Channel One and FM radio

Wednesday 27 August 2008

Yesterday at lunch, the question of Channel One came up. That is, why is there no TV channel 1 in the US? I thought it was because anyone running a channel 1 would have an unfair marketing advantage over other channels. I also thought that was why FM stations in the US always have an odd tenths digit (101.7, etc), so that no station would be 101.0, for example.

I was wrong: Snopes' What Happened To Channel 1? not only explains it was a simple matter of reallocating bandwidth that cost TV its channel 1, but explicitly discusses my answer as a canard tossed around by people who don't know what they are talking about! Please subscribe me to Jackass Magazine.

The FM allocation theory also seems to be wrong, though not explicitly refuted. The FM station allocation plan spaces them 200 kHz apart, with nominal frequencies placed in the center of the range, leading to station frequencies of 101.1, 101.3, and so on.

Another untruth about FM: I had long thought that FM was developed as an alternative to AM in a contest open to the public, and that an amateur had come up with the breakthrough. Not true: Edwin Armstrong was far from an amateur, and unfortunately, the development of FM radio was one of those tragic stories ending in the despairing death of its inventor.

So I had been harboring misconceptions about channels and stations all of these years, confident that they were the right answers. What else am I lugging around that's false?

BTW: The switchover to all-digital TV will happen in the US next February, and I guess will release all of that TV bandwidth back into the pool.

» 8 reactions


Sarai 9:13 AM on 27 Aug 2008

Actually, NYC has a channel 1-- it's an all news station

David Pitkin 9:22 AM on 27 Aug 2008

The cool flash visualization I mentioned: Interact With the Atlas of Electromagnetic Space

Roger Lipscombe 10:12 AM on 27 Aug 2008

In Europe, the FM stations are on even increments, e.g. 94.4, 102.8, etc.

Noel Clark 10:44 AM on 27 Aug 2008

A technology called In Band On Channel (IBOC) is emerging as a replacement for AM/FM analog signals. It is digital so the adjacent channel interference issues are reduced. What is interesting is the ability to add data in this broadcast. So what unsolicited, localized broadcast data could be sent to a radio broadcast and who will host it, charge for it and deliver it?

Ken Hirsch 3:41 PM on 27 Aug 2008

You have 200MHz, but it should be 200KHz or 0.2MHz

Ned Batchelder 4:54 PM on 27 Aug 2008

@Ken: thanks, I've fixed it...

Brian Enigma 7:23 PM on 27 Aug 2008

So, then, will digital TV return channel 1 to the set of available channels? Or will it skip over it for legacy reasons?

Julien 9:57 AM on 28 Aug 2008

@Roger: that's only half true, at least in France where we have stations on even and odd increments: France Inter is 87.8, while FIP is 105.1.

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