FCC allowing AM stations to go full digital (1 Viewer)


Thread Starter
SatelliteGuys Pro
Jan 23, 2005
Albuquerque, NM, USA
Got this breaking news from Radioworld.com saying FCC now allowing AM stations to go full digital if they chose to do so.

They must notify the FCC and public in a advance in 30 days.

Full digital means no analog pure digital and can multicast subchannels if they wanted to.

Transmission mode is MA3, no DRM or DAB and other type of digital modes.

Should be interesting to see what happens next! :) :hungry
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Member of the Month - July 2014!
Pub Member / Supporter
Lifetime Supporter
Jul 20, 2005
Northern VA
Uhh- somebody comes out with radios that will work with that format? Maybe to retrofit older radios?


Thread Starter
SatelliteGuys Pro
Jan 23, 2005
Albuquerque, NM, USA
I have a 5+ years old desk top HD Sony radio, the they are future proof, in case the AM and FM stations should go full digital mode instead of mixed analog and HD digital .

Now since the FCC has allowed the AM stations to go ahead with full digital mode if they want to.

As for full digital mode on FM is unknown at this time.

The full digital mode spec, are there for FM bands in your HD radio receiver.

Hope's that helps. :hatsoff


Thread Starter
SatelliteGuys Pro
Jan 23, 2005
Albuquerque, NM, USA
Now the other thing, if you want the latest HD radio have to offer with the new HD radio receiver in 2020 and later will have titles display with pictures or news pictures with text and emergency text map pictures.

Now of course that's depends on the model makes brands.:):hatsoff


SatelliteGuys Master
May 5, 2007
Salem, OR
I guess my old Sony FM/AM Stereo Walkman is officially obsolete!
Not until such time as a few radio stations make a business decision to pursue digital. We all know how well that went when the carrot of HDTV was dangled during the DTV transition.

As it is, many cheap radios no longer include AM circuitry.


Oct 19, 2012
Does this include radios that everyone can get their hands on (i.e. not some prohibitively expensive amateur radio gear) or may already have (like a HD capable car or portable radio)?

Some examples would be useful.
seems like if you get it embedded in a receiver its real pricey. There are some cheap portables like the one I have from best buy...But it only does FM. Since many AM stations arent willing to do HD and are barely making it financially. This might change the game some.


"On the Air" in MI
Pub Member / Supporter
Oct 13, 2007
West Central Michigan
Food for thought.

"Allowing" this fully digital AM signal by choice is not necessarily a thing to cheer or be upset about, either way. The FCC's decision simply means there's a new playtoy for those with money to burn in (AM) radio ownership. At the present time, that's not a common situation. You won't see small town America locally owned stations doing this. Going "All digital" eliminates nearly all of the current receiving audience. Knowledge-of and use of HD by the public has not caught on as a main source of listening, and even with the receivers currently designed for Hybrid Digital being capable of receiving, (mainly automatic in cars) use by businesses and homes that tune-to and support AM is not high enough to warrant investment by the broadcaster when traded off for the loss of "standard AM" listeners.

In our example, after 16 years of improvements on my station, including an enlarged AM daytime signal, two FM translators, FULL width AM stereo processing/ broadcasting, and streaming of the AM stereo product (for awareness of the quality of well done Analog AM) our AM still is the major source of income. Translators are required to always simulcast the AM, but many of our businesses that tune in locally and advertise with us use the AM because our FM at 250 watts ERP does not penetrate thick walled older buildings in the valley of our town. The translators lend aid to those who simply can't receive AM (after dark, for instance) but, in our case, our AM was standing alone, making money without FM, streaming, or other auxiliary means for at least our first six years of operation. It remains the strongest of the listenership when we survey. One cannot argue that "going all digital" will bring listeners unless you're speaking of geeks and hobbyists.

