- August 18, 2019 at 6:43 pm #112643ThelegacyParticipant
Total posts : 268
WVOE is a urban R&B, Gospel, News station dedicated to Afro Americans and now after 50 plus years the grim reaper of Death is calling their name.
How many deleted AM’s does that make this year when this happens?
- August 25, 2019 at 5:20 am #112681timinboveyParticipant
Total posts : 625
You seem far to excited when you announce “another dying AM station” like this is a good thing.
I go to work at an AM station 5 days a week, and have for 31 years. Same station. We’re doing just fine. Since I’ve been there I’ve outlived 3 owners. Still doing fine. I’m sure we’ll continue to do so for a long time to come.
Within a 100 mile radius of me are 9 AM stations that I know well. All are doing just fine. They’re not “dying”.
Each of these stations are providing a service to their community and providing gainful employment for number of people. They are all locally programmed and operated stations.
Perhaps what we *should* be counting is dying FM stations — and I don’t mean stations that have shut down or gone off the air (although the list of dead FM stations far exceeds the number of dead AMs). I consider a dead station any station that signs up for a satellite feed and is running the same programming as hundreds of other FM stations around the country. THAT is a dead station. Although there are some AM’s in this category, there are a lot more FMs. Mostly because FM is of course more geared to pure music formats and running a broadcast jukebox is cheap and easy.
Running a local AM station with local programming is ungodly expensive. You actually need a staff of decent people who know what they’re doing. People are expensive. Music rights are expensive. Power for transmitters is expensive. Taxes are expensive.
There are about 4,600 working AM stations in the USA (give or take a few). The odds that AM will DIE anytime soon is very wrong. Lets say 40 stations go dark every year. In ten years that’s 400 down. Leaving us 4,200. At what point do you consider it dead?
The chances that the FCC will declare the band dead and hand it over to hobby broadcasters or some new form of LPAM service is ZERO. There will be ZERO chance that one day they’ll start calling stations, or sending out notices announcing the date they’ll all have to shut down. Not gonna happen. There may come a day when everyone will have to switch to digital, however. I see that coming long before anything else.
Hell, we’ve got one guy in the region putting up a new directional AM station! That means several towers and a lot of real-estate. I doubt he’d be investing the dough if there was any realistic inkling that the band will die anytime soon.
People always like to assume that an AM station dies because it’s too scratchy and interfered with to listen to. Nah. It’s like many other businesses today. The current owners or management wants to retire and there is no one who either wants to, or has the means to buy the business. This is particularly common with radio, and especially AM because it’s ungodly expensive. With buying an AM station there’s a lot of real estate involved due to the ground needed at tower sights. Every now and then you’ll see a dark AM station offered for sale real cheap. Sure. The purchase. But the engineering costs and FCC legal costs to get it back on the air are huge.
In your example above it tells us that one of the founders has died and the other suffers from alzheimers. This likely leaves no one with the means or knowledge to carry the torch. Not because “AM is dying”.
We had a restaurant go out of business this summer. Owners retired. No one wanted to buy the place. Restaurants must be dying. A local jewelry store went out of business. A family business that had been around since the 1940’s. Second generation. The current owner, the son of the founder, retired. No one wanted to buy the successful business. He retired and closed up. Same thing happened to another jeweler in town. Perfectly successful business. No one wanted to buy the business. Closed up and retired. That’s two out of three jewelry stores in town. Jewelry must be dying. No. What happens is a successful business is an expensive business to buy. No one steps up with the means and they retire and the shop goes away.
Many of these AM’s go dark because there’s no one to step up with the knowledge or the means. If you’re not financially able, or have the backing financing, and preferably are also a qualified engineer, it’s hard to save one. A new owner saves a ton if he can do his own engineering. The number of qualified broadcast engineers is dropping off fast. Even though there’s a huge demand and the pay is very good. It’s just not something on the radar of the young people. And like many misguided people they think “Radio? That old thing? I’m not doing THAT”. There are over 15,000 radio stations in the USA. Add to this TV stations, other uses of radio and RF from cell phones to satellite receiving stations, and on down the line, there’s a huge demand for RF engineers. But few get involved. There’s no “broadcast engineer school” like there used to be. You really need to apprentice with a good old-timer to learn the business.
