NYSBA, along with the other state broadcast associations, recently asked broadcasters about the status of AM radio. The survey received more than 1000 responses, including a number of AM stations licensed to New York communities. The topline preliminary results are as follows:
The first key issue concerns radio format. As expected, talk/news was the largest. However, a significant amount of AM station broadcast music. This finding is important because radio listeners rely on AM radio for news and information.
53.7% are some form of talk format (news/talk, talk, sports, religious teaching, etc.)
43.8% are some form of music format (correlation between music formats on AM and FM translators is likely)
2.5% responded with “other formats.”
Auto manufacturers often argue that you will be able to receive AM content through digital transmissions in the connected car. From a public safety standpoint, citizens need a direct local connection to emergency information through an AM tuner in the vehicle. This is especially true in an era when digital platforms may be “hacked” or the transmission system for digital services gets overloaded. Unfortunately, many local AM stations are not found on a digital platform.
50.4% of stations don’t have a standalone digital “app.”
40.5% are not found on radio aggregators (possible SBA role in aiding with app creation and/or aggregator usage?)
In recent years, the FCC has permitted AM stations to obtain FM translators. However, a significant number of AM stations do not have FM translators. More importantly, these translators generally do not provide the same coverage as the AM facility.
30% of responding AM stations do NOT have an FM translator.
Only 17.5% say the FM footprint is at least as large as the AM.
It is also worth noting that very few AM stations simulcast their content on an FM station. Only 9.3% of the responding AM stations simulcast content on an FM facility.
The public policy concerns regarding the elimination of AM radio from the dashboard become evident when looking at participation in the Emergency Alert System. According to the survey, 99.2% of the responding stations participate in the EAS system. More importantly, FEMA has designated certain stations as Primary Entry Point (PEP)stations in each state. These stations are the key entry point for Federal emergency messages, which are then relayed out to stations throughout a state. The stations have been “hardened” to ensure they work during an emergency. The overwhelming majority of these PEP stations are AM facilities.
As noted previously, decisions by some automakers to eliminate AM receivers in electric vehicles have gained attention in Washington. NYSBA is working to inform policymakers that taking AM receivers out of a vehicle should not be an option. We will keep you updated!