I also don't buy into the "worriers" theory that this is a beginning of sunsetting of AM. Why? The FCC is greedy. They want their regulatory fees and other fees from as many entities as they can keep. Sunsetting analog AM would be the end of many licensees, including me. I'd see no advantage to the change, and could not, in small market USA recoup my investment to a hyothetical mandate for new transmission equipment. No bank is going to touch broadcasters these days for loans thanks to the muck-ups and poor management of the big companies and how the FDIC views "media" companies. There's also no reason to force the thinning of the AM band. AM cannot be used for any other purpose effectively than it's current "highest and best use." Unlike the recent C-band carving and repurposing, and that of TV, AM uniquely serves its broadcasters as a good income if they run their stations well....it serves it's listeners by the sheer AVAILABILITY of it in it's current form, and when it has owners that care, it can sound EXCELLENT to the ear. It has no other desirable use in the bigger picture of spectrum. Unfortunately, the thing failing in AM is the owners caring about the quality of what goes out of their antennas, not the medium itself. The word "Digital" being applied to AM is simply a buzzword in an effort to show that AM "can" be digital and be perceived like other digital means of today. It may be helpful only in the existence of FCC news releases for the public to be re-told that AM exists. All-Digital AM is not a threat to current broadcasters, not attractive to most as the cost will be huge to convert, and ultimately is a wonderful accomplishment brought to fruition by engineers, but not one you'll see in use in very many places. At least not in the lifetimes of most of us.


SatelliteGuys Pro
Sep 30, 2012
Lompoc, California
All I can say is that I lost all faith in the FCC years ago when they let the marketplace decide on which AM Stereo system to use, Kahn or Harris. Why would a station commit to one system with the fear that they may have to throw out their equipment and then buy the other system? I worked part time at an FM station at the time and the Chief Engineer said the inferior system won out similar to the VHS/Beta fight. I think indecision on the part of the FCC was not beneficial to AM stereo. In the early days the FCC did the field tests and chose the best option to move FM mono to stereo making it backward compatible.


Lifetime Supporter
Mar 1, 2006
Roseville, CA 121W
I don't understand why an existing AM station would want to go digital and lose a large percentage of their listeners. Their advertising revenue would plummet.

I predict that the digital transition in the AM band will not happen any time soon except maybe for NPR stations that don't rely on advertising revenue.


SatelliteGuys Pro
May 23, 2004
Olympia, WA
The issue is that by this point, the average listener does not even think about tuning into AM. As previously mentioned, most AMs have a translator — in fact, many AM station sales are predicated on the fact that a translator can be licensed.

While I agree that a well tuned and processed AM stereo signal can sound absolutely awesome, the bigger reality is that VERY a few listeners have a receiver that can take advantage of this. The manufacturers aren’t even trying anymore, and most AM receivers are absolutely awful, and bandwidth limited. I just bought a brand new car with a premium sound system — FM/HD digital sound great. AM sounds like a tin can far away with interference that pops up near every power line, overpass, transformer etc... it’s absolutely unlistenable even on local stations. A lot of this has to do with the receiver — a i lol t if it also is the fact that many large corporate radio stations had their engineers cut bandwidth to around 8 kHz.

We do have one local 1kw AM that broadcasts in hybrid HD — for about a mile from the tower the reception is magically cleaned up and it sounds almost as good as an FM (a but more compressed tho) — this is great — except hybrid AM has to be ran at -20 db under the analog signal and even with a 50kw AM will only get 10-12 miles or so of reliable digital reception. All digital AM cleans this up and increases the range wider than even the analog signal.

I’d argue that more new cars are now sold with a digital-capable HD tuner than people who have a “decent” analog tuner. I’m all for all digital AM — except it still requires listeners to remember to tune into “AM” which for years has been neglected so that is now an uphill battle. It also requires all new equipment unless you’ve bought a new transmitter in the last 10-15 years that can have a digital exciter/exporter added.

At my station we opted to sell the 1kw AM a few years back — moved the programming to an HD2 on the FM, and put on a 250w transmitter licensed to that rather than license it as a translator to the AM... it’s worked great. Only a couple very old listeners who missed the month long blitz of “move your radio dial” before the AM went away.

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