Fire up the digital transmitters, the new rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in October giving owners of AM stations the option of powering down their analog signals and becoming digital-only have gone into effect. The new Digital Notification Form (Form 335-AM) has received approval from the Office of Management and Budget and on Friday the announcement appeared in the Federal Register. With those legal requirements checked off, the Media Bureau says all-digital AMs are now permitted.
By a unanimous vote, the Commission on Oct. 27 approved a proposal that will allow broadcasters to power down their analog AM transmitters and serve the public with only a digital signal. One requirement that the FCC has included is the establishment of a 30-day waiting period after a station files the mandatory notification paperwork.
Once those details are submitted, a station would not be able to make any changes to its planned technical operation. The 30-day notice would also be used to alert listeners with required on-air messages that, without a digital receiver, they will no longer be able to hear the station. As for what those listener notices must say, the FCC is deferring to stations, saying broadcasters have a “strong incentive” to promote the change using on-air and website announcements.
There are also several technical guidelines geared toward preventing digital AMs from interfering with analog stations. They include applying existing analog power limits to the digital broadcasts.
Several stations have already been laying the groundwork for going digital-only. Cumulus Media alerted listeners last month that it will turn off its analog transmitter on WFAS (1230) in the Hudson Valley, north of New York City, on May 24. The move comes with a change of format from sports to conservative talk.
NIA Broadcasting is preparing to go all-digital on R&B oldies WTMP Tampa (1150). WTMP also simulcasts on a pair of translators – the Egypt Lake, FL-licensed W271DL at 102.1 FM and the St. Petersburg, FL-licensed W248CA at 97.5 FM. It earlier flipped sister WMGG (1470) to all-digital in January. Owner Neal Ardman told Inside Radio that so far, he has not received any complaints from listeners missing the analog AM signal.
Also planning to go digital-only are Pin Investment’s ethnic KXPD Portland, OR (1040) and Vision Media Group’s KFYN Bonham, TX (1420) according to filings both stations have made with the FCC.
Hubbard Radio’s adult alternative “The Gamut” WWFD, Frederick, MD (820) has been operating as a digital-only AM station since July 2018 under experimental authority granted by the FCC.