National

Japanese broadcasters call for end to mandatory AM radio due to cost and lack of listeners

JIJI

Japanese commercial broadcasters on Wednesday proposed a revision to the broadcast law that would allow them to ditch AM radio broadcasting due to issues over cost amid a decline in listenership.

The Japan Commercial Broadcasters Association asked the communications ministry to implement a system revision by 2028 in order to allow radio broadcasters to focus on FM broadcasting. Under the law, broadcasters are obliged to broadcast on both AM and FM.

The request, made at a meeting of a panel of experts at the ministry, reflects the heavy burden placed on broadcasters stemming from updates to facilities and other forms of investment at a time when radio stations’ advertising revenues are diminishing as the number of listeners falls.

“It’s extremely difficult for us to renew our facilities while continuing AM broadcasting,” said TBS Radio Inc. Chairman Kiyohiko Irie, who participated in the panel meeting as a representative of commercial broadcasters.

He asked for a measure to allow radio broadcasters to convert their AM broadcasting to FM or to maintain both types of broadcasting, according to their own business judgments.

Specifically, the broadcasters’ association proposed a test that would halt AM broadcasting in limited areas, possibly in 2023. If no problems arise during the trial, the association would seek the end of mandatory AM broadcasting.

Some members of the panel, which is tasked with discussing ways to strengthen commercial broadcasters’ operating foundations, agreed with the idea of ending AM broadcasting, while others were cautious, citing concerns that FM radio waves have difficulty reaching mountainous areas.

While AM radio waves reach farther than FM waves, they are more prone to being blocked by tall buildings and tend to have poor reception in urban areas.

In addition, AM radio base stations are often built in coastal areas and require investments to protect facilities in the event of tsunami.

As a result, 43 of the 47 radio stations making AM broadcasts also have simultaneous FM broadcasts for their AM radio programs.