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The future of AM radio in Australia

[...]
Right now, there’s a proposal afoot, here in Australia, to convert AM stations to FM, in markets where both stations are owned by the same broadcaster. By owning two FM stations in the one market, operators would be free to migrate away from their expensive News/Talk programming on the AM band in favor of two music formats; a lot cheaper option.
[...]

http://www.bradsmart.com.au/#!Life-after-Death-The-Future-of-AM-Radio/c14ah/57213c650cf228a96f14cf46

I gather the FM band is a lot less crowded in Australia's major cities than it is here.
 
Right now, there’s a proposal afoot, here in Australia, to convert AM stations to FM, in markets where both stations are owned by the same broadcaster. By owning two FM stations in the one market, operators would be free to migrate away from their expensive News/Talk programming on the AM band in favor of two music formats; a lot cheaper option.

This sounds a bit like what has been gradually done in Canada, where a majority percentage of AMs have migrated to FM.

A more dramatic case is Mexico which is in the process of eliminating about 80% of all its AM stations by moving them to FM. But there, the formats from AM just migrated too. Talk formats from AM became talk formats on FM. Of course, in Mexico many of the most successful talk formats were already on FM, so there was no distinction of "AM is for talk and FM is for music".
 
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How are other countries handling the situation where the FM band is already overcrowded and unable to accommodate new translators?
 
How are other countries handling the situation where the FM band is already overcrowded and unable to accommodate new translators?

The only direct experience I have is within Latin America. The only nation taking a governmental solution so far are Mexico and Brazil (which is creating an extended FM band). In the rest of the nations market forces are closing the AMs as the FMs take over all the audience and revenue.

For example, in San Salvador, once home to about 30 AM stations, only a couple of commercial stations remain with the remainder being evangelical, Christian or Catholic stations. The big AM operations moved to FM when they saw the balance tipping, and the rest have either closed or sold to a religious group.

In very prosperous Chile, the herd is gradually thinning with even some major stations that could not or did not migrate to FM deciding the turn in licenses. One was for a 100 kw Santiago AM on 1060, at one time an audience leader so it is not just low power or deficient facilities.

Brazil's subsidized plan to migrate AMs to an extended FM band may have been slowed down or killed by the current political situation and dramatic recession.

The advantage that about 99.5% of Latin American AMs have is that they are not directional.
 
How crowded is the FM band in those countries?

In many places they allocate a station in the same market every other channel. Quito, Ecuador has over 50 FM stations, for example.

Mexico did not over-license so nearly all the AMs have a place to move except in the 4 largest markets and along the US border.

However, in the case of Argentina, the federal government plus the provincial and city governments all think they can license stations so a place like Buenos Aires may, at any time, have as many as 200 stations including pirates and neighborhood and community stations. So the AMs can not move. But at least 15 of the AMs are 50 kw or above, and can survive; I think a big part of the US AM issue is due to inadequate facilities, directional systems and daytimers.
 
In Canada, our FM dial was very empty when we allowed the flips from AM to FM. Calgary had 8 stations in 1992, down from 9 when a national FM news network went bankrupt and shut down all their facilities. We also didn't have the issues of AM stations not being able to cover markets like in the U.S. What happened was FM regulations loosened up, allowing for more hit music to be played. This became more attractive to broadcasters who were forced to play more than 51% of their music made up of album cuts. All of a sudden audiences could enjoy their music on FM so many AM stations went talk. Those that converted were AM music stations, many of whom kept their format once they flipped to FM. This allowed them to enjoy the profitability they had in the 80's and before. In small towns and cities, there were no FM stations, so the band was wide open for AM to migrate, and they took their formats with them to the FM band. Other AM stations went after a younger audience when they went FM. Only cities like Vancouver and Toronto had crowded FM dials in the 80's, due to being so close to the U.S. In Calgary you could tune from 95.9 to 102.1 and hear nothing, and there was nothing below 90.9. Edmonton had nothing after 103.9. Ottawa's dial was also very empty, with huge sections of the dial completely blank. Imagine tuning from 94.9 to 100.3 and hear nothing. That was what it was like at one point....and nothing below 93.1, either.
 
So in 5 years or so, AM will be all static Australia?

