As the ever present need for adaptability and growing investment in the revitalization of AM radio, there has been a new option for AM stations that have been working to navigate their way through some of the unavoidable programming challenges and difficulties.
Following a late 2020 decision made by the FCC allowing for authorization for AM stations to choose for themselves what the future holds. This choice allows the decision of if and when the broadcaster chooses to make the change at all and how it will be executed in the marketplace; leaving the call to opt for a transfer of an AM station’s operations, essentially leaning on the advancements, streamlined efficiency and promising data acquired from studying the digital space. This would leave the broadcaster with the choice to forego broadcasting on the AM frequency or choosing to adapt a hybrid of the digital and AM analog station model.
The decision made in October 2020, was designed with the goal of embracing advancement and allowing stations to thrive in the face of the media marketplace landscape. “All-digital broadcasting offers AM listeners significantly improved audio quality and more reliable coverage over a wider listenable area than analog or hybrid digital broadcasts. It also allows broadcasters to provide additional services to the public, such as song title and artist information.”
As the measure was developed, the intention was never hidden from the public, as the description of the decision was publicly provided on the FCC’s website reading, “Action Will Improve Listening Experience and Provide Consumers with Enhanced Services.”
The form FCC-335 AM or ‘Digital Notification’ has been part of the continued efforts made by the FCC and its chair to continue to revitalize AM radio, was approved unanimously in 2020 and the final ruling and announcement of effective date were included on the Federal Register last week on April 29, 2021 (Vol 86, No 81).
“Conversion to all-digital AM transmission (and then, consequent compliance with the rules governing all- digital operation) is completely voluntary and therefore flexible, based on an AM broadcaster’s assessment of its individual financial and technical circumstances, including size.”
The 31st point of the synopsis continues, “AM broadcasters overwhelmingly support the proposal to allow all-digital AM broadcasting, as do broadcast engineers, technology companies, and individual listeners.”
Efforts to assemble accurate data and analysis have been ongoing from the FCC, as Hubbard’s WWFD “The Gamut” operated on experimental authorization from the FCC beginning in July 2018, becoming effectively known as the first all-digital AM station.
Additional efforts include nine all-digital field tests between 2012-2014 and subsequent interference lab tests in 2015-2016 with an emphasis on incorporating the various formats and geographic regions. The data recovered from the study has been condensed into the table below:
Opting for an all-digital operation has often been associated with claims of providing signal stability and strength, which would thereby impact the audience development and engagement for the station. WMGG in Tampa made the call to go in the digital direction in January. The most recent station to announce an all-digital operation model comes from just outside the largest market in the country, dubbing the new WFAS as “Digital AM 1230 HD: New Talk For New York” and including the following statement regarding the station’s operations:
The Cumulus station of White Plains, a station whose initial license was first obtained in 1926, has been sure to follow the guidelines of the FCC’s Form 335-AM filing procedure (https://transition.fcc.gov/Forms/Form335/335am.pdf), with one of the requirements being that the filing station must provide a minimum of 30 days notice of the decision for the analog listeners before the change can occur. Other requirements include bandwidth and EAS compliance.
The opportunity to make the transition to digital or hybrid digital station is undoubtedly going to impact the sports and news talk AM radio landscape—and it begs the question of will turning off the AM analog signal be what revitalizes the medium or is it simply about finding a way of riding the wave of innovation? With the jury still out, the court of public opinion will certainly provide a variety of analyses and hot takes regarding the impact on the medium and the BSM / BNM team will continue to share the subsequent developments.
Chrissy Paradis is a BNM columnist and veteran sports radio producer. She’s worked in Las Vegas, Washington DC, Raleigh and Hartford helping personalities such as Rob Dibble, Tim Brando, Steve Cofield, Adam Gold and Joe Ovies. You can contact her on Twitter @ChrissyParadis or by email at Chrissy.Paradis@gmail.com.
Should The News Be Minimized on The Holidays?
