Ajit Pai’s Quest to Save AM Radio

An interesting piece in The New York Times on the declining status of the AM radio station and one man named Ajit Pai (a Republican in the FCC) who’s fighting to keep it alive.

Although five of the top 10 radio stations in the country, as measured by advertising dollars, are AM — among them WCBS in New York and KFI in Los Angeles — the wealth drops rapidly after that. In 1970 AM accounted for 63 percent of broadcast radio stations, but now it accounts for 21 percent, or 4,900 outlets, according to Arbitron. FM accounts for 44 percent, or 10,200 stations. About 35 percent of stations stream content online.

“With the audience goes the advertising revenues,” said Milford Smith, vice president for radio engineering at Greater Media, which owns 21 stations, three of them AM. “That makes for a double whammy.”

Nearly all English-language AM stations have given up playing music, and even a third of the 30 Major League Baseball teams now broadcast on FM. AM, however, remains the realm of conservative talk radio, including roughly 80 percent of the 600 radio stations that carry Rush Limbaugh. Talk radio has helped keep AM alive.

I don’t have any skin in the game, but I side with natural selection:

But why try to salvage AM? Critics say its decline is simply natural selection at work, and many now support converting the frequency for use by other wireless technologies. A big sign of AM’s weakness is that one hope for many of its stations may be channeling their broadcasts onto FM.

Read the entire piece here.

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