At some point in the future it's going to come down to is there any format that is still viable on AM or is the owner better off selling the land that the towers are planted on. We're already seeing this in other countries.
Perhaps to a degree; but keep this in mind: The clear channel stations serve some purpose. They can provide information over a large area, especially at night. When a major emergency arises, these stations can provide service that may not otherwise be available.
I'm on the Gulf Coast this week, where WWL is a perfect example. I'm about 160 miles from their stick and they're still the strongest and most reliable a.m. signal here....by far! (Thanks to a saltwater path.) They take very seriously their status and their obligation to provide vital emergency news and information during hurricanes, etc.
But they may be something of an exception to the rule.
Obviously the dynamics are different today than when the 1-A clear channels were established. Then there wide areas with no local services. OTOH, however, having a local signal may not automatically mean local programming or local news and information services.
So while the clears may no longer play most of the role for which they were originally intended, indeed there could be a role for at least some of these big signals in terms of providing news and information during emergencies. As for the allmighty dollar getting in the way....where's the FCC? Don't the airwaves belong to the public in the first place?
Not unlike the special rules that apply for the exit row on an airplane, shouldn't there be/aren't there conditions and obligations that go along with obtaining a licence to operate one of these blowtorches?