Petition proposes pushing start-time for pre-sunrise authority back an hour for AM’s on Class B and D Regional Channels

For all you early risers who are hooked on AM radio (and, really, who isn’t?), good news! The Commission has invited your comments on a proposal, filed earlier this month, that would permit the early commencement of Presunrise Service (PSR) by Class D and certain Class B Channels.

Generally, Class D and Class B stations operating on Regional Channels are not allowed to crank themselves up to full daytime power prior to sunrise.  (The nitty-gritty PSR limits are set out in Section 73.99 of the Commission’s rules.)  Recognizing the hardship that this creates for many stations, particularly in winter months when sunrise occurs late (e.g., after 7:00 a.m.), the Commission established the PSR authorization that permits some power increases (up to 500 watts into their daytime transmission facilities) uniformly at 6:00 a.m. regardless of when local sunrise occurs. Before 6:00, though, they’re still stuck with way low power. (Class D AM stations, for example, typically can’t exceed 100 watts.)

Now comes Richard F. Arsenault, with a petition for rulemaking. His idea: let AM stations on Regional Channels commence PSR operation at 5:00 a.m. locally, rather than 6:00. He argues that these stations are at a substantial competitive disadvantage during morning drive-time hours, which typically begins between 5:00 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. in most areas. He suggests – and it’s hard to contradict him on this – that most listeners who have to wake up by, say, 5:30 won’t set their clock radios to such regional AM stations because those stations’ signals are un-receivable at that time. And the same goes for car radio pre-sets: if the commuter is on the road before 6:00 a.m., it’s unlikely that he or she will try to tune into an AM still operating with its lame nighttime signal.

To remedy this competitive disadvantage, Arsenault proposes simply that the Commission permit Class D and Class B stations operating on Regional Channels to commence operations at 5:00 a.m. under PSR authority with up to 500 watts. He provides supporting calculations that indicate that his proposal could benefit as many as 2,063 Class D and Class B stations, and he avers that there will be no international considerations raised by the extension of PSR authority under these limited circumstances.

Whether – and if so, to what extent – the proposed change might cause new objectionable interference to other co-channel stations is not clear. The Petition lacks any detailed engineering showing on that point. The Commission will likely have to address whether improving the lots of Class B and D stations on Regional Channels during the 5:00 – 6:00 a.m. period outweighs any increase in interference that such extended operation might cause.

Without indicating whether or not it favors the proposal, the Commission has invited comments on it. Comments are due within 30 days of the that invitation.