“I do wonder who is watching or listening or reading and what the return on efforting news programming on holidays really is.”
This is not by any means a new topic of discussion but I do enjoy bringing it up and batting it around because I think it’s worthy of regular consideration and deliberation. Perhaps it deserves even just a fresh batch of whining and complaining by those of us stuck in a newsroom, in front of a camera or microphone or standing out somewhere in the cold.
There’s no debate that what we do has a level of importance that fluctuates from time to time. There are countless professions that we cannot do without for even a portion of a single day. That said, working the holidays is not unfamiliar or even a question for many people out there.
I, myself have spent most of my adult life in professions where working on Thanksgiving, Christmas, the High Holidays, Independence Day among others was just part of the job. It still amazes me how many people would react in astonishment when I declined an invitation or mentioned in conversation that I was working that day.
Like they couldn’t comprehend the possibility. Must be nice.
Now, let’s be clear about this; covering a parade or a holiday festival or religious services on a particular day is not what I’m focusing on here. Imagine the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or New Year’s Eve or the 4th of July fireworks without reporters and crew coverage.
More people would actually have to go to these things.
No, I’m talking about regularly scheduled newscasts and field reports on these mornings, afternoons and evenings.
I don’t see it.
More specifically, who is measuring the need for this programming? I cannot identify sitting behind a desk (probably inside an office…what’s that like?) and concluding that there must be 4:00pm-6:30pm newscasts on Thanksgiving Day.
5am news on New Year’s Day is out and out sadism.
“Good morning and Happy New Year…here’s what’s happened in the twenty-three minutes since you went to bed.”
Yes, by all means, let’s open our presents with the soothing tones of morning drive news in the background or lounge in the living room after the two-ton turkey dinner and watch the daily rundown of criminal activity lovingly framed in holiday graphics.
Do people want to drive to Grandma’s house while listening to the latest in Tuesday’s home invasion- assault investigation, this morning’s hit and run fatality or the city council vote on funding a halfway house near the elementary school?
Actually, the inspiration for this semi-rant comes from a conversation I had with a woman I was speaking with about holiday getaway travel. She very innocently asked me why there is news on the holidays. “Who is watching…who is listening on a day like that?” I told her I really couldn’t say. Of course, this was someone who told me she didn’t even pick up a newspaper or peruse social media for a news update on any given holiday.
“On Christmas”, she said, “no news is good news.”
To a significant degree, I’m on board with that. I do wonder who is watching or listening or reading and what the return on efforting news programming on holidays really is.
This is not about those having to work although employee consideration should be part of the equation. There will always be the need to have someone in the newsroom but minimizing that requirement could never be a bad thing.
Many operations do work with reduced staff during the holidays and that’s great. Twenty-years ago the radio station group I worked for dropped most programming during the year-end holidays, simulcasting holiday music across all the stations only cutting in with station IDs, tracked greetings from staff and news updates only if necessary.
I suppose one could argue that people need to know what’s going on all the time so we are providing a necessary service but really, everything we do is on-demand whether we like it or not. Nobody is listening or watching or reading unless they make a conscious effort to do so. They have to turn the TV on and hit the channel, dial the car radio and click on the website. We have no say.
For me, somebody somewhere has to show me that there’s a need and a want for what we do on those special days and at those special times. Convince me.
In the meantime, move the turkey and stuffing closer to my side of the table and keep the cranberry sauce and yams over on your end.
And I’ll be up bright and early talking to the Black Friday shopping crowd.
Don’t get me started.
Bill Zito has devoted most of his work efforts to broadcast news since 1999. He made the career switch after serving a dozen years as a police officer on both coasts. Splitting the time between Radio and TV, he’s worked for ABC News and Fox News, News 12 New York , The Weather Channel and KIRO and KOMO in Seattle. He writes, edits and anchors for Audacy’s WTIC-AM in Hartford and lives in New England. You can find him on Twitter @BillZitoNEWS.
