WASHINGTON — A top-to-bottom rethinking of the rules governing AM radio broadcasting--some of them almost 60 years old--was started by the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday.
Mark S. Fowler, the FCC chairman, said it may be a first step on a road that gets the government almost out of regulation of radio. "At some point, the day will come when we will regulate only technically," he said.
In a report, the FCC staff concluded that with almost 10,000 radio stations on the air in the United States, listeners might be better served if some interference protections, designed when equipment was not as reliable and the few stations that were broadcasting had to reach far-flung rural areas that otherwise had no service, were removed. A broadcaster might also be allowed to sell away its interference protection in areas that the station management isn't interested in reaching.
The commission staff also used the report to send a signal to Motorola and Kahn Communications, the two companies that produce AM stereo equipment, that it could support a request to the Justice Department that antitrust waivers be granted to allow the two to develop a single compatible system.
The public was asked to comment on a wide range of proposals before July 1. The FCC said it will act soon after that on some of the most pressing problems of AM.