Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Killing AM Radio

One of the more terrible ideas I've heard since the election (and there have been some doozies) is this story, featured in Tom Taylor's NOW column this morning...

“Time to start thinking about a future without AM radio,” the MMTC tells Trump team. AM “may disappear in 30 years or less,” says the public interest group. It’s formed its own “AM Glide Path Task Force,” and proposes an effort comparable to “government programs transitioning tobacco farmers to other crops and transitioning coal mining to other energy sources.” The MMTC, focused on multicultural issues, takes its shot with “12 imperatives” about telecom policy - addressing the Trump transition team and the two Republican FCC Commissioners. The MMTC says AM is still important, especially to the minority community. (“Approximately 60% of all minority-owned stations are AM facilities.”) And it reminds policymakers that “The great majority of multilingual radio service today is found on the AM band.” But despite its near-century of usage and some “modest engineering reforms” from the FCC, AM has big issues. There’s declining listenership and “a lack of capital flowing in.”

Let me just say this as a media writer. This is a classic case of finding a solution for a problem that doesn't exist. Even if AM radio isn't doing as well (and in Chicago by the way, it's still thriving), so what?

This reminds me of the quest to get rid of vinyl in the late 80s. After all the "improvements" in sound quality, people just decided that we goofed when we got rid of vinyl a generation ago. It's now outselling downloads again. (And I threw out hundreds of great records about twenty years ago. Arrgh.)

There's something about listening to an AM radio station. I love sitting out on the deck in the summer and listenting to a ball game. It's one of the pleasures of my life. And that occasional crackling sound doesn't bother me in the slightest. It's part of the soundtrack of my life. Also, I have a few tremendously cool old-time console radios from the 40s and 50s. They only play AM radio, not FM. Don't take those away from me.