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FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai’s AM radio revitalization agenda

NAB radio showFederal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai spoke at the National Association of Broadcaster’s Radio Show gathering on Friday. He talked up AM radio “revitalization,” a topic suddenly hot now that The New York Times explored it earlier this month.

Here are some of Pai’s ideas (some firm; others more tentative):

1. Repeal the FCC’s “ratchet rule” – basically a suite of regulations designed to rein in AM’s tendency to bounce off the ionosphere at night, resulting in all kinds of annoying interference.

2. Make it easier for AM stations to obtain and use FM translators, which the FCC allowed AM signals to rebroadcast on in 2009:

“I’ve heard firsthand how this step has been a lifeline for many AM broadcasters. But I’ve also heard from countless station owners who are frustrated by their inability to get a translator. A petition is currently pending at the Commission to make it easier for AM stations to move FM translators, and I support that effort. But the FCC should go further—we should open up a window where any AM station without an FM translator can obtain one so long as there is available spectrum.”

3. Continue testing digital AM radio:

“We should allow for tests of synchronous transmission systems. We should be open to tests involving changes to nighttime power levels. And we should encourage other innovative ideas too. To be clear, I don’t believe that we at the FCC should take our inspiration from Cole Porter and say ‘Anything Goes.’ But I do think that we should have a very open mind.”

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.”

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