Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Graveyard Frequencies

Originally these were called "Local Channels." This was because the AM stations on these frequencies were intended to serve only small communities. On the engineering side they were only allowed to operate up to a maximum of 250 watts, non-directional . It was in November, 1928 that the FCC created this radio dial configuration. It was almost a dumping ground for the many very-low power stations that popped up in the mid-1920s. These Frequencies are:
1230 kHz
1240 kHz
1340 kHz
1400 kHz
1450 kHz
1490 kHz

The DXer's dubbed them "Graveyard channels." That was because each of those frequencies was home to 300 stations in the lower 48. This makes picking out any single station almost impossible. If this sort of challenging DX’ing appeals to you be sure to visit the Graveyard DX blog here. It's inactive, but very telling. In the US, Canada and Mexico stations on the AM dial are spaced at 10 kHz intervals.

In 1960 the FCC finally admitted that some of these small communities had grown larger than the coverage areas of their local stations. So, the suits allowed all stations on the six aforementioned frequencies to increase their daytime power to 1000 watts. This was modified in 1982 to permit the higher power 24/7. the assumption was that they will only interfere with each other. Which they do. Canadian and Mexican followed suit.The result? Congestion is very common, and DXers may hear dozens of stations on a single frequency. As Fybush once wrote :
"Interference... in AM broadcasting is cumulative; Just listen to any of the "graveyard" channels... to hear what it sounds like when 300 stations are each throwing a kilowatt into the ether. "
Now, most stations on the six "Grave yard" frequencies operate at the permitted max of 1000 watts, even at night. A small number of them have had to use directional patterns to suppress interference to each other. You still hear cross talk everywhere in American essentially until you're in their parking lot.