When FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai released a statement discussing the new rules for AM broadcasters, it was framed in such a way as to make it sound like a positive development for AM radio. It discussed short-term relief for AM broadcasters and additional opportunities to acquire FM translators, and explained that AM radio mattered and a new chapter in AM revitalization was being opened.
The Cleveland Indians, however, are of a different view when it comes to the proposed rules. In a March 21, 2016 filing with the FCC, the organization expressed concern about the agency’s adoption of “harmful, new rules that would cause immediate interference to WTAM’s strong signal.” WTAM 1100 is the AM Flagship station for the Cleveland Indians, airing games as well as local pre-game and post-game shows for game broadcasts. The Cleveland Indians organization asserts that the unnecessary interference would “undoubtedly deny thousands of [their] fans access to the games they tune in to hear . . . .”
This filing was likely in response to the proposed rulings regarding Clear Channel Stations, also called “Class A” Stations (the category under which WTAM 1100 falls). As explained in a recent broadcast law blog on the subject, the current protections for such stations are extensive. They are permitted power levels of up to 50 kw, have their signals protected during daytime and nighttime as well as in the “critical hours” near sunset and sunrise, and are afforded protection to both their “groundwave” signal as well as their farther reaching “skywave” signal. The new proposal, however, would end skywave and critical hours protection for Class A Stations like WTAM, and would reduce the protections afforded to their groundwave signals. Some opponents of this proposal have questioned why the few successful AM stations should be effectively “hobbled,” and some have even suggested allowing these successful stations to further raise their power and provide even better service.
One of the issues the FCC asked for comments on was the extent to which this would impact rural populations who rely on the service from Class A Stations. At least as far as the Cleveland Indians are concerned, the answer seems very clear: the new rules would cause interference denying thousands of Indians fans access to the broadcasts that they currently rely on to listen to their team’s games.