mixed motive: one is nostalgia, and the other is because AM supports the conservative base and he's a Republican. I honestly wonder if the demise of AM radio would in any way threaten the conservative base; I suppose they'd still have Fox News.

2) There is actually a utilitarian reason to keep AM around, and that's as an emergency broadcast system. It seems like only a matter of time before a solar flare or magnetic storm knocks out satellite communications for an extended period of time, and in that regard an AM radio would be useful.

I suppose also that when satellite radio becomes ubiquitous in most cars, that will be the final death knell of AM. The only time I ever listen to AM is when I'm driving and either my finger accidentally hits FM/AM twice, or on the very rare occasion that I have a long drive and am trying to find a baseball game to listen to.

Finally, while writing this I realized that I do actually own one radio that might be of interest to the radiophiles, something my parents got me a couple years ago after a hurricane freaked them out - the Eton Hand Turbine FRX3:


Sort of a handy little device to have in a pinch. If I ever put together a "bug-out bag," this will be in it.


At least in the LA area, AM radio is very useful for news. I think KNX also simulcasts on one of the FM HD2 channels, but I don't own an HD radio, and the range of HD radio is currently quite limited. If you live in the suburbs or farther out, HD Radio may not be very useful.

Also, AM radio is free, while satellite radio is not.

At home, I listen to AM 90% of the time and FM 10% of the time. I had Sirius in my car, but since I don't drive much I canceled it.

Ed S

AM radio will never die. What other form of wireless communication can you pick up using a rusty razor blade and a safety pin?


Jonny: There would still be FOX NEWS and also----the most highly rated AM talk shows would just move to FM. That is already happening----WMAL in Washington, DC (Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Michael Savage and local conservatives) picked up an FM station a few years ago----and broadcasts the same on both AM and FM. What is the purpose of killing AM though? Do they need the bandwidth for something else? Otherwise, a lot of local channels and services for the blind, etc., are on AM. Why take that away?


The article says that AM is starting to get interfered with by cellphones or some such, so its not as much about being "taken away" as being pushed out by other, more popular/important/modern technologies.

I'm pretty sure there's going to be a "from my dead cold hands" contingent. Perhaps with a strong correlation in belief that Obama is a Muslim.

Jack Marshall

In my area, or anywhere near it, about the only thing that populates the AM dial is right-wing talk and sports _talk_ (more than the actual events themselves).

There is virtually no music or actual news, just opinion, and whether politics or sports, it's almost always expressed in a hostile and confrontational manner. Then they invite like-minded listeners to call in and do the same.

That AM is "community based" or will inform everyone in a power or solar emergency is mostly myth now. In most communities, independent radio stations are rare since restrictions were lifted on how many broadcast outlets an entity could own. Clear Channel, Radio One, took the "community" out of AM a long time ago, and they ditched expensive information infrastructure for cheaper syndicated talk.

Let AM die. I won't miss it one iota.


Jack: I agree with some of what you say----but I also think the sports, religious and political talkers filled AM only after popular music went to FM back in the 70s and 80s. Also, on the left side of the FM dial (not a bad choice of words by the way) PBS and college radio often push a far left agenda. That, combined with the mass media----might have gifted conservative pundits the opportunity to try to equalize things by taking over the AM dial. But there's no rule against liberal talk radio on AM---some of that exists and some has been tried on a large, national scale but didn't get the ratings. We do have local AM in my area----old music and community talk. Also, I travel to West Virginia some weekends and hear local channels out there---real local content. Same for some Pennsylvania communities. Local commercials too---for hardware stores, diners, etc.

Tom Welch

Here in the Phoenix area, hate filled AM radio has already moved to the FM band. With respect to the LA market, some of the AM news stations perform a vital service and have DECENT RATING to support them, this is after all about ratings. Like Fox News, only old people watch, not a demographic that's attractive to advertisers, conservative driven radio and TV is now under a lot of pressure b/c old people who watch or listen are passing away daily.


