- AM broadcasting
AM broadcasting is the process of
radio broadcastingusing amplitude modulation.
AM was the dominant method of broadcasting during the first eighty years of the 20th century and remains widely used into the 21st.
AM radio began with the first, experimental broadcast in 1906 by
Reginald Fessenden, and was used for small-scale voice and music broadcasts up until World War I. The great increase in the use of AM radio came the following decade. The first licensed commercial radioservices began on AM in the 1920s. XWAof Montreal, Quebec(later CFCF) was the first commercial broadcaster in the world, with regular broadcasts commencing on May 20, 1920. The first licensed American radio station was started by Frank Conrad, KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Radio programmingboomed during the " Golden Age of Radio" (1920s–1950s). Dramas, comedy and all other forms of entertainment were produced, as well as broadcasts of news and music.
AM radio technology is simpler than FM radio and DAB. An AM receiver detects amplitude variations in the radio waves at a particular frequency. It then amplifies changes in the signal
voltageto drive a loudspeakeror earphones. The earliest crystal radio receivers used a crystal diodedetector with no amplification.
In North American broadcasting practice, transmitter power input to the antenna for commercial AM stations ranges from about 250
watts to 50,000 watts. Experimental licenses were issued for up to 500,000 watts radiated power, for stations intended for wide-area communication during disasters, but no current commercial broadcaster in the US or Canada is authorized for such power levels. Other countries authorize higher power operation (for example the Mexican station XERFformerly operated at 250,000 watts). Antenna design must consider the coverage desired and must direct the transmitted signal so as not to interfere with other stations operating on the same or adjacent frequencies.
Medium wave and short wave radio signals act differently during daytime and nighttime. During the day, AM signals travel by
groundwave, diffracting around the curve of the earth over a distance up to a few hundred miles (or kilometers) from the signal transmitter. However, after sunset, changes in the ionospherecause AM signals to travel by skywave, enabling AM radio stations to be heard much farther from their point of origin than is normal during the day. This phenomenon can be easily observed by scanning an AM radio dial at night. As a result, many broadcast stations are required as a condition of license to reduce their broadcasting power significantly (or use directional antennas) after sunset, or even to suspend broadcasting entirely during nighttime hours. (Such stations are commonly referred to as daytimers.)
In the United States and Canada, some AM radio stations are granted
clear channelstatus, meaning that they broadcast on frequencies with few other stations allocated, allowing an extended coverage area. Nowadays relatively few stations enjoy clear channel status. Commercial broadcasters generally rely on the ground-wave coverage only as their target market for advertising.
The hobby of listening to long distance signals is known as DX or DX'ing, from an old telegraph
abbreviationfor "distance". Several non-profit hobbyist clubs are devoted exclusively to DXing the AM broadcast band, including the National Radio Cluband International Radio Club of America. Similarly, people listening to short wave transmissions are SWLing.
AM radio is broadcast on several frequency bands. The allocation of these bands is governed by the ITU's
Radio Regulationsand, on the national level, by each country's telecommunications administration (the FCC in the U.S., for example) subject to international agreements.
Long wave" is 148.5 kHz–283.5 kHz, with 9 kHz channel spacing generally used. Long wave is used for radio broadcasting in Europe, Africa and parts of Asia ( ITU region1), and is not allocated in the Western Hemisphere. In the United States and Canada, Bermuda and U.S. territories this band is mainly reserved for aeronauticsnavigational aids, though a small section of the band could theoretically be used for microbroadcastingunder the United States Part 15rules. Due to the propagation characteristics of long wave signals, the frequencies are used most effectively in latitudes north of 50°.
Medium wave" is 520 kHz–1,610 kHz. In the Americas (ITU region 2) 10 kHz spacing is used; elsewhere it is 9 kHz. ITU region 2 also authorizes the Extended AM broadcast bandbetween 1610 kHz and 1710 kHz. Medium wave is by far the most heavily used band for commercial broadcasting. This is the "AM radio" that most people are familiar with.