Seth Leibsohn Expected to Move to Phoenix, Didn’t Expect Radio Show
“There wasn’t a huge demand for a white male teaching Aristotle’s teachings. I kind of like the idea I can still teach on the air.
We’re all made up of a unique genetic recipe. Take a graduate student of political philosophy, add a pinch of love of contemporary politics, a dash of popular culture, maybe a trumpet, and you have Seth Leibsohn.
“I was a good trumpet player in high school,” Leibsohn said. Still, that alone wasn’t enough for him to pursue it as a career, even though his parents were fine with him chasing something he enjoyed, even supportive. “Some parents try to push you into a career, but my parents never did. I thought I might be able to play the trumpet as a career, but ultimately decided I wasn’t as good as my trumpet heroes. I’ve heard golfers have hung it up in a similar way.”
Quoting Del Griffith in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, ‘The finest line a man’ll walk is between success at work and success at home.’ To be truly happy you’ve got to have both. Seth Leibsohn couldn’t agree more.
“I don’t know many people who are thrilled with what they do for a living,” Leibsohn continued. “I believe you work to pay bills, not for life satisfaction. Billy Joel said there is no magic secret and everybody has happiness within themselves. If you’re truly happy with what you do, you have it all beat.”
The Seth Leibsohn Show airs live on KKNT 960 The Patriot in Phoenix from 3:00-6:00 PM weekdays. Then the show is replayed as a podcast. “The podcast is essentially the show I do,” Leibsohn said. “It’s fun. I never thought I’d be on the radio. I started in D.C. with a national show with Bill Bennett, The Bill Bennett Show, as co-host and guest host.”
You may recall Bennett was appointed the drug czar in 1989 under President George H.W. Bush. Bennett still does a podcast and Leibsohn appears as a guest about once a month. He was Bennett’s chief of staff for many years.
Leibsohn decided to move back to Phoenix in 2011 to take care of his parents.
“After I arrived I was approached to host my own show,” he said. “I like that it doesn’t have to be relegated to a local audience. I get calls from Texas, Chicago, Ukraine. Leibsohn describes himself as a ‘different’ radio host, “I started in academia,” he explained. “There wasn’t a huge demand for a white male teaching Aristotle’s teachings. I kind of like the idea I can still teach on the air. The show is a vital seminar, with a bigger classroom.”
Leibsohn works hard on the show as he doesn’t have a producer. “I have to find my own guests, which I average about one each day. Television show hosts don’t have to track down and book their own guests. I start reading from the moment I wake up, searching for something interesting, a guest that can provide some insight to a topic.”
He’s long been a staunch advocate against the legalization of marijuana. He headed the group ‘Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy’, which was instrumental in preventing the legalization of marijuana in Arizona. He has co-authored several articles with Bennett regarding the dangers of marijuana, which was picked up by numerous newspapers including the Los Angeles Times and The Tampa Tribune.
Doing whatever he can to rid the streets of drugs and the pollution of our children is essentially what make’s Libsohn tick. It may be more accurate to say it drives him.
When talking about ridding streets of drugs throughout the country, I was impressed that Leibsohn wasn’t hypocritical. He said he wasn’t above having a good time with friends in college, but recognized there was a time to stop.
“I partied with the best of them,” he said. “Then I saw four of my best friends, who were both far smarter than me academically, ultimately fail in their lives. They just couldn’t give up the partying and substances and succumbed to a lot of drug use.”
Another bolt of realization about the destruction of drugs for Leibsohn stems from his sister struggling with substances her entire life. “I guess I had more of a vector about what it could do to you. Drugs cause so many problems in our society. It’s an ongoing battle to protect our children.”
Working on reducing substance abuse in America has long been a passion for Leibsohn. Working with Bennett helped fuel that desire. Leibsohn spent time working for the Higher America initiative with Jeane Kirkpatrick.
Never a fan of Hilary Clinton, Leibsohn said he agrees with the former First Lady on one thing.
