There has been some talk of increasing the allowable power levels of the senior service. Let me first say, I have nothing but respect for Richard Arsenault and all consulting engineers. There are truly some brilliant minds out there and it has been a one of my pleasures in radio to work and learn from them.
Richard has petitioned the FCC to allow up to a ten fold power increase for AM broadcasters, noting, among other things, that the FCC rules currently on the books were to keep AM stations from interfering with one and other but do not address issues from non-broadcast interference. Today, it is noted, AM broadcasters are much more likely to receive interference from electrical appliances, light bulbs, Broadband over Power Line (BPL), and other sources. Well, perhaps, but they also interfere with one and other, especially at night. As far as night time interference goes, this is like fighting a fire by pouring gasoline on it.
In this day of internet streaming, I’d say more power is unnecessary, especially for the large radio owners who could, at least in theory, afford such a thing. The big guns (AKA 50 KW non-directional) have plenty of coverage area, especially for the syndicated talk programming that most of those stations repeat. There is nothing original in that programming and all of it is available on the internet from many different sources. Allowing those stations to go up in power seems a waste.
Further, I think we are looking at the wrong end of the problem. The real issue in the last twenty years or so has been crappy AM radios. I have several table top 5 tube radios from the 40′s and 50′s. They sound great, I have compact florescent lights as well as regular florescent lights in the basement. We also have light dimmers, battery chargers, solar power inverters, electric motors, microwave oven, and every other conceivable RF noise generator in our house. My inverters for the solar system use the neutral wire as a data buss, which would be very similar to BPL noted above. In other words, we are an average US household. To further complicate things, we are rural, far away from any stations I would want to listen to, however, WHVW, the 500 watt non-directional daytimer on 950 kHz, 25 miles away comes in great on the old sets using the internal wire loop antenna. If I try to listen to it on my $350.00 NAD tuner made in 1992 however, the signal is full of static and has audio that sounds like a telephone.
An inexpensive Tuned Radio Frequency (TRF) AM receiver with a decent loop antenna can run circles around anything sold today. I can make one for less than $20.00 and I am not even a radio manufacture. Some factory in China could likely turn these things out for $5.00 per copy.
The key is the loop antenna (not loop stick, which is a cop out) which should as long as possible and be terminated. That would produce a distinctive null in one direction, however, people will turn there radio to hear a show that they like.
It’s the little local AM stations that offer information unavailable anywhere else that will carry the day, when that day comes. A good example of this is Kingston Community Radio. That is a two hour time brokered show on WGHQ, Kingston, NY. A few days ago, they had the Ulster County Sheriff on the show and he was talking about section 207′s, which refers to the disability program for NY police officers. Basically there is a whole system of lawyers and doctors standing by to assist any police officer if he should become injured in the line of duty. Nothing wrong with that, it is as it should be, until you hear about the injuries suffered… a strained wrist opening a desk drawer, a finger that was closed in a car door, falling down the stairs at the police station and wrenching a back, etc. I don’t want to diminish all of the hard working police officers in NY, but it sounds like there are some real clutzes on the force. Sadly, those officers will likely retire with 75% pay forever. Why is not some enterprising investigative reporter for the local newspaper or TV station making hay with this? Because there aren’t any, the only place I have heard about it was on the radio.
What would happen if, suddenly one of WGHQ’s co-channel neighbors went from 5 KW to 50 KW or from 10 KW to 100 KW? The daytime interference would increase causing carrier heterodyne whining and making the station unlistenable. Another local voice silenced in this never ending mad march to globalization. And for what? So we could hear yet another station carrying Rush Limbaugh?
Personally, I’d like to see things go the other way. As the FCC put it in the AM IBOC proceeding, no one listens to skywave signals anymore anyway. Why does a non-directional station need 50 KW of carrier power to cover a medium sized metro area? They generally don’t sell advertising in those outlaying areas withing the 0.5 mV/m contour anyway. It would not hurt them financially to reduce power to cover the areas they were interested in servicing and that would reduce interference from IBOC sidebands that emit from many of the class A AM stations in the country. Within the metro area, no one would notice a reduction from 50 KW to 25 KW or even 10 KW for that matter. This would give local stations some breathing room and get (or at least reduce) the odious AM IBOC beast out of their protected coverage contour.
Update: Comish sees things my way: DA 10-973