The Federal Communications Commission wants to send radio back to the future by re-energizing the AM band.
The New York Times reports that the FCC is poised to alter regulations in an effort to boost AM signals and make it more affordable to invest in AM radio technology.
Only two generations ago, AM radio was king, but in the 1970s as more FM radio bands were installed in automobiles, everything changed. By 1978, AM held only about 50 percent of the audience and today, FM audiences outnumber AM five-to-one.
But The Times reports that reviving AM is a priority of FCC commissioner Ajit Pai who has unveiled a number of big changes which are now open for public comment. One of the biggest changes, according to The Times, is that the FCC would loosen its rules governing nighttime transmission by AM stations. Currently many AM stations are required to reduce their power signals at night to avoid interference with other stations. Additionally, the FCC says it's interested in making empty FM translators available to current AM stations. The Times reports that the FM translators would allow more AM stations to broadcast in urban areas which are restricted by buildings, degrading reception.
The National Association of Broadcasters has already cheered the FCC proposals:
"We strongly endorse the revitalization proceeding and stand ready to work with the FCC to develop meaningful solutions," said NAB president Gordon Smith. "AM radio is a cultural touchstone and jobs generator to cities large and small."