United States

Ft. Wayne owner pulls plug on Digital-Only AM test after listeners complain.
As the Federal Communications Commission weighs whether to allow AM stations to voluntarily switch to all-digital broadcasting, a test run in Fort Wayne, IN offers a cautionary tale that the move from analog isn’t right for all operators. Owner Brian Walsh switched oldies WIOE (1450) to a digital-only signal in late May but he quickly moved back to an analog broadcast. Walsh reinstated the analog AM stereo broadcast in early-June from 6am to 6pm after he heard complaints from listeners who were no longer able to receive the station and believed WIOE was experiencing technical problems rather than taking a step into a digital future. That is despite the fact that WIOE has an FM sister – WIOE-FM (101.1). While AM digital remained in overnights, Walsh threw in the towel last month when he returned to analog 24-hours a day.
“I underestimated how many listeners were on that AM radio station,” said Walsh. “We couldn’t quite make that bridge with all the emails and phone calls that were received from listeners and I felt it was hurting the overall product of the station.” He told the Radio Show on Tuesday that WIOE’s format has been on the air for 18 years and its ratings have been solid, two factors that seemed to have worked against the move.
Despite his experience, Walsh said the digital AM signal worked as advertised with improved coverage and building penetration and less interference. “It just works perfectly all the way around,” he said. Listeners simply didn’t have the digital receivers to hear it today. Walsh hopes to one day resume WIOE’s digital broadcasts, and in the meantime it continues broadcasting in analog AM stereo.
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Mike Terry in WOR groups.io (2020-10-11)