No, unfortunately for those thinking they’ll get their own LPAM when the band dies, AM will survive and there is ZERO chance that there will be a new service for little hobby stations. I can’t speculate on how they will successfully inject new life into AM. There are a few rules changes coming down the line. And of course there’s the FM translators — but is that really saving AM? It’s just moving it to an already overcrowded FM band. In fact, we’re in the process of putting up our AM translator right now. It will cover our present AM coverage area with crisp, clear, stereo FM and at the same time add tens of thousands of potential listeners buy getting it into places where our AM signal wouldn’t reach, including a crapload of people we lose at night due to pattern change of our signal. And of course we also stream our AM in stereo on the net, and have it available on apps, various live radio provider platforms (Like iHeart radio, tune in, etc). Having a translator, and having affordable rights to music on the stream, all rely on the fact that we’re simulcasting our AM signal. If we shut off the AM none of the others are allowed to exist. Well, the stream could go on but at a greatly increased cost for licensing. An AM translator on FM MUST simulcast the AM station, and cannot broadcast any alternate programming.
Another problem with AMs and for that matter FMs is management who refuses to broadcast programming that generates revenue. So many want to fill a “niche market”. That means you will have access to “niche money” which isn’t anywhere near as much as mass market money. It costs as much to run a station broadcasting a niche market as it does to run the same station with something that appeals to the mass market. The music rights cost the same for jazz or classic rock or polkas as it does for today’s top 40. For a successful niche station you need to run it cheap, or have a huge coverage area to gain more audience, or change boutique prices to support your niche market. None of which turn out to be good business models. Public radio can do this because they have an additional revenue stream that commercial radio doesn’t. We have a very successful public station here. A 100,000 watt FM that plays ZERO hit music. But they have translators and additional stations all over the northern half of the state covering a huge area. You can find enough niche listeners if you have a broad enough coverage area. They get revenue from “underwriters” — that’s what they call advertisers who aren’t really advertising because it’s public radio. But they ALSO get outright donations from businesses in the form of cash and materials (new road to the transmitter paved with a donation from listener who owned a paving company for example). Plus they have members who pay to be members, and they have scads of volunteers from lawn mowing people to announcers. In addition they also get grants from various sources, tax breaks, super low music rights fees compared to commercial radio, and they also receive support FROM YOUR tax dollars through various means. Yes, this means part of my taxes go to fund my employers competition! So, if you can set up a successful 501c3 corporation you can pull off a niche market with public radio. But they DO work their asses off to pull it off.
Also, people who refuse to carry things like high school sports. Don’t know how this would work in a major metro area where you have dozens if not hundreds of high school in the market, but in small and medium markets it’s a major source of revenue. If you’ve got decent play by play people you’re gonna sell plenty of sponsorships. We generally have to cut off the number of sponsors as there are just too many to fit into a game broadcast. But doing this sort of programming takes good people who can work live, both at the game and in the studio. But it makes up a substantial part of station revenue.
No, I’d say, if you really want to count “dead” stations, it’s any station where the largest percentage of their programming is coming off a satellite dish. And that’s a huge percentage of stations today, especially FM.
Geeze, good thing I didn’t go off on any tangents here.
- August 25, 2019 at 11:54 am #112683MarkParticipant
Total posts : 496
I’m out of breath after that long read!
I agree with Michelle Bradley who also speaks from knowledge that even the AM band will not be mandated to go digital like TV till the arctic glaciers melt. Part 15 isn’t going anywhere.
A very good point that owners retire but what about the many stations AM and FM that a big corporation owns and they shut down an AM station wouldn’t that be because of a lack of listeners or it’s a loosing money?
Would more AM stations shut down than FM ones?
Cannot understand how translators revitalize AM as as it just takes the AM feed to FM similcast to get listeners that you couldn’t get on AM. What does this do for AM
As for the “niche market” the fact that most commercial stations don’t want to do this is what’s wrong with commercial radio. A few stations in Toronto do…a jazz station, a classical station and Zoomer radio which is still playing oldies from the 50s and 60s and running old radio dramas. But the vast majority just the same 200 song synthesized pop formats. Appeal to the masses and people under 40.That’s where we come in as we don’t care about making money or advertisers.
- August 26, 2019 at 3:04 pm #112687ThelegacyParticipant
Total posts : 268
I just read on another forum that 40 AM stations died in the month of August alone. To me that seems like a lot 1 month 40 goes down if that happens every single month of the year for 12 months that would be 480 by the end of 2019. So a 480 stations die each year how many years would it be till there are none? Kind of a scary thought when you think about it.
I have heard from my broadcast engineer friend that there may be some rule changes so I don’t know what that means but I can say this much these translators that are flocking over to FM eventually will kill that band as well.
