The New York Times reports this morning on the singular campaign of one Federal Communications Commissioner to save a.m. radio.
Ajit Pai, the lone Republican on the Federal Communications Commission, is on a personal if quixotic quest to save AM. After a little more than a year in the job, he is urging the F.C.C. to undertake an overhaul of AM radio, which he calls “the audible core of our national culture.” He sees AM — largely the realm of local news, sports, conservative talk and religious broadcasters — as vital in emergencies and in rural areas.
“AM radio is localism, it is community,” Mr. Pai, 40, said in an interview.
The Times story makes static interference out to be a bigger issue than I think it is, probably because I live in a rural area and static isn’t such a big deal around here. Also, the article doesn’t mention (probably because there’s no one talking about it) my favorite idea for reviving a.m., which would be to reduce the number of stations and widen the bandwidth available to the stations left.
Finally, from what I read, “HD radio” isn’t much of an answer on the a.m. side. I’m no expert, but I have read that a number of a.m. stations that had HD signals have turned them off, though whether that’s because of low consumer interest or technical problems, I don’t know.
For an alternate view on how to save a.m., this is a good read. I want a.m. to work, and not just for the sake of nostalgia; I’m not at all convinced we are at the point where streaming internet can replace radio, especially in an emergency. As a non-engineer, I’m not qualified to have an opinion, but it seems to me that the problem of replacing radio with streaming is simple: you can add listeners to radio without incurring additional resource cost, while adding listeners to a streaming feed requires you to increase bandwidth and that bandwidth may not be available during a crisis.
As for a.m. specifically, (as opposed to radio in general), I like its termite-like character, how it spreads out to places where f.m. might not get. On the other hand, I can’t get a.m. at all in my office, deep in the bowels of a t.v. station.