Risks and Rewards

It seems there’s a bit of confusion over the terms “pirate” and “free” when applied to radio. Some associate piracy with breaking the law, while “free radio” seems to be thought of as some sort of quasi-legal community operation.

The two terms, in the eyes of the law, are one and the same. “Pirate” or “free” radio stations both have one thing in common – they both broadcast without an FCC license, and therefore are illegal operations.

Being a radio “pirate” used to be a compliment, until the movement toward legalization of low-power radio stations began in the United States – then, as more moderate activists joined the scene, the term “pirate” was phased out as being politically incorrect.

Leave the United States, though, and most of the unlicensed stations operating out there will still refer to themselves as “pirates,” and they’re proud of the moniker. Read More

Time’s Running Out

June first is the deadline for the public to file comments on the FCC’s proposed LPFM rulemaking. Comments must be received in Washington, D.C. by August 2. So, for all intents and purposes, you’ve got less than a month and a half to make yourself heard.

You can talk all you want about how wonderful legal LPFM is to your friends, family and co-workers, but unless you file formal, public comments with the Commission, the people that need to hear your opinions won’t – and all you’ll have done is spout hot air.

The following is a primer into how to file comments – what you write is up to you, and if you need help figuring out what to say feel free to browse through previous features; there’s more than enough food for thought there. Read More

The True Face of the Dark Side

It was to be a busy annual convention for the National Association of Broadcasters: with consolidation at a fever pitch and various new technologies being unveiled, corporate broadcasters all over the nation converged on Las Vegas last week to talk shop and pitch wares.

As is the typical form, FCC Chairman William Kennard addressed the assembled executives and managers at a breakfast meeting.

These annual addresses typically are a “state of broadcasting” kind of speech, where the FCC Chairman at the time lays out his goals for the coming year. One of those goals will be the creation of a low power radio service. In fact, Kennard made special mention of it in his speech.

The entire event was broadcast over the Internet – all but Kennard’s low power broadcasting comments. Read More

First Skirmish

Things may seem like they’re moving at a quick pace, but this is just a flurry of activity before great lull before the next Big Phase in the legalization of low-power FM.

While supporters of a low-power radio service continue to work on their comments and enlightening more people to what may lie on their radio dial, the National Association of Broadcasters is finally grinding into motion. The first meeting of its LPFM “war council,” otherwise known as the Spectrum Integrity Task Force, met last week, undoubtedly laying out the long-term strategy in the fight against legalization.

On the NAB’s own website duscission boards, LPFM doesn’t appear to be drawing much interest. A whopping two posts have been made about the subject, touting all the economic harm that LPRS will supposedly do to “small” stations. Not even a clap from the audience. Either most commercial broadcasters today are woefully Internet-illiterate or don’t really much care about LPFM becoming a reality.

The NAB has a request to extend the deadline for comments and replies on the LPFM proposal until October, which would effectively keep all possible movement forward on the idea bottled up for at least another six months. It claims it wants to use the time to do “studies” on what “interference” LPFM may cause its members’ over-valued “broadcast properties.”

Translated, this means two things: the first is manufacture a “spin” on the technical data – painting as terrible a picture of signal interference as it can. The second is to lobby as much support in Congress as possible for a potential end run around the FCC completely.

LPFM proponents haven’t been napping, either. The Amherst Alliance, frustrated with all of the delays in action, fired off written correspondence to the FCC in tones that were not completely diplomatic on the issue:

5 months passed from the initial RM-9208 Notice in February of 1998 to the closing of the comment period in July of 1998. After that, another 6 months passed from the close of comments to the issuance of a Proposed Rule in late January of 1999. Read More

The Brewing Congressional Conflict

On the heels of Louisiana Congressweasel Billy Tauzin’s move to squash the LPFM service currently under development at the FCC, those in favor of low-power broadcasting on Capitol Hill aren’t sitting by and watching Tauzin’s tantrum without action. Representative David Bonior, Democrat of Michigan, is now circulating a draft letter to other Representatives in support of the FCC’s work, and plans to send it to the FCC on Wednesday, March 10.

This is a perfect opportunity to pre-empt Tauzin’s moves to kill low-power radio stations, provided Bonior can show enough signatures at the bottom of the letter. The strength is in numbers here – if the FCC has some sort of token nod from a large segment (or, perish the thought, a majority) of the House of Representatives, Chairman Kennard and the rest of the Commissioners would be sent a message that the “will of the people” is behind their actions. It could also send a nice, subtle message to Rep. Tauzin to back off. Read More