FCC to Vote on AM Technical Changes This Month

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has always had a soft spot in his heart for radio. Growing up in rural Kansas, a transistor radio was one of the few possessions his parents brought with them when they immigrated from India. Pai has said previously he spent many a night listening to far away AM stations during his childhood.

At the NAB and RAB Radio Show on Wednesday, Pai thanked broadcasters that went wall-to-wall with emergency information in the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey. The Chairman also thanked FCC agents who went out into the storm to monitor damage to communications networks.

Pai is in Texas this week, visiting areas impacted by Harvey; On Tuesday, he toured the Greater Harris 911 call center in Houston, the largest such center in the state. 

Pai had good news for radio owners. As part of its AM revitalization order, the FCC previously approved changes to its rules to lower costs and improve signal quality for AMs. Now, it’s ready to move on a slew of non-controversial technical changes to ease regulatory burdens for AMs. “Specifically, at our September meeting, we will vote on an order that would relax certain technical rules applicable to AM broadcasters operating directional antenna arrays,” said Pai. He anticipates the draft text could be out today.

The FCC has been reviewing its media regulations with an eye towards modernizing them. He pledged to circulate to his fellow Commissioners for a vote “at least” one Notice of Proposed Rulemaking each month, teeing up outdated or no longer needed media regulations. The September 26 meeting will feature the first one, Pai pledged.  

He’s also decided the main studio rule can go away and will ask his colleagues to vote to repeal it this fall; broadcasters have long said the rule is expensive, and no longer necessary, now that public files are online.

Finally, Pai mentioned the agency received more than 1,100 applications from AM owners seeking FM translators in the most recent window—bringing the total number received to more than 2,000, nearly half of all licensed AMs. The Media Bureau is reviewing those applications and he hopes to have positive news to share soon.

September 7, 2017

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