Total posts : 45366
First, welcome to the forum. Your posts were delayed a bit but they are all up now. You are not being ignored 🙂
Here is my experience with AM. I have built a station which is basically a high efficiency transmitter mounted at ground level over buried radials and feeding a 3 meter long vertical stick. The signal is very strong around my 1/2 acre property and can be received several hundred feet up and down the street on a hand held portable. With my truck radio I can hear it out beyond a mile. Unfortunately, it is hard to draw conclusions about usable range from this since both receivers were not exposed to the electrical hash typically present in most homes. I have no data regarding in-home reception except for my own home.
I also transmit on FM but the purpose with this is to enable my wife to hear streaming programming while she moves around with her portable. I adjusted the antenna length to give a usable signal in our house and around the yard and on a car radio it can be heard about 300 feet from my house. This is not an example of the maximum range obtainable since I adjusted this for limited range and not for field strength. It is not possible for me to tell what my actual field strength is but according to “guidelines” it is probably within the legal limit.
Regarding the situation with people turning in “pirates” I can imagine that when it happens to one, one gets very angry and vocal. The chances of any one person operating legally of having this experience is not zero but it is not as high as it may seem. There are many of us here who have never had problems.
The FCC publishes the NOUOs (Notice of Unlicensed Operation) cites and for FM it is almost always documented that the field strengths greatly exceed the legal limit by orders of magnitude. There are very few cites for AM violations and all with one exception that I know of have been for too much power or for too long ground lead lengths.
At least when the FCC makes this determination it appears that they use proper equipment and techniques. They are not the problem for hobbyists who try their best to abide by the rules. The danger I see is having unauthorized and most likely untrained people getting involved in “pirate hunting” and putting others in a position of having to prove they are operating within the rules rather than having the agency responsible for enforcement having to prove otherwise. This is especially apparent when state lawmakers get involved with what has always been a Federal matter.
Having said that, I still believe that responsible hobby broadcasting is not fraught with peril. I have been doing both AM and FM under Part 15 rules on and off for over fifty years and have never had any problems. It is a great activity and if you understand and stay withing the imposed limits there should be no need to worry.