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AM News Talk Radio - The Most Available News Source for SHTF

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posted on Mar, 10 2015 @ 09:22 AM
I will occasionally listen to news-talk radio on commercial AM broadcasting when I get tired of the local FM broadcasts and their crappy programming. I have long known that AM broadcasts have a much greater range due to it's characteristic of following the curve of the earth as opposed to FM signals following line of sight. As a kid back in the 70's I would listen to Canadian AM radio station CKLW in Windsor when the family traveled up north in Michigan's thumb area long after the FM stations faded off the radio.

Due to the lower frequencies, not only does the AM signal travel a greater distance locally compared to FM, it also will "skip" off the ionosphere to much greater distances when conditions are just right. Even while driving, the car radio will normally pick up signals a hundred or more miles away on the AM band allowing me to hear local news from the big cities like Chicago and Detroit. With local news and weather broadcasts occurring every half an hour, I can hear news that is unavailable on my local area T.V. and radio stations.

The great thing about commercial AM broadcasts is that most home and car radios have the AM band even though the Golden Age of Radio has long passed since the 1950s. The signal quality is not as good as FM and the band is filled with right leaning talk shows, religious and ethnic music programming, but the ability to hear the local news and weather conditions from cities far from my local broadcast area is something you can't get unless your cable or digital radio service offers stations from those other areas you want to monitor.

So lately I've been experimenting with a home made AM antenna to pick up news radio in my area. I just wanted a simple loop antenna like you occasional get with your home stereo, but wasn't getting a very good signal from inside the house. So I tried the old broken T.V. antenna I have on the roof and was picking up all kinds of signals like I could on the car radio.

Late last night, after the T.V. programming had little to offer, I scanned the AM band hoping to hear some alternate news on talk radio. To my delight, the skip conditions was allowing me to get signals on every single broadcast channel on the band. I was hearing local news from Chicago, Wisconsin, St. Louis and Nashville. I settled in on WLAC in Nashville to listen to a talk program. It lasted for over an hour before interference and drift caused another station to tune in on that frequency.

So with the availability, most everyone has a radio with the AM band, and the ease of making your own outdoor antenna, the AM band is a seriously over looked source of distance alternative news broadcasts with updates at least every half an hour. This is something that is almost completely ignored by the prepper and survival crowd who are investing in expensive short wave radios.

My advice is to find the frequencies of AM stations in every major city in the U.S. and try tuning in to hear whats not being reported in your local area. Also, for little investment, a legal low powered AM broadcasting radio can be set up to do your own local programming. It is highly limited by an output of a tenth of a watt, but a high gain antenna placed up as high as possible, can get you a mile or more of coverage. Even though I wouldn't advocate using anymore power than legally allowed, you could probably get away with tweeking the power a bit for more coverage making you an illegal "pirate" radio station. Transmitting on a hill out in the open from a mobile station would allow the greatest coverage and make it less likely to get caught by the F.C.C. if you decide to operate a pirate station.

posted on Mar, 10 2015 @ 10:02 AM
I remember as a young one when we would listen to CBC on am. Great memories.

The great thing about CBC is that you can pick it up almost anywhere.

And if you're interested in short wave, here's a good link:


edit on 10-3-2015 by jude11 because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 10 2015 @ 10:16 AM
a reply to: MichiganSwampBuck
Another SHTF plus with AM radio is the fact that yo can build a receiver (foxhole radio)with some copper wire, a pencil and a razor blade. You will need a high impedance earphone, but .... no batteries required!

edit on bu312015-03-10T10:18:07-05:0010America/ChicagoTue, 10 Mar 2015 10:18:07 -050010u15 by butcherguy because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 10 2015 @ 10:22 AM

originally posted by: butcherguy
a reply to: MichiganSwampBuck
Another SHTF plus with AM radio is the fact that yo can build a receiver (foxhole radio)with some copper wire, a pencil and a razor blade. You will need a high impedance earphone, but .... no batteries required!

Oh yea, that is something I forgot to include. A very good point. Thanks for that and the excellent illustration. I tried to make one as a kid with no real success, but I'm sure as an adult I could probably make it work. Sounds like a project for a rainy day.

posted on Mar, 10 2015 @ 10:59 AM
Here is a link to "clear channel" AM radio stations that broadcast at 50,000 watt output power. These are the most likely to be heard during good skip conditions.

50,000-Watt AM stations

Here is a link to locate AM radio stations by location.


Here are links to AM/FM Radio station databases for various countries including the United States

Radio Station Databases - AM - FM

posted on Mar, 10 2015 @ 05:09 PM
AM is great! Having an AM receiver is a great piece of equipment to have in a SHTF scenario. For transmitting and making contact I would advise getting a HAM radio.