*"Short wave" is 2.3 MHz–26.1 MHz, divided into 15 broadcast bands. Shortwave broadcasts generally use a narrow 5 kHz channel spacing. Short wave is used by audio services intended to be heard at great distances from the transmitting station. The long range of short wave broadcasts comes at the expense of lower audio fidelity. The mode of propagation for short wave is different (see
high frequency). AM is used mostly by broadcast services – other shortwave users may use a modified version of AM such as SSB or an AM-compatible version of SSB such as SSB with carrier reinserted.
Frequencies between the broadcast bands are used for other forms of radio communication, and are not broadcast services intended for reception by the general public.
Because of its susceptibility to atmospheric and electrical interference, AM broadcasting now attracts mainly
talk radioand newsprogramming, while music radioand public radiomostly shifted to FM broadcastingin the late 1970s. However, in the late 1960s and 1970s, top 40 rock and roll stations in the US and Canada such as WABC and CHUM transmitted highly processed and extended audio to 11 kHz, successfully attracting huge audiences. In the UK during the 1980s, BBC Radio 4(a largely speech channel) had an FM location, whereas BBC Radio 1, a music channel, was confined to AM broadcasts over much of the UK. Frequency response is typically 40 Hz–5 kHz with a 50 dB S/N ratio.Fact|date=August 2007
The limitation on AM fidelity comes from current receiver design. Moreover, to fit more transmitters on the AM broadcast band, in the United States maximum transmitted audio bandwidth is limited to 10 kHz by an NRSC standard adopted by the FCC, resulting in a channel occupied bandwidth of 20 kHz.
AM radio signals can be severely disrupted in large urban centres by metal structures, tall buildings and sources of
radio frequency interference(RFI) and electrical noise, such as electrical motors, fluorescent lights, or lightning. As a result, AM radio in many countries has lost its dominance as a music broadcasting service, and in many cities is now relegated to news, sports, religious and talk radiostations. Some musical genres – particularly country, oldies, nostalgia and ethnic/world music – survive on AM, especially in areas where FM frequencies are in short supply or in thinly populated or mountainous areas where FM coverage is poor.
Other distribution methods
Stereo transmissions are possible (see
AM stereo), and hybrid digital broadcast systems are now being used around the world. In the United States, iBiquity's proprietary HD Radiohas been adopted and approved by the FCC for medium wave transmissions, while Digital Radio Mondialeis a more open effort often used on the shortwave bands, and can be used alongside many AM broadcasts. Both of these standards are capable of broadcasting audio of significantly greater fidelity than that of standard AM, and a theoretical frequency response of 0-16 kHz, in addition to stereo sound and text data.
While FM radio can also be received by cable, AM radio generally cannot, although an AM station can be converted into an FM cable signal. In
Canada, cable operators that offer FM cable services are required by the CRTC to distribute all locally available AM stations in this manner. In Switzerland a system known as "wire broadcasting" transmits AM signals over telephone lines in the longwaveband.
Some microbroadcasters and
pirate radiobroadcasters, especially those in the United Statesunder the FCC's Part 15rules, broadcast on AM to achieve greater range than is possible on the FM band. On mediumwave (AM), such radio stations are often found between 1610 kHz and 1710 kHz. Hobbyists also use low-power AM transmitters to provide local programming for antique radio equipment in areas where AM programming is not widely available or is of questionable quality; in such cases the transmitter, which is designed to cover only the immediate property and perhaps nearby areas, is hooked up to a computer or music player.
Amplitude Modulation Signaling System, a digital system for adding low bitrate information to an AM broadcast signal.
MW DXing, the hobby of receiving distant AM radio stations on the mediumwave band.
Extended AM broadcast band
CAM-D, a hybrid digital radio format for AM broadcasting
Lists of radio stations in North and Central America
Oldest radio station
* [http://www.oldradio.com/archives/general/buildbcb.html "Building the Broadcast Band" the development of the 520-1700 kHz MW (AM) band]
* [http://www.rwonline.com/reference-room/special-report/rwf-chromeJune20.shtml Chrome and Glass Shine Again: Hams Give Second Life to Legendary Transmitters With Names Like RCA, Collins, Gates and Raytheon]
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