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Development The decline of AM radio, and what it means for planning and development


Dear Leader
Staff member
I came across a radio industry blog with a bunch of articles about the decline (or death) of AM radio in the United States. (It's a common theme among radio people.). A few articles make the claim that the most valuable aspect of many AM radio stations is the underlying real estate of the antenna sites, not the potential value of the business.


AM radio stations usually have very tall guyed antenna towers, with many stations having an array of towers for signal direction. (For example, the tower array of 50,000 watt 1520 KHz WKBW in Buffalo directs its signal towards the east. It's not uncommon for AM DXers in Iceland, the UK, and western Europe to hear WKBW in the early morning hours. However, 40 or 50 miles west of Buffalo, if you tune a radio to 1520 at night, you'll probably hear KOKC in Oklahoma City.). AM antenna towers are the antenna; they're useless for co-location of other antenna facilities. AM antenna farms also use a lot of real estate. Also, radio stations with lower ratings don't necessarily have smaller antenna farms.

Golf course conversion for residential and commercial development has been accelerating since the 1990s. I'd expect to see the same thing happen with AM antenna farms in the coming decade. AM antenna farms usually sit on a single lot with a single owner. In the Northeastern US, where land ownership is fragmented, and parcel assembly for larger projects can be a challenge., this makes the underlying land especially valuable. Site prep is easy -- few if any trees to clear, and probably no "surprises" below the surface.

What are your thoughts? Have you seen any conversion of antenna farms to other uses?