FCC eyes AM radio changes

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants to make things easier for AM radio stations.

Chairman Tom Wheeler on Monday unveiled a plan to get rid of “outdated regulations” and overcome “interference-related issues that have long plagued AM stations across the country.”

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“If adopted, these measures will enable AM stations to operate more efficiently in today’s spectrum environment,” he said in a blog post.

The upcoming regulatory changes have yet to be formally unveiled, but Wheeler’s post on Monday referenced a number of areas that the agency might target.

For instance, he said that the proposed rule change would give AM radio stations more flexibility in dealing with local zoning rules and picking locations. Additionally, Wheeler said he will  circulate among his commissioners a separate proposal allowing stations in rural areas to expand their service areas, which would help them “be better able to overcome environmental interference.”

“The commission should eliminate unnecessary rules that impair stations’ ability to serve their listeners, and we should encourage a diversity of voices however we can,” he wrote. “My proposal does both, and I hope my fellow commissioners will support it.”

The effort builds on an initiative launched by Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat, back when she led the FCC as acting chairwoman before Wheeler’s confirmation.

On Monday, the plan earned early praise from GOP Commissioner Ajit Pai, who has at times sparred with Wheeler over certain contentious items but has also been a staunch supporter of AM radio stations.

“AM revitalization is a cause that has garnered widespread support from large and small broadcasters, civil rights organizations, Democrats, and Republicans,” Pai said in a statement. “I hope that we will move forward on these proposals in the next couple of months.”