Pulling the Plug on AM Radio

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    The UK is more than a decade into trying to convince people to switch to DAB, which is all the usual AM and FM stations (plus many more) on a new piece of spectrum. It sounds great, and the coverage is suburb. But the government didn’t mandate DAB receivers in all new radios, so DAB penetration is way behind projections.

    We Americans, of course, recall that the FCC mandate in the late 70’s that all radios receive both FM and AM. By the mid 80’s FM music stations were well ahead of AM, leading to the talk, sports, specialty and ethnic formats that now dominate AM.

    It’s probably too late, but here’s what the FCC should have done: When TV left the VHF band, the Commission should have broken off channels 5 and 6 and expanded the FM radio band south of 88.1.

    It should have mandated that all new radios include the new hunk of band. Give existing AM stations first call on new slots, and allow a ten-year simulcast before either killing AM or starting over with nothing but high-power ‘super stations’ that commit to mostly local programming.

    But the FCC has never been in the programming business – the definition of ‘service’ is technical, not related to content. It’s not The American Way.

    So we have George Noorey on 12 spots on the AM dial at night, local music stations voice-tracked from Houston and news anchors in Sacramento reading re-writes from what’s left of The Oregonian. That’s now The American Way of broadcasting.

    Oh, and get off my lawn.


    I’ve heard it repeated so often that it’s become an urban legend but there was never a mandate for AM-FM radios. I recently learned that it was discussed but it was never a mandate. There is of course the requirement that all televisions receive both VHF and UHF. Maybe you’re thinking of that.

    Andy Brown

    The AM-FM legislation that never got off the ground was called “The All Channels Act.” This was about 1971. In the article linked below it is mentioned briefly in an article mostly about quad.



    Hmm, I’ve had hybrids and EVs since 2002, all have had acceptable AM reception. I think BMW and Tesla just got lazy.

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