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

It’s Only Just Begun

Last week, the FCC officially proposed making low-power FM stations a legal part of the radio dial. The statement in itself doesn’t give too many details as to what this broadcast service will look like, except in the most general of forms. When the official text becomes available, expect notice here.

In a nutshell, these are the basics of legal LPFM as currently envisioned: Read More

1998=1984?

An interesting little email has cropped up among microradio activists recently.

It stems from the recent bust and arrest of the operators of Black Cat Radio in Memphis, TN. The station ops weren’t arrested for the actual act of unlicensed broadcasting, but rather for jacking into the University of Memphis‘ electrical system to to power their transmitter as they broadcast from a parking garage on campus.

The email allegedly came from the U.S. Department of Justice, and it’s reproduced in its entirety below: Read More

Greasing the Wheel

The following is a report from scouts at the National Lawyer’s Guild’s Committee on Democratic Communications; they went to Washington recently to gauge support for a low power radio legalization effort.

Call To Action

We now have an historic opportunity (ok, its a cheap political phrase) to influence communications policy in the U.S. The window of opportunity is NOW! Believe me– I have talked with a number of people in D.C.– we need to BOMBARD the FCC RIGHT NOW with a massive show of support. We need to show them that the unlicensed micros are serious about wanting a legalized system and we need to show that it has Congressional support. Read More