iHeartMedia Makes Case For Class A AM Stations In Meeting With FCC On AM Revitalization
May 15, 2015 at 3:54 AM (PT)
iHEARTMEDIA representatives met with FCC Media Bureau chiefs and engineers on TUESDAY (5/15) to discuss the AM revitalization docket, and the letter describing the ex parte communications offers additional information on the company's position on several issues involved with AM radio technical changes.
At the meeting EVP/Engineering and Systems Integration JEFF LITTLEJOHN told Media Bureau Chief WILLIAM T. LAKE, Associate Chief HOLLY SAURER, Audio Division Chief PETER DOYLE, and other Commission staffers that reduction of skywave interference protection to Class A AM stations would have a potential for 600,000 listeners to lose service, amounting to over 3 million hours of listening per week.
LITTLEJOHN stressed how Class A stations drive listening with "quality and expensive full service programming content, such as significant news production and sports programming combined with reliable coverage," and that loss of listeners beyond their local metros would "undercut" their ability to provide that programming.
LITTLEJOHN also discussed the potential impact of increasing signal interference on listening, noting that AM has already lost listeners to FM due to electronic interference and that reducing Class A coverage would expose more listeners to interference like the bass-tone "beat" frequency hum experienced when Class D stations do not sign off at night. And to illustrate the difficulty of drawing new audiences to an improved-signal AM station, he also related the story of iHEARTMEDIA's attempt to draw listeners with an upgraded signal at WXKS-A/BOSTON, where the company "invested in an upgraded signal, and procured expensive programming, but did not attract a significant additional audience."
On the prospect of an FM translator filing window for AMs, LITTLEJOHN asked that the window be opened for all AM stations because all AM classes have coverage issues, and on AM all-digital proposals, he warned that trials are showing possible increased interference and noted that less than 3% of all radios and 10-15% of car radios are equipped to receive digital signals.
Read the ex parte letter here.