After Stalemate, New Low-Power FM Radio Legislation Introduced
Congressmen Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) and Lee Terry (R-Neb.) have introduced bipartisan legislation that would allow more community radio stations across the United States to begin broadcasting.
In 2000, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued rules that would have allowed the establishment of thousands of low-power FM (LPFM) radio stations across the country. The FCC’s effort to promote diverse local voices on the radio dial was immediately killed when Congress enacted the Radio Broadcast Preservation Act (aka: effective special interest group lobbying). This legislation compelled the FCC to issue LPFM licenses only to low-power radio stations that were at least four intervals on the radio dial away from existing full-power stations, out of concern that the new stations would cause interference with the existing stations’ signals, but effectively preventing many low-power FM stations from broadcasting.
The Radio Broadcast Preservation Act law also required an independent study of how much separation was required to ensure that existing full-power signals were not compromised. The study, which was completed in 2003, concluded that reducing the separation between radio transmission frequencies to three spaces on the radio dial would not cause interference with existing broadcast signals. The legislation introduced by Congressmen Doyle and Terry would repeal the Radio Broadcast Preservation Act’s requirement that radio stations in a given market be four intervals apart.
The Congressmen believe that reducing the required space between radio stations will allow thousands of new community-based LPFM stations across the country to begin broadcasting, dramatically increasing the diversity and community-orientation of radio programming across the country. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) have introduced identical legislation in the Senate.
Unfortunately, the National Association of Broadcasters is going to fight this low-power compromise as well. In its report on the proposed legislation, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quotes a response from National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Kristopher Jones: “The 232 million weekly listeners of local radio should not be inundated with the inevitable interference that would result from shoehorning more stations onto an already overcrowded radio dial.”