Bureau slams door on proposal for across-the-board AM power boost

Well, that certainly didn’t take very long. Barely more than a month ago we reported on a proposal, submitted by self-described “avid listener of AM radio” and radio consultant Richard Arsenault, calling for an across-the-board tenfold power increase for all AM stations, the Media Bureau has rejected the proposal in no uncertain terms. 

Mr. Arsenault’s goal was to permit stations to drown out various ambient sources of pesky interference. Conceptually it was a fine idea, although not without considerable practical problems. The Bureau, however, chose not to dwell on the minutiae. Instead, it notified Mr. Arsenault that “your proposal is not in the public interest because it would greatly increase the potential for interference between AM stations and would undermine the Commission’s efforts to improve the AM service.” Those efforts have been on-going for more than a couple of decades, although it’s difficult to gauge their success with any real precision.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Bureau’s terse turn-down is the fact that the Bureau acted at all. The Commission is under no obligation to take any action on proposals for rulemaking. In recent years it has appeared to respond to some such proposals in a sort of passive-aggressive way by inviting preliminary comments on them – thus creating the impression that the Commission may actually be interested in the proposal – but then letting them sit without action, sometimes for years. The result is a de facto denial, even though the proposal technically would probably show up as “pending” or “under consideration”. (An earlier proposal by Mr. Arsenault, calling for earlier commencement of presunrise operation by some, but not all, AM stations, may be subject to that approach. While the Commission did request comment on it back in March, nothing has been heard about it lately.)

So the fact that the Bureau has affirmatively, and quickly, denied this proposal is noteworthy. Whether it signals a new approach to rulemaking proposals or just a particularly strong (and negative) reaction to this particular proposal is unclear.