the not so great migration

Missed this: the estimable John Anderson, writing at the end of October about the F.C.C.’s order on AM revitalization, the most important part of which is that AM station owners get more opportunity to grab FM translators in their markets – in other words, to effectively move their business from one band to the other.

Anderson, who is very smart and experienced on this issue, sums up AM’s future this way:

Once all the relatively minor technical tweaks to AM engineering have been exhausted, AM-HD proponents give up the ghost, and rising environmental interference functionally overwhelms smaller AM stations, we’ll begin to see the sunsetting of the band entirely. Broadcasters will argue that the economics of running an AM station are no longer sustainable, at which point they’ll lobby to “upgrade” FM translators into stand-alone primary stations along with a loosening of local market ownership caps to keep this ploy within the bounds of legality. In the end, these policy efforts should be categorized more accurately as migration, not revitalization.

He’s right, of course. There’s an inevitable quality about all this, a gravitational pull of money and incumbency which will end with yet more dross on the FM side, and an AM band mostly abandoned. Oh, well. One can hope that once AM is left for dead maybe squatters will move in, throw up some junkyard furniture and find new use for it.


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