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Do we still need AM radio? Absolutely! Though not absolutely

By | Published on Monday 16 April 2018


UK media regulator OfCom reckons that the Great British Public are not yet ready to give up the fizz pop sound of AM radio. But 166,000 members of the Great British Public can probably do without Absolute Radio on the medium wave dial even though they don’t live in a part of the country where they can tune in via super-duper DAB digital radio.

Absolute Radio owner Bauer requested permission to reduce the reach of the rock station on the AM frequency from 90% of the country to 85%, arguing that achieving 90% reach was no longer ‘reasonably practicable’, and that if it had to continue to meet that obligation it might bail on having Absolute on AM entirely.

OfCom opened a consultation on the matter. While some submissions to that consultation disagreed with Bauer’s argument, according to Radio Today, another said the media firm wasn’t going far enough, should indeed abandon AM entirely and fully focus instead on expanding DAB reach.

However, OfCom said that while there has been a steady shift over to digital radio – whether via DAB or a TV or internet platform – plenty of people still relied on old fashioned radio signals, so that AM services should be kept alive for now. Though it did give the go ahead for Bauer to turn off some Absolute transmitters and reduce the power of others.

There remains much debate, of course, over when traditional radio frequencies should be turned off to force a total switchover of radio listening to digital channels. However, that debate tends to focus more on FM than AM. The BBC’s top radio man Bob Shennan recently told a conference that the country wasn’t yet ready for such a move, reckoning “we need to do more in the UK before we consider a switchover”.