Top Menu

Clear Channel: fixed date for digital AM conversion would be “challenging”

FCC LogoFederal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai and his Chief of Staff Matthew Berry conferenced with two executives from Clear Channel on Wednesday. They talked up a variety of issues. The meeting’s last item caught my eye. I presume from the language of the filed summary that Pai asked Clear Channel Vice Presidents Jeff Littlejohn and Jessica Marventano what they thought about a fixed date for converting AM radio stations to digital.

“It would be challenging for the Commission to set a date certain to convert AM stations to all digital broadcasts,” Littlejohn replied, “given the investments necessary for such a transition by broadcasters, and on the reception side, the large percentage of analog radios in the market.”

The idea of transitioning AM to digital has been in the air, so to speak, particularly since a CBS Radio veep pushed the idea at a recent National Association of Broadcasters conference. This proposal has plenty of skeptics since a likely digital standard would be HD Radio, thus far unpopular with consumers.

I asked HD Radio critic John Anderson for a response to the comments. “Clear Channel’s really backed away from HD in general, in part (I think) due to the company’s over-leveraged debt position,” Anderson noted.

Pai brought other AM related matters up. What about “across-the-board power increases for AM stations”?

Littlejohn explained Clear Channel’s opposition: “when the Commission implemented such a power increase for Class IV stations in the past, it resulted in a sea of interference surrounding islands of service,” he explained, then offered some other suggestions:

Mr. Littlejohn noted that other spectrum, such as the Channel 5 and 6 bands, could be an eventual location for AM, LPFM and educational stations, with an engineering solution for incumbent TV stations in those bands. In the interim, FM translators would serve as a bridge until the transition to new spectrum and/or the transition to all digital AM broadcasts.

Looks like this digital conversion business has Pai’s full attention. Here’s the full summary of that portion of their talk:

Other Topics Discussed. In response to a question from Commissioner Pai, Mr. Littlejohn stated that it would be challenging for the Commission to set a date certain to convert AM stations to all digital broadcasts, given the investments necessary for such a transition by broadcasters, and on the reception side, the large percentage of analog radios in the market. Mr. Littlejohn answered Commissioner Pai’s question regarding the feasibility of across-the-board power increases for AM stations, by noting Clear Channel’s opposition, explaining that when the Commission implemented such a power increase for Class IV stations in the past, it resulted in a sea of interference surrounding islands of service. In response to Mr. Berry’s inquiry regarding the proposal of replacing the AM minimum efficiency standard with a minimum radiation standard, Mr. Littlejohn noted that any such change would need to be carefully designed to prevent additional signal from entering into the skywave, which would create more interference. In response to a query as to anti-skywave antennas, Mr. Littlejohn stated that international testing to date had not proven their effectiveness. Mr. Littlejohn responded to an inquiry regarding potential alterations in the timing of AM daily power reductions, noting that such requirements are based in physics and should not be altered without considering the impact on interference. Mr. Littlejohn noted that other spectrum, such as the Channel 5 and 6 bands, could be an eventual location for AM, LPFM and educational stations, with an engineering solution for incumbent TV stations in those bands. In the interim, FM translators would serve as a bridge until the transition to new spectrum and/or the transition to all digital AM broadcasts.



Be Sociable, Share!

, , ,

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Shying away from digital radio | Goodbye AM? - May 20, 2013

    […] Radio Survivor reports that Clear Channel senior executives had discussions with the FCC about a switchoff for analogue AM broad…. […]

  2. FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai's AM radio revitalization agenda | Radio Survivor - September 23, 2013

    […] Pai noted that the FCC plans to release a draft order seeking public input on some of these ideas. He’s been talking up digitalization quite a lot of late, but with a bit less surety since he met with Clear Channel and was told that setting a fixed date for digital AM conversation would be “challenging.” […]

  3. FCC makes official proposals for revitalizing AM radio | Radio Survivor - October 31, 2013

    […] Walden at the April NAB show. However, reception within the radio industry has been mixed. In May executives from Clear Channel met with Commissioner Pai to express some reservations. Clear Channel Vice President Jeff Littlejohn said, “It would be challenging for the […]

  4. FCC makes official proposals for AM revitalization, but nothing on the all-digital question « ToneSquelch - November 1, 2013

    […] Walden at the April NAB show. However, reception within the radio industry has been mixed. In May executives from Clear Channel met with Commissioner Pai to express some reservations. Clear Channel Vice President Jeff Littlejohn said, “It would be challenging for the Commission […]

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes