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Talk in Washington about making Daylight Saving Time permanent may bring cheers from people who hate the “spring forward” and “fall back” disruption to their body clocks. But it has the potential to upend radio stations, especially during the darkest winter months. New Jersey Broadcasters Association President Paul Rotella is urging the bill’s sponsor to consider adding some protections for AM radio into the bill.

“If this legislation is adopted, many if not most, AM stations will lose an hour of morning drive with no or reduced power and no one seems to be addressing the issue,” said Rotella in a letter to Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Permanent daylight-saving time would mean that AM daytime-only stations and AMs with directional signals would not be at full power until after 9am in some parts of the country.

Rotella says such a move would mean that these stations would lose most of their critical morning drive daypart when a lot of ad revenue is made. The upside is the change would give AMs more time during their afternoon drive, when some stations need to power down before 5pm during the winter months. But many AM owners have said that the amount of money they would make from an extra hour of broadcast time during the afternoon would not make up for the losses they would suffer in the morning.

“For such AMs, the FCC should not force AMs to ‘power down’ especially if they can show they are not interfering with other signals,” said Rotella.

He also proposes that the Federal Communications Commission consider new rules that would permit all AM stations to have a common, earlier “power up” start time year-round. He suggests 7am would be ideal. Rotella says it would be similar to the current pre-sunrise authority reduced power granted to many AM daytimers and directional stations.

Longer term, Rotella thinks the FCC should take a serious look at proposals to repurpose spectrum previously used for analog television channels 5 and 6 to expand the FM dial. That would allow many AMs to jump to FM, leaving the AM band for new, higher-power stations. “That could overcome the ever-higher noise floor,” Rotella adds.

For now, the focus in Washington is on Capitol Hill where under the proposed Sunshine Protection Act (S. 623) radio stations and other businesses would have until Nov. 20, 2023 to prepare for the change. Arizona and Hawaii, which do not observe daylight saving time, and territories including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands that currently remain on Standard Time year-around would continue to do so. To date 20 states have gone on record as opposing a twice a year clock change, and dozens more are looking to do so.

The Senate passed the bill on March 15, but Pallone told the Washington Post that it “could be months” before the House takes up the bill for a vote. “There isn’t a consensus, in my opinion in the House, or even generally at this point, about whether we should have standard versus daylight saving as the permanent time,” said Pallone.

Daylight Saving Time was started in 1918 as a way to save energy. The impact on AMs was only exacerbated in 2005 when Congress expanded the time-shift by four weeks, purportedly to save energy. The change, which took effect in 2007, moved up the start of DST by three weeks to the second Sunday of March and advanced its end date by one week to the first Sunday of November. The result is sunrise now occurs much later in March and November than it had in the past.