“Hilary said Mexico is a problem regarding illegal drugs, but if the citizens of America didn’t want the drugs, it would be a problem. People want this crud. Since we lost the anti-drug messaging system in America, the problems have spiraled out of control.”
Remember the old ad, ‘This is your brains on drugs?’ That’s the messaging Leibsohn is talking about. Leibsohn said when Bennett was drug czar, 10,000 Americans were dying each year. Since then the death toll has increased 1,000 percent.
“We reduced drug use by 65 percent in 1992,” Leibsohn said. “I attribute that to the messaging. It was hugely important. We embedded the anti-drug message at the movies, in schools, there was a Hollywood sobriety chic. We did for drugs what mothers did for drunk driving.”
Leibsohn cites Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he wrote, ‘Human desires increase with their means of gratification.’
“The narration in the television show Narco opens with the narrator talking about cocaine. He said they had a supply problem keeping up with the demand for the drug in Miami.”
Leibsohn intended to run for Congress in 2018, but his staff screwed-the-pooch.
“My campaign management didn’t get enough signatures,” Leibsohn said. “I made sure everyone who contributed to my campaign got their money back.” He said he has no biting need to run for office again.
Our conversation swerved into another contentious topic–immigration from Mexico. Leibsohn said our immigration problem is currently out of control.
“There are a lot of reasons for the problem,” he said. “I don’t think there’s one single answer or solution. I do know we’re giving billions of dollars annually to illegal immigrants. When the monthly numbers come out regarding the prison population in Arizona, the illegal immigrants count for a huge portion of those criminals.”
He said there have been good examples of cleaning up cities, like New York. “There are things that work,” Leibsohn explained. “We have to replicate those efforts and dump the things that don’t work. Indianapolis is another city that turned things around. There are theories that work when applied.”
Leibsohn spoke of disparate impact, when policies and rules have a disproportionate impact on a particular group.
“I think a lot of Left-wing prosecutors abhor statistics of racial minorities. In effect they turn a blind eye, a deaf ear when it comes to crime. I had hoped by now we could get beyond race, see policies enacted in my lifetime.”
We also talked about what constitutes American conservatism, which is delineated by low taxes, free markets, deregulation, privatization, and reduced government spending and government debt. Leibsohn thinks the definition of American Conservatism is more nebulous than that.
“I think American Conservatism has never had a good definition,” he said. “Perhaps the most prominent recent conservative was William F. Buckley Jr. He never wrote a book on American Conservatism as he said it was too diverse.”
Regarding pinpointing what American Conservatism actually is, Leibsohn said it’s really clay in the hands of those you ask. “Some say it’s a group that believes in limited government,” he explained. “There are some who will fold religious beliefs into that, some may add sociology.”
He said throughout his life, he’s always been in search of discovering the meaning.
“In Buckleys’ National Review Magazine, he debated this all the time,” Leibsohn explained. “He had always been in search of the meaning. In his magazine, Buckley debated this all the time. In my own view it should be a movement based on America’s founding fathers ethos–equity and liberty. There’s not a lot of agreement on these things today.”
Jim Cryns writes features for Barrett News Media. He has spent time in radio as a reporter for WTMJ, and has also served as an author and former writer for the Milwaukee Brewers. To touch base or pick up a copy of his book: On Story Parkway: Remembering Milwaukee County Stadium, available on Amazon, email email@example.com.
Producers Podcast: Andrew Marsh, 101 ESPN
Andrew Marsh of 101 ESPN in St. Louis details the unorthodox background that has helped him thrive in the producer’s chair for The Fast Lane.
Brady Farkas is a sports radio professional with 5+ years of experience as a Program Director, On-Air Personality, Assistant Program Director and Producer in Burlington, VT and Albany, NY. He’s well versed in content creation, developing ideas to generate ratings and revenue, working in a team environment, and improving and growing digital content thru the use of social media, audio/video, and station websites. His primary goal is to host a daily sports talk program for a company/station that is dedicated to serving sports fans. You can find him on Twitter @WDEVRadioBrady and reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.