HAM radios use Amplitude Modulation (AM) but do not use the same frequencies as AM radio. They also use something called Single Sideband (SSB) which only transmits a portion of the signal being created by the radio. The great thing about SSB is because there is a 5W limit to transmission power for private use (commercial broadcast are often allowed to transmit with 50,000W), SSB will be able to utilize that power much better than commercial AM. You'll be getting a range of over 50 miles instead of 1 mile. Also if there are local repeaters in range (things that pick up your signal and blast it out with more power), your overall range can go up to over 100 miles!

It also only costs $14 to register and take the test for the license and another $30 for a BaoFeng UV-5R radio. They work great.

If you choose to take the more advanced tests you will have access to the lower frequencies that, as SwampBuck mentioned, will bounce off the ionosphere and the Earth's surface and be able to reach the other side of the world with fairly reliable signals.

posted on Mar, 10 2015 @ 06:39 PM
I see that somebody put a drawing of a fox hole radio on here. Good job! Here is how to make one:

This video shows how to make a radio transmitter:

Have fun and don't break any laws.

posted on Mar, 10 2015 @ 10:59 PM
I've made some observations today about AM broadcasts in relation to the subject of information gathering.

Firstly, during the day I was able to pick up a number of stations in my region, Big Rapids and Grand Rapids being closest, those stations were to be expected. On the edge of my range was Chicago, Milwaukee and Lansing, but Detroit wasn't coming in even though it is about as close as Chicago is. Not bad considering FM from this outer range is impossible.

Next, during the night time I experienced the same distant skip I had last night and was picking up numerous stations from states like Iowa, Ohio, New York, Kentucky, Virginia, Ontario & Quebec Canada, Tennessee, and now finally Detroit. Other Clear Channel Stations from farther west and south weren't coming in though. The local stations, because of regulations that have them reduce their broadcast power at night, were obliterated by noise and distant stations that over powered them.

Some problems I experienced were signal fade and drift as well as interference, some interference came from the appliances in my home. Some signals were fairly consistent and quite clear most of the time though. Fade and drift were likely due to the fluctuations of the ionosphere, like slow, long waves on the surface of a large body of water. A tuned antenna, perhaps with a tuning circuit might eliminate some of the interference.

Lastly was the content of programming. There were only a few network talk and sports programs being repeated as simulcasts on most of the numerous stations I was picking up. The short local news broadcasts had little information in the 5 or so minutes on the hour and half hour. The radio commercials were useless (also quite lame) as those events and businesses are far from my area. The talk show networks really have a strangle hold on most of the stations on the AM band, not unlike the network's control of the music programming on the FM band.

The only original programming I heard were a few religious ones as well as some oldies and ethic music. It seems that to gain useful information you would need to know when the programs with strictly local news content were being broadcast and what stations they are being broadcast on. I didn't hear any straight news being broadcast, not even NPR. I had hoped to hear some original programming with local news reporting or commentary on local political issues. I have heard them on occasion, but not during the hours I was monitoring at this time.

I guess I will need to find out the program schedules for the stations I was picking up the best and tune in when they have some local news content. This is not so easy as stations don't publish a programming guide and many don't have a website either. It will be hit or miss until I happen to find some worthy programming to listen to. I know that the F.C.C. rules make a certain number of hours of local content mandatory, so the local programming must be on some time, probably really early in the morning before rush hour. I will try again soon tonight and report back by the morning.

edit on 10-3-2015 by MichiganSwampBuck because: typo

posted on Mar, 11 2015 @ 12:48 AM
a reply to: ArnoldNonymous

Thanks for the input ArnoldNoymous, but this thread is about commercial AM broadcasts as a source of news, not two way communications during a SHTF scenario. I have covered that in another thread here . . .

Can a Citizens Band Network Be Practical?

The virtues of both the licensed and unlicensed frequencies are discussed there. Also, I have a website, linked in the thread above, that I made that describes how an all inclusive, open source network plan can be developed that covers two way and digital communications using the unlicensed frequencies. The main reasons for using unlicensed operations is explained there as well as everything you've talked about.

The amateur license is more of an exclusive club. Also the F.C.C. listing your personal info in the call sign lists being undesirable as well as having other draw backs in a SHTF scenario. Every two-way frequency has it benefits and drawbacks, but over all, IMO, the amateur license and bands are more undesirable form a crowd source perspective.