Maybe not in the large cities. Some AMs will remain. I heard there are some regions where AM is still preferred since those stations cover a large territory and reach many remote towns, and it might be costly to set up several FM transmitters when one AM might be more cost efficient. If someone knows the situation better than I do, I'd like to be corrected if I've made some errors.
 
So in 5 years or so, AM will be all static Australia?

This appears to be a proposal, not a done deal. And as the article says, in many areas of Australia, AM radio is the only way to reach rural populations.
 
Thanks, David

I hope somehow AM will get a revival, But I don't think it will happen

In some situations, AM is still very valid.

For example, Mexico specifically made an exemption in the national move to FM for stations in rural indigenous population zones. This particularly effects stations broadcasting in one of Mexico's over one hundred indigenous languages and dialects which have to overcome rugged terrain and sparsely distributed populations. Those stations will mostly remain on AM and represent the only situation where new AM licenses may be granted in the future.
 
1st Step: Get rid of IBOC on AM. It doesn't work..On FM yes, AM no

2nd Step: Bring back AM Stereo, It's still here..But only a handful of Station are using it
 
1st Step: Get rid of IBOC on AM. It doesn't work..On FM yes, AM no

2nd Step: Bring back AM Stereo, It's still here..But only a handful of Station are using it

IBOC on AM works, but there are big consequences. The real problem is there are too many stations crowding the band. It would work better with fewer stations.

AM stereo doesn't address the real issue, which is interference. AM stereo is lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig.

The way to fix AM, and it was mentioned earlier, is shut down all the small directional stations. The problem is what to do with those current owners.
 
IBOC on AM works, but there are big consequences. The real problem is there are too many stations crowding the band. It would work better with fewer stations.

AM stereo doesn't address the real issue, which is interference. AM stereo is lipstick on a pig. It's still a pig.

The way to fix AM, and it was mentioned earlier, is shut down all the small directional stations. The problem is what to do with those current owners.

To add to that, in a place like Australia where the band is much more open, IBOC would work without creating an interference level like we see here, where stations are packed closer together. You probably remember that I am a fan of AM stereo, but one of the drawbacks I had with it was that the interference was LOUDER in stereo than in mono. It's fine in Western Canada where the lightning storms don't hurt even distant stations, but in a place like Australia, the stronger storms, coupled with today's electrical interference would make stereo listening on AM a painful experience on all but the very strongest of stations.
 
[...]
Right now, there’s a proposal afoot, here in Australia, to convert AM stations to FM, in markets where both stations are owned by the same broadcaster. By owning two FM stations in the one market, operators would be free to migrate away from their expensive News/Talk programming on the AM band in favor of two music formats; a lot cheaper option.
[...]

http://www.bradsmart.com.au/#!Life-after-Death-The-Future-of-AM-Radio/c14ah/57213c650cf228a96f14cf46

Beyond that the government may see some political advantages to itself in doing this.
Getting rid of AM talk would surely give them a lot less headaches (the No More Rush Limbaughs effect)
 
Maybe not in the large cities. Some AMs will remain. I heard there are some regions where AM is still preferred since those stations cover a large territory and reach many remote towns, and it might be costly to set up several FM transmitters when one AM might be more cost efficient. If someone knows the situation better than I do, I'd like to be corrected if I've made some errors.

You are correct....
Having lived and traveled extensively in Australia, there are many "country towns" which are served only by AM radio. Even in places with decent size populations like Hobart Tasmania, AM stations reach many more areas due to the hilly and mountainous geography.... I cannot see AM going away anytime soon.
 
You are correct....
Having lived and traveled extensively in Australia, there are many "country towns" which are served only by AM radio. Even in places with decent size populations like Hobart Tasmania, AM stations reach many more areas due to the hilly and mountainous geography.... I cannot see AM going away anytime soon.

Quite right. The ABC will surely retain their capital cities' and large country town "ABC Local Radio" stations on AM, which are the primary source of news and information for large areas of the country. In addition, many of them are overall top rated stations in the cap cities, albeit with older-skewing listener bases. Sports (sorry, "sport") coverage is also very important to the regional areas.

Where I lived in Western Australia, there were still quite a few regional AM stations playing music (mostly hits/classic hits).
 
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