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FCC proposing changes to bolster AM radio

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission, seeking to revive the sagging fortunes of AM radio, has proposed removing or updating regulations that station owners believe have left many AM channels on the precipice of death.

The commission announced late Thursday that it would begin seeking public comment on numerous changes, required before it adopts its final rules. The proposed changes, supporters say, could salvage a technology that once led Americans to huddle around their radios for fireside chats and World Series broadcasts, but that has been abandoned for the superior sound of digital and online music and news outlets.

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Because of interference caused by consumer electronics, smartphones, and the like, AM radio often seems to deliver mostly static. The AM audience has fallen to 15 percent of all radio listeners, down from 50 percent as recently as 1978. While the FM audience has fallen as well, it draws more than five times the audience of AM.

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