Tom: I'm in advertising and I don't disagree with you----the desireable demographics are exactly what you describe. But interestingly, I can assure you that some of that programming designed to reach a "younger" audience isn't translating to ratings. And I'll guarantee that MSNBC/CNN and CNN Headline news, combined, would gladly trade their ad revenue for FOX News' revenue. "Ditto" (no pun intended) for the old Air America programs: Combined, and then doubled, they'd still trade all of that for a small piece of Limbaugh's ad revenue. And in theory, you're right on target with what you say----an old, limited audience who is dying off shouldn't have this much clout----but there must be some explanation for the comparitive high ratings and active advertising community. Limbaugh's ad revenue is up since the Sandra Fluke controversy and advertiser boycott, which han no impact and in fact might have only helped him.

Jack Marshall


It's not the political agenda to which I object on AM. It's the stridency and the lack of variety. I am equally bored by liberal hacks that do nothing but parrot the same talking points over and over again. I mentioned "right-wing" only because that's all that is represented on the stations in my area, but I would have the same objection to non-stop lefties, and I should have made that clearer.

As for the left side of the FM dial, whether NPR has a leftist bent I suppose could be debated, but the college stations that populate that spectrum in my are are music stations (one classical, one jazz, and one Americana) and local public affairs.


I agree about the lack of variety----but it's like anything else----it's a herd mentality. If program managers see a station enjoying a lot of success with a certain format----while their station is struggling---they might be guilty of copying what is working somewhere else. Overall though, I would assume that the reason there is so much of one type of programming and not enough of another----is because this is what the audiences are currently demanding. Radio stations, like anyone else, want to make money. If switching to a different format would be better for them (which is what would occur with a wider audience) I have to believe they would do it. In my area, there are college stations that have political panel discussions in the morning----trashing Republicans sometimes, not often trashing Democrats (though the rush to bomb Syria might be a big exception---as there is serious backlash on that one in that camp).

Roy Sandgren

More libral laws on AM simple applications and more Power to unlicenced stations can be some help.
There are thousands of part 15 stations running with very local service. Let they get more Power like 1 watt and simple licences of 25 watts. AM is not dead, just give it more freedom in the AM band, that's all !!


"Whether NPR has a leftist bent I suppose could be debated?"

Heh. Heh heh. Aheh heh heh. Hah hah hah hah. AHAH HAH HAH HAH HAH HAH!....

Bob C.

There are waaaaaay too many AM stations crowding the dial and the irony is that Mr. Pai's own agency - the FCC - has facilitated the downfall of AM radio by placing "local" stations with day and night operation in slots that were formerly reserved for the so-called clear channel signals. Not to mention the incredible Balkanization of the graveyard (local) frequencies to the extent that an entire swath of the band is unlistenable day or night. All have hastened the demise of the band.

BTW, I'd love to know what AM stations in Phoenix have the format of "hate radio", as we don't seem to have that in my market. Perhaps the KKK and Black Panthers have gotten into broadcasting? Because the successful AM signals here in the midwest consist of all-news and news/talk formats which probably have a bit too much syndication, yet with popular hosts who profess a right of center point of view. This balances the left of center point of view readily available elsewhere and it is still fairly popular. It is not hate simply because someone disagrees with it.

What there are too much of are fringe religious and brokered formats that literally nobody listens to. For every Limbaugh affiliate, there are 10 of these. Most are low powered wastes of bandwidth. Look at the successful AM stations (and they are still out there), you have 50 kw talkers with a local focus (KFI, WGN, WBZ, etc.) and full service all-news stations (WBBM, WCBS, KCBS, etc.). The content sells, but they also need to have the signal to get that content to the listener. Local full-service radio is becoming rarer these days and that's sad, because AM is the place for it (the economics don't work on FM).

Anyhow, the band isn't dead yet - but it's not doing well. It needs a good purging so that there are fewer signals, leaving the band to solid signals featuring formats that listeners actually want to hear.

Tom Welch

Well Tim, out of all the news organizations identified on this thread only NPR is actually growing.

I live at a retirement community here in Mesa, AZ and 65 and over folks are all scared to death of running out of money and of course death, not hardly consumers willing to spend money.

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