Tim brought up a good point that the FM translators cannot stay on the air without the AM stations so let’s say the am does stay on the air only to keep the FM translators afloat. Does that mean that you’re actually getting am listeners or is the am being used to skirt the law and have an FM station via an FM translator? I already know as we watch the post on that other forum that several commercial AM stations are using day power at night blatantly breaking the rules every single day without a care in the world. So does this not prove the fact that little or few people or only a niche hobbyist few people listen to AM you know the people with antique radios?
There are a few good AM stations I still listen to I’m not saying I don’t. 7:40 a.m. is 1 and there’s a good rock station on am in Maryland that I listen to every once in awhile 1320 which I cannot pick up on FM but I can pick up their AM station.
I do think the people that really want to listen to a.m. and who really want to spend that extra time searching for a good radio will be rewarded someday because eventually there will be even better programming on it. Maybe it would be a good place to start putting some Niche format radio stations on. This way maybe they could get some advertisers. I know it’s a vicious circle advertisers don’t like to invest in Niche formats as I had just read in the post.
- August 26, 2019 at 3:30 pm #112689MarkParticipant
Total posts : 496
The AM will stay on the air just to keep the FM one there….yes! It doesn’t matter if few people are listening to the AM as the FM side of things will cover the cost and more.
Way back when FM was new and AM ruled FM served the “niche market” with alternative programming like jazz, classical, Album/progressive rock, etc, and all FM stations then were supported by the AM counterpart. Now it’s just reversed.
Used to be north of Toronto in the 60s there was lots of small AM stations local to towns that don’t exist now at all. Any local smaller town/cities stations are owned by a corporation and are on FM..
- August 27, 2019 at 11:07 am #112693From BillyBurgParticipant
Total posts : 94
Timinbovey asked: At what point do you consider [AM radio] dead?
Years ago, a writer for Radio World said, “When they stop building receivers for the AM band.” And when you think about it, he is correct.
VHS VCRs were not considered officially dead until the last deck rolled off the assembly line. Same goes for single-disc CD-only players, cart decks, Dicta-Belt machines, etc.
When the day comes that you cannot get a new receiver capable of AM reception, that is the day to nail the coffin shut.
- August 28, 2019 at 10:17 am #112709timinboveyParticipant
Total posts : 625
I can see this is going to be a long one, so sit back and read on.
First of all, lets try some accuracy. According to the FCC data base 39 AM stations have “gone silent” in ALL OF 2019. NOT “40 in August” as reported above. 39 over the year thus far. Going silent doesn’t mean they shut them off and went home “because AM is dying”. That may be part of the reason for some. Silent stations of course include stations that have simply gone out of business. In the world of business, many businesses go out of business every day, for many reasons. This list includes stations where, as I mentioned before, management or owners have died or retired. It includes stations with bad business or programming management. It includes stations that are not off the air permanently but are off due to technical issues ranging from catastrophic transmitter failures to weather including floods, hurricanes, tornados, flooding, etc that have rendered a station unable to quickly get back on the air. The official database includes only stations that have been off the air for two months or longer. A tower cannot be replaced in two months. A station without the ready cash can’t replace a transmitter in two months. A station may go off the air only to be returned to the air a few months later with new management or owners. Stations where they either gave up, or retired, or died, usually wind up listed with a broker and get sold and return to the air with new owners, management and/or staff. I know of one AM that has gone silent because thieves, using a tractor and a couple trucks, stole their copper ground radials! Yanked them right out of the ground! Took them to scrap for cash. That’s a LOT of copper that takes a long time to replace!
This list does not account for stations that have come back on the air. Nor does it include new stations being built (which is happening not far from me).
No. 40 AM stations have not gone silent in August.
How is an AM station “skirting the law” by having an FM translator? These translators were specifically authorized FOR AM STATIONS. There is no skirting involved. Although I agree that FM translators for AM stations are not actually “revitalizing the AM band” because obviously they do nothing for the issues with AM, but they do indeed help revitalize the BUSINESS of an AM station, often bringing back listeners they have lost over the years due to environmental and interference conditions. The AM station where I work is 5000 watts, directional at night. I have taken monitor point field intensity readings for 31 years here, and I have the records going back 47 years. You can see over time how the signal strength has declined by up to 50% even though we’re still putting out the same 5000 watts we always have. That’s because 47 years ago when this site was built there was virtually zero vegetation, zero mature trees, zero buildings and other structures around. Field strength in specified directions was then limited to protect other stations. It’s considered normal for a directional AM station to miss the mark on field intensity by 50% or more due to changes in the surrounding area over many decades. This of course reduces coverage area, especially in the nulls where you are protecting other distant stations.
