19-311: FCC adopts Report and Order to permit all-digital AM broadcasting

The Federal Communications Commission has voted 5-0 today to adopt a Report and Order in MB Docket 19-311 for all-digital AM broadcasting. 

In the circulation draft, released three weeks prior to today’s meeting, the order calls for the ability for AM stations to voluntarily switch to an all digital operation using the Xperi (Ibiquity) HD Radio MA3 standard of in-band on-channel (IBOC) broadcasting.

Under the adopted rules, AM stations desiring to switch to digital only to give a minimum of 30 days of over-the-air public notice prior to making the conversion.  They will notify the Commission using the Digital Notification process with Form 335-AM.

AM stations must maintain a digital programming stream that is available to the public for free listening but may use its excess bandwidth for broadcast or non-broadcast services such as title streaming.

AM stations converting to digital that are part of the EAS infrastructure, must assure that downstream stations that depend on that AM station for receiving alerts is accommodated.  This was a major concern of REC in this proceeding. 

The Order makes no changes on the general parameters of AM stations including daytime power, nighttime power, directional antenna patterns and interference remediation policies.

The new rules will take effect once published in the Federal Register, subject to reconsideration.