You're not going to need to talk all over the planet or use repeaters that could fail in so many different grid down situations. Plus far more people are on the citizens band then have a license for the other exclusive bands. Techniques and antenna designs can have you legally communicate the 155 mile CB range limits as well as using illegal skip across the country if needed.
edit on 11-3-2015 by MichiganSwampBuck because: typo

posted on Mar, 11 2015 @ 06:46 AM
After listening for another hour last night I found out that there is local content programming scheduled at different times but many were subject based from what I heard. An example would be one I listened to that involved the trucking industry, although the content was more national than local.

After tuning in to WCCO AM 830 out of Minneapolis, I found myself listening to a local call-in format talk show that covered popular topics of the day. It seems that many programs follow the same format and end up sounding nearly identical to the network programs. On that station, the local news blurbs were somewhat more informative than just some national news and local weather conditions and offered more local content from the twin cities than I was hearing on most others.

I made a list of stations I was consistently getting a strong signal from and will find what I can online about their programming. Perhaps there are some programs with straight news rather than the call-in talk format I was hearing so much of. I haven't heard any programs that were like the local T.V. news broadcasts, maybe that type of programming doesn't exist on AM radio.

ETA: I got up just before sunrise and the distant stations were already gone. I probably lost them an hour or two before I got up.
edit on 11-3-2015 by MichiganSwampBuck because: added extra comments

edit on 11-3-2015 by MichiganSwampBuck because: typo

posted on Mar, 11 2015 @ 09:16 AM
After looking up some of these AM stations I've found most are with the iHeart Radio Network with mostly syndicated programming. That means stuff like Limbaugh and other conservative right programs as well as Fox News. I did find it surprising that most have a website and if you search them with "schedule" you will find the program guide. From that I've found, they have local content programs on from 5am to 9am on weekdays. They have local DJs covering local news and politics as well as current national news. Unfortunately, the distant stations may be hard to pick up during that time slot.

Hopefully, during an emergency or disaster, they will interrupt the scheduled programming with local updates or continuous reporting. That seems like a reasonable assumption I would think.
edit on 11-3-2015 by MichiganSwampBuck because: typo

edit on 11-3-2015 by MichiganSwampBuck because: another typo

posted on Mar, 12 2015 @ 05:44 AM
Well, I listened again this morning from 5am to 6:30am when the signals just started to fade on me and what local programming I heard was going over current national and world events. Disappointing because it's the same stuff everyone is reporting on. No call-ins yet though and the local news blurbs were increased to every 15 minutes, probably to cover the local commuter crowd going to work. There was one station that was going on and on about local St Patrick's day events, AM 830 WCCO in Minneapolis MN, so at least they had some local content, not that it's close enough for me to attend that stuff. They were pretty good with the local news blurbs though, but only highlighting some of the biggest local occurrences. All in all, the internet is the best for alternate news with respect to broadcast sources, both T.V. and radio.

This monopoly that iHeart and Fox has over the air waves needs to be addressed and the cookie cutter formats need to end. Considering the lack of interest in broadcast radio in general though, nothing will ever get done about it I'm sure.
edit on 12-3-2015 by MichiganSwampBuck because: typo

posted on Mar, 13 2015 @ 08:39 AM
Post SHTF, I think the HAM operators are going to be our only source for news and info.

posted on Mar, 13 2015 @ 12:33 PM
a reply to: Gazrok

Judging by the fact that the networks dominate the commercial radio bands, I tend to agree. The best bet, and cheapest alternative, for just listening to information would be a portable, battery operated shortwave receiver. However, for local and regional broadcasts, you need to find the frequencies of choice in your area. Most of the smaller units have AM/FM bands as well anyway. A scanner type radio, with local police and EMS frequencies would be optimal.

posted on Mar, 13 2015 @ 03:32 PM
Most SHTF scenarios are probably going to involve some government control of radio stations, even if for benign purposes. Of course, I fully plan on keeping an AM/FM radio in both my GHB, and other preps, no doubt.

posted on Mar, 13 2015 @ 05:15 PM
I had a multiband radio I really liked. It had AM, FM, TV, pretty much everything. I loved that radio.

posted on Mar, 14 2015 @ 08:34 AM
a reply to: Skid Mark

Yeah, even air traffic, I love those too. Gotta get me one, I'm sure there are some alternative news sources on those radios. I'll be keeping my eyes open at the yard sales this year.

posted on Mar, 14 2015 @ 11:13 AM
a reply to: MichiganSwampBuck

I think there are even crank powered ones. Crank power would be handy if shtf. I think batteries would be in short supply.

posted on Mar, 14 2015 @ 12:02 PM
a reply to: Skid Mark

Yeah, I've stocked up on rechargeable batteries and those solar yard lights are cheap rechargers.

posted on Mar, 14 2015 @ 01:35 PM
a reply to: MichiganSwampBuck

I never thought of using yard lights. That's a great idea.

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