This is why you have some AM’s who have decided to go rogue and keep their day pattern or power on at night. Our power remains the same at night but out pattern changes. Some stations have only a power drop, some have both. Some have decided that keeping their power up allows them to have the original coverage their station was engineered for decades ago. It’s very expensive to have the engineering and legal work done to allow your station to use more power even if you remain within the original assigned contour. Some stations are protecting interference to other stations from 50, 60 or more years ago that aren’t even there any more. They may have changed frequencies or locations, and don’t even need to be protected with your directional pattern. But unless the engineering and legal costs are paid to change it, you’re stuck with it. This touches just a bit on some of the AM regulations that are under discussion for changes. A major factor with us is we lose a lot of our signal to the southwest at night because we’re protecting a station in South Dakota on the same frequency that is 400 miles away, while our signal in that direction is actually 65% below what we are licensed to put out in that direction due to environmental changes. It’s complicated.
I’m a little perplexed by the comment about listeners using their “antique radios”. Why would they do that? There are tens of millions of AM radios out there, and no sign of them going away. My wife has a brand new car. Came with AM radio. My daughter has a two year old car. Came with AM radio. My 2014, 2010, 1959, and 1964 vehicles all came with AM radio. I just bought a rather expensive, fancy JVC aftermarket stereo to put in our hot rod 1953 Mercury. Guess what? AM radio in it. All of these work just fine.
I just bought a new Sherwood receiver to use in the record store — granted we play records through it — it’s a record store after all — but it has AM band and it works just fine.
Over the past two days I was in both a Walmart and a Target store. Both have bunches of radios on the shelf. Clock radios. Table radios. Portable transistor radios. Radios with record players built into them. All had AM band radios in them. Just picked up a new 12 dollar clock radio for the bathroom. Has AM. Listen to it every morning.
Just this morning visited the Ford and GM dealers (they’re next door to each other – I’ve been buying cars at the Ford dealer for 30 years, and the GM dealer has been a client since 1948) ALL their new cars have AM band on the radios. In fact, as far as I know the ONLY cars that do NOT have AM radio in them are Teslas and electric BMW’s, as there’s too much electromagnetic interference from the cars electric drive system.
There are some amazing sounding high end AM table radios. If you haven’t listened to one you should. Check out those from Tivoli and Bose to name a couple.
I don’t see AM going anywhere anytime soon.
I do expect AM to go digital, but I also expect that the final system will be hybrid allowing people to listen on analog radios as well. If anything happens in the next 50 years that will be it.
You want to talk about listening to an antique radio? That’s what you’re using if you want to listen to C-Quam stereo. If you go the AMstereo.org webpage where there are links to radios you can buy, they’re all discontinued and most of the websites are long gone with expired domains. Regular AM radios are readily available, from cheap portables to high end table radios and everything in-between. I would be impressed to see a currently manufactured, quality C-Quam radio.
I see often references to “my broadcast engineer friend”. Remember, I AM a broadcast engineer and have been, full time for over 40 years. For the past 31 I have been chief engineer for two 100,000 watt FM stations and a 5,000 watt AM that uses a directional array at night. With random contract work for other stations thrown in. I’ve been involved in everything from keeping a 70 year old Collins transmitter on the air, to recently installing brand new Gates and Nautel transmitters, both AM and FM. I too read all the trade publications, newsletters, FCC bulletins and all the rest. There WILL be continuing changes to the AM band. Time will tell exactly what those changes may be.
I do know that our AM will soon be on it all. We presently are, of course, on the AM band. We also stream live 24-7 except for pro sports that we are not allowed by contract to stream, so that’s blacked out. Our stream, BTW is a clean stereo feed, not an off the air signal. We also have our morning show, afternoon show, newscasts and sportscasts available via podcast and as mp3 downloads. We can be listened to via various services through smart speakers like Alexa, Google Home, the Apple speakers, etc. We are also carried, in stereo, via the local cable TV company with our own audio channels (in stereo) on a cable system much greater than our coverage areas, and by the time snow flies we’ll also be on FM through our new translator, with 250 watts with the antenna at just over 400 feet. There really aren’t many more ways to hear a given station! We have the same for our two FM stations (except no translator of course).
FWIW more FM’s “go silent” than AM’s, but there are more of them. And that counts things like, when a station goes down it’s translators and repeaters go with it. We have one station in town with 4 transmitters in four cities and they cover nearly the entire top half of the state! If they were to go silent, 4 stations go silent on the silent station score board.
I may have more random comments down the road. LOL.
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