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Government Lab Tries To Design Improved AM Stereo Radio

February 10, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A government laboratory will begin trying to design an AM stereo radio that can receive signals from a variety of competing types of transmitters, a Commerce Department agency said Tuesday.

About 10 percent of the nation’s 4,867 AM radio stations have begun stereo broadcasting since it was authorized by the Federal Communications Commission 1982, and its growth is slowing, said a National Telecommunications and Information Adminstration report.

Stereo broadcasting and improvements in sound quality are key to revitalizing AM radio, which for the past decade has been losing its audience to FM radio, the report said.

The NTIA report said AM stations have been reluctant to invest in stereo primarily because of a lack of AM stereo receivers on the market but also to avoid choosing between competing systems. Manufacturers have been reluctant to produce stereo receivers because of weak customer demand, it said.

″The development of AM stereo will continue to be inhibited until this circle of doubt is broken,″ said the NTIA report.

The NTIA declined to choose between the competing stereo transmission systems and establish a single AM stereo standard, saying it would cause economic hardship to stations that have already chosen a system.

Instead, the agency said the problem of competing transmission systems can be better addressed with receivers that can automatically decode signals from different systems without hampering the receiver’s performance.

The NTIA’s Institute for Telecommunications Sciences in Boulder, Colo., the government laboratory that conducts communications research, will begin testing the technological possibilities of such a receiver.

If one can be built, NTIA said it would ask the FCC to protect from spectrum interference the two currently dominant AM stereo broadcasting systems - Kahn, manufactured by Kahn Communications Inc., and C-Quam, marketed by Motorola Inc.

If a satisfactory multisystem computer chip cannot be designed, ″we would expect the market to coalesce rapidly around one of the two systems,″ the report said.

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