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AM to FM radio migration: Who does it matter?

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The process of migration from AM to FM radio has recently taken an important new step through the public consultation of Santa Catarina.

Much more than just a means of communication, broadcasting has been and is one of the main vehicles for communicating culture and knowledge from north to south of Brazil. Broadcasting, for many Brazilians, is the only or main source of information, especially for those who live in regions far from the major centers. Some time ago I heard the former minister and singer Gilberto Gil, coming from one of these Brazilian corners, saying: “Through the radio, I heard voices, sounds and what the world was like beyond Ituaçu”, a small town in the interior of Bahia, the city where he spent part of your childhood.

Due to the AM (Medium Amplitude) emission mode, it is possible to hear the radio programming at a distance, hundreds of kilometers depending on the propagation, as the waves reflect in the ionosphere and return to earth. This will no longer occur with FM (Frequency Modulated) broadcasting mode. In this mode of emission the signal is distributed following the relief in a given location, on average 50 kilometers, except when the signal is distributed by satellite.

The process of migrating AM to FM radio has recently taken a major new step by publicizing the Santa Catarina public consultation, published now in March. This consultation makes it possible to know the process of channeling in Santa Catarina, as it happened in Paraná in recent months. Migration now reaches about 45.17% of the broadcasters opting to switch to FM and markets can now house AMs in traditional FM (88.1 FM to 107.9 FM) or extended FM (76 to 87 FM).

The numbers refer to the process throughout the country. 626 stations have already been served and 760 are waiting for the process to advance. The next steps should go towards Rio Grande do Sul and then to the three most populous states in the country.

The ordinance that defines the rules for the migration of AM stations to the FM band and the way the processes happen was signed in March last year by the Minister of Communications, Paulo Bernardo.

According to the Federal Government, the migration of radios from one track to another is a longstanding claim of commercial radios, which among other benefits will have greater audio clarity and will be able to operate your business more efficiently. The fact is that many broadcasters are already investing, and those who still want to migrate will have to prepare financially to invest in restructuring the business. In this crisis scenario, low growth and high dollar, will these broadcasters have the breath to acquire new transmitters and equipment? What is strangest about this is the fact that AM broadcasting exists worldwide, and this change will have no benefit in the use of the currently occupied radio spectrum.

Parallel to this discussion, for the purpose of optimizing the radio spectrum, for example, USA and Canada, has been studying for decades how to implement SDR – Software Defined Radio technology, commonly called White Spaces. This revolutionary technology allows broadcasters to broadcast their schedules without a fixed frequency, using software that can automatically migrate in the event of signal degradation in milliseconds in succession. Here in Brazil, there are also studies on White Spaces, but little mobilization of the main players in the decision-making circuits to implement it.

Related to this discussion, the digital convergence that is increasingly gaining strength and adherents, perhaps is the great trend for the future of broadcasting (TV and Radio) as well as the means by which their respective content will effectively spread. With the advance of broadband in Brazil and the world and the behavioral change, especially of young people, used to carrying their “world” on their mobile phones, I think the discussion of migration from AM to FM radios is largely innocuous and asynchronous with the new trends in information technology.

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