Thursday, December 02, 2010

The End of Daytimers

By modern media standards, limited service seems strange and arcane. We're living in an era of 24/7 news and opinion, instantly downloaded digital media, and not just portable media players, but portable media players built into portable phones! Dayshares and daytimers just seem awkward and somewhat less than quaint to a youth demographic that can play DVDs, Blu-Ray, CDs and video games all on the dame device. To that point I can at least say that the FCC isn't creating any additional daytimers. Their goal was not just to reduce future interference, it was to permit improvements to AM reception. More here.  Under section IV "Potential Impact" they listed:
"Numerous daytime-only AM stations on the U.S. clear and regional channels, many of which are typically small entities, will benefit from the proposed rule change by being enabled to enhance their broadcast service during nighttime hours." 
As of  December 1st, 1987 new daytime-only stations are no longer being authorized by the FCC. MM Docket 87-131 reads as follows:
  • I. Reason for Action: The need to improve the capacity of daytime-only AM radio broadcast stations to provide improved service to the public during nighttime hours.
  • II. Objective: To increase the opportunities for daytime-only AM stations to operate during nighttime hours, thereby enhancing the usefulness to the public of their broadcast programming; and to discontinue the authorization of new daytime-only stations in order to ensure the efficient use of remaining spectrum for new and improved nighttime service.
Being the FCC they spelled out the purpose clearly. At the time almost half (2,500) of the total number of AM stations licensed by the FCC are daytime-only stations. the FCC properly saw this as a tipping point.  earlier they had been granting special permission to daytimers to operate before and after sunset to flush out those critical drive-time hours. But in the long run it was counter productive. FM radio had overtaken AM 7 years earlier. At the time the FCC estimated that they'd be able to grant night time operation to 500 (20%) of the extant daytimers.
 But it was limited. They broke it into two groups of stations. Class III Stations, those on foreign clear-channel frequencies were granted permission to operate at less than 250 watts. Which Ultimately isn't much  of a service, it was just more RF haze. Class III-S, the regional clear-channel stations they too were granted authority to operate under 250 watts, but with secondary status. As a condition to allowing that trivial increased service, no new daytimers would be licensed. 1350 WRWH-AM wrote them such a scathing petition to reconsider, they alone were named in the memorandum papers. The FCC tersely dismissed it.  I'll point out that WRWH-AM currently operates 1000 watts daytime, 93 watts night-time. In 2007 they took advantage of the new rules and filed for night operations. It was only 20 years late. More here.