By: Spencer Kennedy
Although it has become far less popular in recent years, AM radio remains a significant and influential medium. The advancement of newer technologies – iPhones, tablets, etc. – has undoubtedly altered our media consumption, but AM radio continues to be an essential resource in America and is considered the dominant form of broadcasting in some other countries. Once the centerpiece of American broadcasting during the “Golden Age of Radio”, which lasted from the 1920s until the 1950s, AM radio has recently struggled with static interference due to increasing use of electronic devices. Further turbulence has been caused by arguably outdated regulations that have prevented some AM broadcasters from making necessary adjustments.
Both radio experts and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officials have recognized these mounting issues and are teaming up to put appropriate policies in place. For example, one current regulation, dubbed the “ratchet” rule, makes it particularly difficult for AM broadcasters to make potentially beneficial changes to their facilities. In order to alter their equipment, the station must first prove that the modifications would result in decreased interference with other AM radio channels. While the intentions are good, this process is usually costly and very difficult, which has instead resulted in fewer adjustments being made.
Other issues include heightened broadcast complications during nighttime hours. Current regulations require that broadcasters adhere to interference-reducing behavior at night, but simultaneously limit those broadcasters’ abilities to execute the appropriate practices. This problem, like the others, is mostly a result of outdated policies. Fortunately, the FCC has begun the process analyzing the situation and implementing strategies that will aim to revitalize the AM broadcasting industry.
AM radio may not be relevant to much of our generation, but has provided necessary and democratic services in the past that are just as important for the future. While modern technologies have altered the way that younger consumers obtain information, older citizens and less privileged consumers often rely on free public services such as AM broadcasts. The efforts behind the rejuvenation of AM radio are promising, and should be something to pay attention to in the coming years.