As a lover of radio and an intermittent broadcast professional I feel despair at the state of commercial radio today. I heartily agree with this policy statement, just released by the Future of Music Coalition regarding low power FM (LPFM):
- FMC Statement on Low Power FM Legislation
For the past four years, the establishment of hundreds of new community based Low Power FM radio stations has been a sliver of hope among the devestation brought by massive consolidation of commercial radio. Since the FCC implemented a new class of non-commercial Low Power stations in 2000, hundreds of organizations have united to bring their unique perspectives to the local airwaves. Congress, sadly, circumvented the Senate Commerce Committee to pass legislation limiting implementation of these stations to small towns and rural parts of the country pending further taxpayer-funded study of the technical impact of these tiny 100-watt stations.
Four years later, two things are clear. The need for expanded local community radio is greater than ever. And, as predicted, the conservative FCC implemetation plan will not cause the “oceans of interference” predicted by the NAB.
Musicians, activists, policymakers and general observers all understand the essential harm that the radical restructuring of the radio industry has had on the traditional regulatory priorities of localism, competition and diversity. In the music context, we’ve seen shrinking playlists, barriers for local and independent artists, structural payola and the utter disappearance of entire genres of music from commercial radio.
LPFM provides a tangible opportunity to do something proactive about it – to empower citizens to utilize this valuable public resource out of a sense of community rather than a naked pursuit of profit. We applaud the efforts of Chairman McCain and Senator Leahy to reauthorize the FCC to implement LPFM in major population centers, and look forward to the day where LPFM can truly thrive across the nation.
The FMC is responding to this news:
- The movement to introduce low-power radio stations onto the FM dial in urban areas got a boost Friday from two powerful senators who introduced a bill allowing federal regulators to license small stations.
Sens. John McCain (R-Arizona), chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, introduced the measure, which they hope will lead to the introduction of hundreds of community radio stations that can reach listeners up to 3.5 miles away.
“I look forward to hearing more local artists, local news, local public-affairs programming and community-based programming on low-power FM radio stations throughout the country,” McCain said.
McCain has been a longtime proponent of low-power radio stations and has fought against increasing media consolidation rules.
The new legislation (PDF) seeks to undo an appropriations rider passed in December 2000 by Congress, which was persuaded by large commercial broadcasters that local radio would likely interfere with their radio signals. Congress directed the Federal Communications Commission not to grant licenses until the FCC studied interference issues.
In February, the FCC told Congress that an independent study conducted by MITRE Corp. found that low-power stations “do not pose a significant risk of causing interference to existing full-service FM stations.”
In response to the finding, McCain drafted the Low Power Radio Act of 2004, which would lift congressional “third-adjacent minimum distance requirements.”
Those rules say that if there is an existing radio station at 91.3 on the FM dial, no new radio station can be established at 90.7 or 91.9 within 90 kilometers. These restrictions have made it impossible for any low-power station to be licensed in any of the top-50 radio markets, said Pete Tridish, technical director for the Prometheus Radio Project, a nonprofit group dedicated to low-power radio.
Under the proposed rules, both of those frequencies would be available for low-power stations.
Community radio activists hope the bill will eventually lead to a flowering of small broadcasters in urban areas where the radio spectrum is dominated by large commercial stations. [Wired News]
Results from the referenced study ordered by Congress are here:
- As predicted by the FCC and myriad LPFM advocates, only small zones of interference directly around the transmitter site of the LPFM were found.
• No significant LPFM-related degradation to a full power station’s signal was ever identified at more than 333 meters from an LPFM transmitter.
• New digital radio channels and Radio Reading Services To The Blind were tested, and no significant problems were found.
• Despite public notices and a 1-800 number, there were no complaints from the public related to any low power radio test site.
• In the very worst case found, .0013 of receivers in the service area of a full power station could be affected. As the report stated, “In most cases, this fraction is orders of magnitude smaller.”
The reason LPFM in urban areas would be such an important breakthrough is that urban areas ARE WHERE THE PEOPLE ARE.