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November 14, 2019

AM Radio and High School Football Experiencing Similar Woes

Several articles in the past weeks have shown that participation in eleven-man high school football has declined over the past ten years. Attendance at college football games has also declined including at national champion Clemson who’s attendance number in 2018 were below 2017 in spite of their championship season. Colleges including WCU and Tennessee have tasked their trustees with the development of policies and procedures for selling alcohol at the games in hopes the liquor sales can bolster the attendance such as the Asheville Tourists have capitalized on “Thirsty Thursday(TM). However The Mountain Six and other high school conferences can not turn to alcohol sales at high school games in hopes of getting more revenue and attendance so they decided to impose a hefty broadcast fee on the visiting radio stations.
Last week several military veterans of the different American Forces Radio Networks users group weighed in on the continued decline of AM Radio. Numerous cases were cited of broadcasting companies selling the real estate once occupied by broadcast towers to developers for shopping centers and housing subdivisions. In fact the property where this radio station’s tower and studio are located is for sale with a similar fate possible. Once local AM radio stations and the high school football and athletic programs were like Siamese twins until corporate owners commenced purchasing the local mom and pop AM stations, closed the station and returned the license to the FCC, then capitalized on sale of the real estate. Some predict that AM radio will disappear in the next ten to 20 years and the spectrum allocated to cell phone companies. In the mean time providers are emerging to offer the local football game coverage on line and charge the listeners a fee to listen. Broadcast radio provides the game coverage for free. While the announcements at college football games for a “media time out” makes is seem the broadcasters have an abundance of commercials to air, this is mostly for the benefit of television. There are no media times out at high school games and once a team obtains a 42 point advantage the clock does not stop except for a called time out. Apply this logic, if the Athletic Director suggests to local radio, “You have the media time outs so sell time to the sponsors.” The broadcasters response is simple, “You have the empty seats fill them with fans on Friday night.” Perhaps some of the schools that have no broadcast coverage of their games can compare the attendance over time from where there was radio coverage and ascertain if the local radio station is the villain for the declining crowd size.
This radio station is in the process of relocating the AM broadcast operations and erecting a new broadcasting tower in hopes of improving the audio quality and coverage area for AM 540 WRGC. Those changes have already been made with the FM coverage area on 105.7 for WRGC and 94.1 FM for WBHN also on 1590 AM. Listeners can also listen to both stations on line but there are no fees to listen. Hopefully this company’s effort to keep local AM and FM radio a strong and vital part of the community is not simply a thumb in the dike exercise. With the soon arrival of the conference football schedule the Mountain Six Conference teams are anticipating the influx of cash from the visiting local radio stations to make up for the empty seats they can not fill.

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