Move AM stations to channel 5 and 6

It might happen, at least according to Commissioner Clyburn, they aren’t saying no right away.  According to her prepared statement:

I believe it is time that we consider the fate of Channels 5 and 6 as they relate to current radio service. These channels have proven difficult for television broadcasting, and I have a hard time imagining that they would fare much better as additional spectrum for mobile broadband use. This spectrum is not well suited for digital transmissions. It certainly is possible that this spectrum could be used for LPFM, expanded NCE use, and AM broadcasters.

That would, indeed, be an interesting development, if it were allowed to happen.  Of course, there are quite a few hurdles to get over, even if it gets the FCC’s nod, which is a long shot, to say the least.  There would likely be some type of congressional “input” into the matter, which could stall things for years if not forever, depending on which way the money flows and which one of our wonderful congressional representatives can be bought and sold.

  1. Getting new radios on the market with the expanded FM band (77 through 87 MHz) will take some time.  Thankfully, unlike HD radio, no licensing fees will be required.  Manufacturers simply need to increase the frequency range down.  It might take several years, but it would happen eventually, as is the case with expanded AM band radios, which are universal now.
  2. Existing AM stations should be given the option to move, those that stay on the AM band will get the option to improve their facilities or go non-directional as the interference contours allow.
  3. Those that choose to abandon AM need to surrender their AM license before commencing broadcasting on FM, none of this expanded band crap where they were supposed to surrender licenses after five years and never did.
  4. Those that choose to abandon the AM band also will not be assured the same theoretical coverage areas they had on the AM band.
  5. AM migrants should not have to compete in an auction.

Indeed, if LPFMs get a boost in the process, all the better.  It might actually give radio the shot in the arm it needs, add a good deal of local competition, and satisfy several needs.

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5 thoughts on “Move AM stations to channel 5 and 6”

  1. “Could EXB Band Be Your New Home?”

    “The group says most AMs should move to the new band, where they would operate as FMs on channels of 100 kHz width, enjoy more parity with current FM stations in terms of audio fidelity and gain the ability to go all-digital. AMs could transition to 100 channels and operate in the all-digital mode. In this way, AMs ‘can solve the current digital problems they are experiencing, especially at night’, the group states. But while most would move, the existing band could, under their plan, also remain populated with clear-channel stations that would enjoy more elbow room. Under the proposal, filed with the FCC in its diversity proceeding (Docket 07-294), the old AM band would be ‘re-packed.'”

    This may be a ploy to killoff all of the smaller, non-IBOC stations, as the larger “clears” would remain which are running IBOC.

  2. So far, this is just the remarks of one FCC commissioner, further, right in her remarks she makes the statement “This spectrum is not well suited for digital transmissions.” Which IBOC is certainly a digital transmission. That seems to take the wind out of the sails for an all digital segment of the FM band.

    Regarding AM IBOC, unless the system is radically redesigned into something like DRM, it technically will not work. I don’t care how much iBiquity and those few engineers who promote the system say to the contrary, the laws of physics are absolute and cannot be undone, no matter how much spin is applied. AM IBOC will be dead by this time next year.

  3. The 76-88 MHz. band should be for NEW entrants only. It is time to stop protecting the status quo, they have had enough spectrum! The last time an expanded band was allocated, it was stalled for nearly 10 years. Let’s light a fire under Congress and the FCC to get going quickly. I have a hunch that Genakowski might be willing to move quickly on this deal. I would favor two band segments (high and low ends), one analog and one all-digital with the stipulation that the applications would be frozen as to intent up front with no modifications or changes. And the 3 year CP process would be lowered to 1 year with NO extensions, period. Further to stop speculators and warehousing, licensees would be required to operate these stations for their entire license term, and could only sell them under hardship cases. Going off the air for short periods and then going back on over and over again to hold the license would be prohibited and the sanction of license termination would be in the rule making.

  4. I would also add the stipulation that the FCC would add a propagation analysis to the actual frequency channel allocations to minimize skip in this band. Channel Zones similar to the Bell System’s Low Band (35-43 MHz.) “Highway” Mobile Telephone service concocted in the late 1940’s could easily be accomplished today. The MUF easily reaches 100 MHz. at times and is worse in the 76-88 MHz. band than the current FM band. Skip zones would be studied by the FCC and recommendations made in a public notice. Engineering studies by private consultants would be allowed give their input. If this 76-88 MHz. band is to be allocated, it is in the public interest to ‘do it right’ in this millennium rather than a hodge-podge. I can see this band actually taking off with the new entrants if another mandate like JFK did back in ’62 for UHF TV. Receivers would then be available soon after the allocations were created. I am almost always against government mandates, but in this case it would speed up more private enterprise activity and contribute to more competition in the broadcast industry. The JFK signing back in ’62 had no adverse effects and resulted in a “Win-Win” for the poor souls operating expensive power-hungry UHF transmitters with limited viewership. It was true leadership to make a level playing field with technology. When a new transmission band is established, relying on the market does work, but takes way too long in many instances.

  5. John, you bring up a good point about propagation. We are approaching a solar maximum now and it is always fun to see what havoc gets dumped upon the FM broadcast band. Channel zones makes the most sense but it may be over the heads of most of those on the FCC staff, since they are mostly lawyers. Few folks have experience with low band VHF propagation anymore as it is mostly relegated to land mobile service and is not the preferred operating band.

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