The second all-digital AM station is on the air as Neal Ardman’s NIA Broadcasting flips the switch on WMGG (1470) licensed to New Egypt, FL in the Tampa-St. Petersburg market.
The move follows Hubbard Radio adult alternative “The Gamut” WWFD Frederick, MD (820) serving as a test signal for all-digital; AM. The FCC adopted rules that officially ushered in the technology in October to begin authorizing AM stations to voluntarily power off their analog transmitter while maintaining a digital signal. On Tuesday, Jan. 12, the Commission signed a Digital Notification stating that “digital broadcasts commenced” on WMGG.
“It’s pure digital,” Ardman tells Inside Radio. “There is no clipping, no composite, none of that… it’s just pure audio, very similar to listening to a WAV file.”
WMGG is currently simulcasting the regional Mexican format originating on the company’s “Caliente 96.1” WTMP-FM (96.1) and the Tampa-licensed translator W270DU at 101.9.
Ardman says 52% of vehicles in Tampa have HD Radio capabilities, which is a key reason behind utilizing the technology. “This is about improving the facility… upgrading the signal,” he continues. “I would tell anybody that’s got an AM on the fence, just do it. A dozen people in Tampa turn their AMs to digital more and more people have a reason to tune in.”
Those words may soon become a reality. During a session at Jacob Media’s CES 2021 Tour For Broadcasters, Joe D’Angelo, Xperi Senior Vice President, Radio, applauded the FCC’s decision in allow AM stations to voluntarily implement an all-digital signal, saying it’s “a great milestone for the industry.” Xperi owns and licenses the HD technology capable of transmitting and receiving AM digital signals. D’Angelo says more companies are ready to follow NIA Broadcasting’s lead, telling attendees of the session that 35 stations have “licensed the technology and are in the process of going on air.”
Asked if HD Radio will be AM radio’s saving grace, D’Angelo said, “We sure hope so. From the earliest design of the HD Radio system, we implemented in vehicle one, we enabled an all-digital future for AM.” Now, with 15 years of car sales, “about 95% of the cars on the road that have HD Radio support AM all-digital,” he continues. “So, there is exceptional install base. And the performance is really exceptional.”