Why do national tv and radio stations not keep the same channels across the country?



Ace and TJ are an extremely popular radio station out of Charlotte NC. Their station in NC is 96.1FM. Why can the same channel not be held in say California?

In: Technology

It could be, but it’s hard to do. Each frequency is sold/assigned to individual broadcasters, usually going back decades ago before the nation-wide conglomerates snagged up all the stations and branded them as their own.

So in theory they could do it, it’s just really hard (and expensive) to do something like that and honestly not worth the money.

96.1 is really a radio frequency not a channel.

Basically there are not enough frequencies to give every single radio station it’s own frequency. Radio frequency 96.1 FM would be reused in a number of different cities and towns across the United States.

Do a Google Search for 96.1 FM and look at all the different stations that come up with with that frequency

There are certainly other stations using the frequency 96.1 which are much more popular. That little show wouldn’t make the cut if we were nationally consolidating FM frequencies.

FM radio is very line of sight. And they also use a ton of power to make the signal as clear as possible. Due to that, you can’t have another station on or close to the same frequency for a long distance away. If you did like you are suggesting, having the same radio station using the same frequency in multiple locations close enough to each other, you would hear an echo while listening. Some stations are carried on multiple frequencies to get a larger coverage footprint but that is one owner of multiple stations doing it or syndicated radio.

The idea is that there’s a limited number of radio frequencies we can practically use, so there are government regulations on who can use which ones, for what purpose, and where. If a station in Charlotte wants to broadcast news radio in the 96.1 range but one in Raleigh is already using 96.1 for classic rock, then the one in Charlotte shouldn’t be so powerful that people in Raleigh get interference. Now, let’s say you’re trying take over North Carolina’s business radio game, but the established 96.1 station in Raleigh is popular and can’t be bought. If the jazz fusion station on 95.5 is going out of business, it’s a lot easier to just take over their frequency and advertise which frequency you use. The decisions on who could have what frequency were made a long time ago when radio was new without much of a thought for nation-wide standardization, so it’s hard to standardize now.

There ARE a few stations which are the same nationwide or close to it, “clear channel” stations which are allowed a monopoly on a certain frequency in a large area. The idea was that it would be hard for rural listeners to be near radio stations, so a few high-power ones could cover the country at a couple of frequencies. WSM-AM (650) is a famous one (the “home of the Grand Ole Opry” that established Nashville as a music capital) which to this day blasts its signal from a giant tower at 50,000 watts. During the day it reaches a couple hundred miles from Nashville, but owing to some weird physics the signal goes much farther at night, covering half the U.S. and parts of Canada.