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iHeartMedia Tells FCC That it Needs to Protect AM Radio


iHeartMedia
iHeartMedia

In a meeting on October 10 with several FCC members, iHeartMedia's Sara Morris recapped its submissions in the 2018 and 2022 Quadrennial Review proceedings, highlighting especially that the Commission "must do no harm to AM radio service" in the U.S. as it determines whether to retain or modify the broadcast ownership rules. The company currently owns a host of spoken word AMs that air formats such as FOX Sports Radio and BIN: Black Information Network, along with Premiere Network's conservative talk hosts.

As reflected in iHeart's filings in both proceedings, the company says any relaxation of the local FM limits would not be in the public interest as it would undermine the integral role played by AM stations in our public safety and national security communications infrastructure. It also noted that the outsized place of AM stations as trusted sources of local news and information, especially in emergencies along with AM radio's availability as an entry point for women and minority broadcast entrepreneurs.

Morris reiterated and expanded on the growing threat to these public interest imperatives -- particularly public safety and national security -- presented by automakers removing AM radio from vehicles, noting certain automakers' claims that including AM radio in electric/hybrid vehicles (EV) adds cost and complexity is belied by the fact that many major EV manufacturers include free, over-the-air AM radio, and that reports abound that complete monetization of the dashboard (and other aspects of automobiles) offer a highly plausible alternative explanation for this trend.

Discussion was also held on the status of the FM Booster proceeding, and Morris recapped the strong record opposition of this proposal by iHeartMedia and "virtually the entire radio industry" (including minority-owned stations) due to, inter alia, the "Zonecasting" technology's lack of independent, real-world testing.

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