AM Windfall Likely


Broadcasters stuck with low-valued AM stations on the outskirts of major cities, including many minority owners, might be on the verge of a financial windfall. Last week the FCC announced it will let AM owners apply for major modifications to their licenses.

Hundreds of stations are expected to line up for changes to signal contours, power levels, etc. One potentially lucrative change could be shifting a station's community of license. That means an outlet 30 miles or so outside Minneapolis could dramatically up its value by moving to the nearby big market. That kind of move could spike a station’s value by millions of dollars.

Owners have demanded a "major mod" window for years, but the current decision comes at the appeal of the Minority Media Telecommunications Council, which seeks a way to finally give minority owners a significant presence in big markets. Minority owners, denied licenses during broadcasting's early years, have typically been relegated to stations outlying major metros. "We must continue to look for more ways to enhance diversity in the media," said FCC Chairman Michael Powell.

Applications for major modifications will be accepted between Jan. 26 and Jan. 30. Applicants whose plans would create interference for each other must settle their signal conflicts or vie for the permits via auction.