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FCC Order Allows AM Stations to Broadcast All-Digital Signal


The FCC issued a Report and Order adopting rules to allow AM radio stations to broadcast an all-digital signal using the HD Radio in-band on-channel (IBOC) mode named MA3.1 The agency says that a voluntary conversion to all-digital broadcasting will benefit many AM stations and their listeners by improving reception quality and listenable coverage in stations' service areas. The FCC also said that the action will "advance the Commission's goal of improving and modernizing the AM radio service and thereby help ensure the future of this important service."

What the Order Would Do:

  • Allow AM stations to convert to all-digital operation on a voluntary basis.

  • Establish technical rules for all-digital AM broadcasting.

  • Require each all-digital AM station to provide at least one free over-the-air digital programming stream that is comparable to or better in audio quality than a standard analog broadcast. Otherwise, digital subcarriers can be used for broadcast or non-broadcast services, including song and title information.

  • Require all-digital AM stations to avoid prohibited interference (as currently defined in the rules) to other broadcast stations.

  • Confirm the obligation of all-digital AM licensees, like any audio broadcast provider, to participate in the national Emergency Alert System (EAS), including ensuring that any other stations that are monitoring the all-digital station either be able to: (1) receive and decode an all-digital EAS alert; or (2) adjust their monitoring assignments to receive EAS alerts from another nearby station.

  • Establish a 30-day waiting period before converting to all-digital so that transitioning AM stations can provide adequate notice to the Commission, consumers, and other potentially affected stations

In response, NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith said in a statement, "We applaud the FCC for approving this order allowing AM radio stations to voluntarily transition to all-digital service. The order provides AM stations with essential flexibility to provide interference-free broadcasts and attract new listeners. Radio broadcasters are grateful to Chairman Pai for championing AM radio during his tenure at the FCC and thank him for successfully implementing policies to help revitalize AM stations."

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