AirTalk for September 11, 2013

FCC Commissioner’s quixotic quest to save AM radio

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David Townend

What's the future of AM band radio? Can it be saved?

Flashback to 1978 and nearly half of all radio listeners were dialed in to the AM band. Kids listening to baseball games, teens counting down Casey Kasem’s Top 40 and parents getting “the world” in 20 minutes on KFWB. As of 2011, AM listenership fell to 15 percent – a mere 3.1 million people, compared to 18 million who tune in to FM.

These days, everything from satellite radio to tall buildings seems to be conspiring to kill AM. Add to that smartphones and consumer electronics, which interfere with many AM stations, and some say it’s time to let it die.

But FCC commissioner Ajit Pai says AM is “the audible core of our national culture.” And he’s on a personal mission to save it. Does AM radio need to be salvaged? Is it even possible? Is it just nostalgia or are there more practical reasons to hold onto AM radio? What are your favorite AM radio memories?

Guest:

Ajit Pai, Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission

Thom Callahan, President, Southern California Broadcasters Association


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