Wheeler Reveals More on AM Plans

Broadcasters who have been waiting with bated breath for the FCC to move on AM “revitalization” may soon be able to breathe a little easier
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WASHINGTON�Broadcasters who have been waiting with bated breath for�the FCC to move on AM �revitalization� may soon be able to breathe a little easier.

Chairman Tom Wheeler wrote in a blog post: �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.� He said the proposed order would adopt measures to address practical problems and interference-related issues for AMs.

At NAB Show in Las Vegas, NAB EVP Communications Dennis Wharton commented that the broadcast lobby is �grateful� for the development. Several NAB Show sessions focus on the challenges of AM radio, and a Monday Boot Camp delved into AM.

��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 [Mignon] Clyburn and [Ajit] Pai so that AM broadcasters can continue to play a vital role in the fabric of our nation,� said Wharton.

Wheeler will appear at NAB Show Wednesday morning. Although his blog did not spell out specifics, he said enough to suggest that not everyone will find what they want in the proposed order.

�If adopted,� Wheeler wrote, �these measures will enable AM stations to operate more efficiently in today�s spectrum environment. For example, the proposed order would give stations more flexibility in choosing site locations, complying with local zoning requirements, obtaining power increases and incorporating energy-efficient technologies.�

Wheeler said the NPRM, launched by then-Acting Commissioner Clyburn, �started an important dialogue on the future of the AM band.�

However, he wrote that some ideas that have been raised �deserve more discussion,� so he plans to circulate a further notice proposing to permit stations serving smaller communities to expand their limited day and nighttime service areas while protecting larger, Class-A stations� core service areas.�

The further notice will also seek input on whether and how to open the expanded AM band, �whether that is for stations migrating from the standard band, for new stations or for all-digital stations.�

But Wheeler sounded more hesitant note about allowing wider use of FM translators to serve AM licensees and questioned whether opening a window is necessary, and asked whether government should �favor one class of licensees with an exclusive spectrum opportunity.