The FCC has asked for public comment on a change in its rules which would allow broadcasters to conduct proofs of performance for a new directional AM antenna system to be conducted by a computer modeling system, rather than the extensive system of field tests that currently are required. While generations of broadcast engineers have grown up slogging through swamps, driving through fields and even flying in helicopters to conduct field strength readings to prove that AM antenna systems are operating in compliance with the parameters specified in their applications as submitted to the FCC, this proposed new system would allow all this to be done by computer in most instances. Comments on the proposals can be filed with the FCC on or before July 23, with replies due on August 22.
This proposal was filed at the Commission by a consortium of broadcasters, broadcast engineers and antenna manufacturers who had concluded that the existing process was overly expensive and cumbersome and similar results could be achieved by current computer technology. Whether the FCC concludes that this is in fact the case will depend on the comments filed in response to this notice.
As these comments are requested to refresh and update the record in an existing rulemaking proceeding to assess the performance of AM directional antenna systems – a proceeding which was actually initiated by a Petition for Rulemaking filed in 1989 – the FCC could immediately issue new rules following the results of this inquiry. Thus, relief for AM broadcasters, making the process of building AM directional antenna systems much faster and cheaper, may be on the way in the short term.