North American Radio Broadcasting Agreement
The North American Radio Broadcasting Agreement, usually referred to as NARBA, is a treaty that took effect in March 1941 and set out an international bandplan and interference rules for mediumwave AM broadcasting in North America. NARBA accommodated much of the U.S. bandplan of 1928, with accommodation to Canada and Mexico.
Although mostly replaced by other agreements in the 1980s, the basic bandplan of NARBA has remained to the present day. Among its major features were the extension of the broadcast band from its former limits of 550 to 1500 kc. to its 1941 limits of 540 to 1600 kc. to its present limits of 540 to 1700 kHz and the shift of most existing AM stations' frequencies to make room for additional clear-channel station allocations for Canada and Mexico.
The agreement eventually governed AM band use in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti. In accordance with the treaty, clear channel frequencies were set aside across, roughly, the lower half of the radio dial (with a few regional channels thrown in), and regional channels across, roughly, the upper half of the radio dial (with a few clear channels thrown in).
The replacement 1230, 1240, 1340, 1400, 1450, and 1490 kc. local channels (formerly 1200, 1210, 1310, 1370, 1420, and 1500 kc.) were reserved for local channel stations (these are regional channels if located outside the North American continent, in which case regional channel stations could be allocated to those channels).
The agreement also officially reduced the "same market" minimum channel spacing from 50 to 40 kc., although Mexico elected to enforce a 30 kc. "same market" channel spacing, unless such reduced spacing was in conflict with an abutting nation's "border zone" allocations, in which case 40 kc. was enforced.
It required that most existing AM stations change frequencies according to a well-defined "table", which attempted to conserve the electrical height of the extant vertical radiator(s) and thereby controlling possible interference, while resulting in a wholesale yet predictable shuffling of radio station frequencies.
There were about 100 stations which were not changed according to the "table" and in these cases every attempt was made to move an existing clear channel station to a possibly distant clear channel (and not to a regional channel) and to move an existing regional channel station to a possibly distant regional channel (and not to a clear channel); local channel stations were not moved outside of the "table" as the "table" accommodated every eventuality, including even the cases of stations on the two highest local channels, 1420 and 1500 kc., an 80 kc. spacing, as the new "same market" spacing of 40 kc. accommodated this case (these moved stations would be allocated to 1450 and 1490 kc., a 40 kc. spacing).
At the same time, this spacing protected the international medium-wave distress frequency, 500 kc., which must be protected by all stations everywhere.
Although a 1933 conference on the subject failed, a 1937 North American Radio Conference in Havana agreed on the principles for frequency allocations. In late 1937, the Inter-American Radio Conference agreed to protect U.S. AM stations by eliminating Mexican border blasters. In mid-1938, the United States Senate ratified the Havana treaty and asked for it to take effect a year after the treaty was ratified by three of the four participating countries of Canada, Cuba, Mexico, and the U.S. At first, the Mexican Senate refused to ratify. Nevertheless, the U.S. and Canada completed a frequency agreement in 1939, based on the Havana Treaty, and Mexico ratified the NARBA treaty at the end of the year.
A three-year NARBA agreement in 1946 gave Cuba five U.S. clear channel allocations. A November 1950 NARBA agreement, signed by the Bahamas, Canada, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and the U.S., gave Cuba the right to use six, and Jamaica two, U.S. clear channel allocations.
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Among the most significant changes were:
|—||new Canadian clear||540||allocated to CBK later shared with Mexico|
|690||all, except CFRB||unchanged||690||Canadian clear|
|730||all, except CFPL||unchanged||730|
|—||new Canadian clear||740||allocated to CBL which moved from 840|
|—||new Mexican clear||800||allocated to XELO|
|—||new Canadian clear||860||allocated to CFRB|
|—||new Mexican clear||900|
|—||new Canadian clear||1010||allocated to CFCN (now CBR) which moved from 1030|
|1010||WHN (now WEPN)||up 40||1050|
|KQW (now KCBS)||740|
|WNAD (now KWPN)||640|
|WNOX (now WNML)||990|
|—||new Mexican clear||1050|
|1030||CFCN (now CBR)||down 20||1010|
KWJJ (now KFXX)
|1050||KNX||up 20||1070||shared with CBA (now silent)|
|WJAG||up 40||1110||this was later traded for 780 with KFAB|
|1170||WCAU (now WPHT)||up 40||1210|
|KOB (now KKOB)||770|
|WDGY (now KFAN)||down 50||1130|
|WSAZ (now WRVC)||930|
|—||new Mexican clear||1220|
WJSV (now WFED)
WKBW (now WWKB)
|1510||CKCR (later CHYM)||down 20||1490|
|—||new Bahamian clear||1540||allocated to ZNS-1 shared with KXEL|
|—||new Canadian/Mexican clear||1550||allocated to CBE (now CBEF) and XERUV, both stations "grandfathered" at 10 kW|
|1530||W1XBS to WBRY
(later WTBY, then WQQW; now dark)
|up 60||1590||Since 1934 U.S. frequencies above 1500 had been
allocated only to four experimental stations that
broadcast with a signal 20 kHz wide for "high fidelity."
The stations were converted to regular broadcasting
(and regular call signs) with the NARBA frequency
|W9XBY to KITE
|1550||W2XR to WQXR
|W6XAI to KPMC
|—||new Mexican clear||1570||allocated to XERF|
|—||new Canadian clear||1580||allocated to CBJ|
|—||new regional channels||1590-1600||1590-1700 after "Rio"|
NARBA has been substantially superseded by the Regional Agreement for the Medium Frequency Broadcasting Service in Region 2 (which was signed in Rio de Janeiro in 1981 and took effect on 1 July 1983 at 08:00 UTC). The interference protection criteria in the Rio Agreement are significantly different from NARBA, particularly in that the concept of clear-channel stations is eliminated. NARBA countries the Bahamas, Canada, Mexico and the United States are also signatories of the Rio Agreement. In that agreement, the Bahamas and Canada also declared their intent to denounce NARBA. However, NARBA still officially remains in effect between the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, and United States because those countries have not formally abrogated NARBA. The United States also has bilaterial agreements with Canada and with Mexico: the Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Canada Relating to the AM Broadcasting Service in the Medium Frequency Band (1984) and the Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the United Mexican States Relating to the AM Broadcasting Service in the Medium Frequency Band (1986).
- Canadian allocations changes under NARBA
- Clear-channel station — which includes a listing of present North American clear-channel stations
- Geneva Frequency Plan of 1975 — a similar agreement concerning the rest of the world
- More on clear, regional and local AM Channels in Canada Mexico and USA
- FCC information on AM station classes
- "Building the Broadcast Band" the development of the 520–1700 kHz Medium wave (AM) band
- "Behind the Clear-Channel Matter" history of clear-channel AM radio stations
- Miller, Jeff (2010-05-01). "A Chronology of AM Radio Broadcasting 1900-1960". Retrieved 2010-05-11.
- "Broadcasting Special Issue". Broadcasting. 1970-11-02. Retrieved 2010-05-11.
- Regional Administrative MF Broadcasting Conference (Region 2), Rio de Janeiro, 1981 (PDF). ISBN 92-61-01311-2. Retrieved 2010-05-11. Bahamas and Canada announce their intent to renounce NARBA in Final Protocol statement No. 4 on page 88.
- 47 C.F.R. 73.1650. Retrieved 2010-05-11.
- "1997 Report on International Negotiations and Notifications Concerning Radio Services". Washington, D.C.: Federal Communications Commission (Planning & Negotiations Division, International Bureau). July 1997. Retrieved 2010-05-11.