The Future of AM - Page 9
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Thread: The Future of AM

  1. #81
    People have been predicting the demise of AM ever since the music stations moved over to FM. Yet the AM dial is extremely crowded and AM stations are still doing well in the ratings in most major markets. Here in Vancouver, we have 6 AM stations rated and some of them do very well. Our talk station CKNW pulls a 10 share. Our news station CKWX pulls a 5 share. What's really impressive is that an oldies music station CISL consistently pulls a 2.5 share and does better than a Top 40 station Kiss.

    It's also worth noting that CBC attempted to shut down their Radio One AM transmitter a few years back as a cost cutting move. The CRTC rejected their request because so many listeners wrote letters complaining that they would no be able to receive a reliable signal. Our FM stations have their signals pointed south towards Washington state. The FM signals quickly fade out 30 miles north or east of downtown making the FM band a ghost town. The AM band remains active with stations from Vancouver, Victoria, Bellingham, and Seattle easily received during the day and more at night.

    The radio dial for many small towns in the rural BC mountains usually consists of a country station, maybe a rock or AC station, and a CBC relay translator all on FM with nothing on AM. AM is the only way to receive news, weather alerts, avalanche warnings, and blizzard alerts when traveling through the backcountry mountains. Maybe the terrain in this area has helped keep AM alive for those that need it. Many of these areas don't have cellular coverage so AM is the only option for important information.

    I know a lot of millennials and thirty somethings that tune to either CKWX for the latest news or our all-traffic station CHMJ while driving. It takes the same amount of effort to switch to the AM band as it does to press a preset button. The AM band has a lot more life left in it than many people on this board realize.

  2. #82
    Here in the States, AM listening has been in decline for several years. Heritage Class A stations are scrambling for FM frequencies or FM translators. Stations in large markets that were rated in the top five for over twenty years, have been reduced to the bottom ten. Ad agencies aren't interested in demographics that listen to AM, but reaching the millennial generation is hot. Millennial's don't listen to AM stations.

    So in a way I agree with what you're saying. AM isn't totally dead yet, but it continues to me in serious decline. My argument is: The industry can continue sticking their head into the sand, or as some are doing, have a backup plan. I'm just not sure cramming more signals into an already-crowded FM broadcast band, is a viable solution.

  3. #83
    Quote Originally Posted by Kelly A View Post
    I'm just not sure cramming more signals into an already-crowded FM broadcast band, is a viable solution.
    That isn't an industry idea. That's the FCC's AM revitalization plan.

  4. #84

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    I think AM stations, especially, see the FM translator as a land grab, not unlike the homesteading act where you could get free land by claiming it and living on it for a certain length of time. It was less about the value of the land as it was the asset. The translator is not a final solution, just a way to lay claim to something you had no chance of having a piece of until the FCC said you could 'qualify'. Sure, it helps a little but compared to many AM signals, it is merely a fraction of the AM's coverage area and likely not in the areas where the AM listening audience is the greatest.

    With that said, the 'perception' is the translator has great value to those outside of radio who don't understand the typical coverage of the average translator. Sure, some will be a godsend in smaller cities that are not spread out geographically, assuming an in town signal can be wedged in. For many, it is fringe suburbs and a tiny fraction of the total coverage area. As one has put it to me: we reach more cows than people but we now matter because we're on the FM dial too.

  5. #85
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    Quote Originally Posted by louisparker View Post
    I know a lot of millennials and thirty somethings that tune to either CKWX for the latest news or our all-traffic station CHMJ while driving. It takes the same amount of effort to switch to the AM band as it does to press a preset button. The AM band has a lot more life left in it than many people on this board realize.
    You are taking a specific major Canadian market and generalizing.

    Canada never made the great mistake of authorizing thousands of inadequate AM facilities. The number of stations in each market was severely limited and the stations granted tended to be fuller market signals with greater power.

    And as FM "took over" Canada had left plenty of unused FM space on the dial to allow dying AMs to migrate to FM.

    For AM, Canada had the advantage of a population concentrated in a very narrow band close to its southern border. With little population to the farther north, stations could locate south of their market and shoot a huge signal over the metro and on up towards the Arctic, the Pacific or the North Atlantic. There were few other Canadian stations to protect to the north, so you had 50 kw stations on channels that the US for decades had limited to 5 kw, and there were 10 kw stations on local channels that the US limited to, originally, 250 watts and then 1 kw.

    Canada also has and had much more severe content control, regulating things like song repetition and controlling the radio formats in each market. Better signals and less competition.

    There were almost no daytimers in Canada. Almost every Canadian AM did an adequate job of covering its entire market. On the other hand, many, if not most, US AM stations are either daytime or don't cover their market, today, with a full, usable signal.

    And still, Canada has allowed something like 60% to 70% of its AMs to migrate to FM. There are complete Provinces in the Maritimes with no AM stations left! (I believe that NS, PEI and NB are all AM-less now, and Newfoundland is down to just a couple).
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  6. #86
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    Quote Originally Posted by b-turner View Post
    With that said, the 'perception' is the translator has great value to those outside of radio who don't understand the typical coverage of the average translator. Sure, some will be a godsend in smaller cities that are not spread out geographically, assuming an in town signal can be wedged in. For many, it is fringe suburbs and a tiny fraction of the total coverage area. As one has put it to me: we reach more cows than people but we now matter because we're on the FM dial too.
    But for the former Class IV stations, 250 FM watts on top of the existing AM tower will equal the daytime coverage of the AM and exceed the night coverage. And for daytimers, it is an opening to be on the air 24/7; for stations in the more northern latitudes that means not losing several hours of AM and PM drive in the winter! For many directional AM stations, the use of a 250 watt translator at a decent height gets better night coverage than the AM, and often allows the AM to be downgraded to nondirectional at night with low power since the translator will carry the water at night.
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