All-Digital AM is Now a Reality

Posted on October 30th, 2020 by

At its October meeting, the FCC adopted a Report & Order enabling AM stations to voluntarily convert to all digital operation, which has advantages over the currently authorized hybrid mode.  Based on testing and evaluation, the FCC concluded that all-digital AM has the potential to significantly aid in the revitalization of the AM service.  The Commission cited comments that all-digital operation can alleviate many of the problems stemming from hybrid operation, allowing AM broadcasters and listeners to take full advantage of the potential benefits of digital broadcasting.  Because an all-digital signal does not include a modulated analog component, the digital sidebands are more powerful and closer to the center of the channel, helping to overcome noise and interference from other stations than are hybrid stations.

Transition to all-digital operation will be left to the discretion of AM broadcasters.  Those doing so will be obligated to provide at least one free over-the-air digital programming stream that is comparable to or better in audio quality than a standard analog broadcast.  Beyond that requirement, an all-digital licensee will be able to use its additional digital bitrate capacity for either broadcast or non-broadcast services consistent with the FCC’s technical rules.

To convert to all-digital, AM stations will have to electronically file an enhanced Form 335 notification, providing additional information and certification about planned operations, and wait 30 days before commencing all digital operations.  In addition, during that 30-day period, stations must provide reasonable notice to listeners that reception with analog receivers will no longer be possible.

The details are worth reviewing at the link provided, and we are available to answer any questions you may have.