The end of the radio is one of the many never-fulfilled prophecies that accompanied the advent of the digital age. That the power of communication via air is far from setting is confirmed, for example, by the story on the allocation of AM frequencies in our country.
Commonly referred to as “medium waves,” this portion of the electromagnetic spectrum is now at the center of an underground (for now) battle made of regulations, rankings, appeals to the regional courts and self-constructed systems of transmission. A crowd of very different contenders and interests are gathering on this field: large companies in the world of radio, aspiring community radio stations, European institutions, amateur radios and pirates of the air.
The AM frequencies differ from the most popular FM frequencies for a number of technical reasons.
First of all, the transmission capacity: the radio waves transmitted by the “old” AM technology can achieve much greater distances than those propagated through FM. Of course, the latter have a much higher quality of sound but, for this reason, these frequencies are very crowded.
It is commonly known that big radio stations compete with one another to occupy this more “valuable” section of the electromagnetic space: betting on powerful and expensive transmitters – both in terms of energy expenditure and cost of hardware – they pump up their signal to the limit, in an attempt to cover up the transmission of their competitors.
On the other hand, the AM broadcasting process requires not particularly powerful transmitters and, for this reason, these transmitters are affordable and consume very little energy. Because of these characteristics, the medium waves could pave the way for cultural experimentation and bottom up policies: community or college radio, neighbourhood stations or radio stations that are not necessarily forced to change their schedule depending on the wishes of advertisers.