Counting Your Chickens

We’ve all heard that old adage, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.” While it’s an overused cliché, it’s very applicable to the free radio community right now.

The buzz in the movement is all about the two proposals for an LPFM service filed with the FCC over the past couple of weeks. It’s important to remain realistic. While the FCC has received both Petitions for Rulemaking and is currently accepting comments on them, we shouldn’t lose sight of some simple facts:

Free Radio remains illegal. Check this scenario: the FCC receives a complaint about a “pirate” in the area. Through their voluminous investigative means, they’re able to track down the “pirate.” After taking field measurements, the goons get permission to move in. As they drive up to the station, they can hear the signal strong and clear. The lead goon knocks on the door, and the station op opens it. As they muscle in, the op can be heard crying, “Wait! The rules are changing! What I’m doing won’t be illegal for long!” Read More

Inspecting a Public File

The FCC recently issued a Notice of Proposed Rule making seeking comment on the location of a station’s public inspection file (MM Docket #97-138). According to current FCC rules, licensed stations must keep a stack of required documents on hand at the station’s main studio for anyone to inspect.

Most of the time, the most expected person to inspect the file may be a visitor from the FCC. But since the FCC doesn’t get around to inspecting stations that much, stations sometimes neglect their public files, missing updates and other pieces of information that, if discovered missing, could very well cost the station a hefty fine or license problems.

Now a move is afoot to allow stations to literally distance themselves from the people they serve. MM Docket #97-138 would allow stations to locate their studios farther away from the community they’re actually licensed to. That isn’t that big of a deal; so many radio stations are now automated, carrying pre-packaged programming from somewhere else, that they’re really not “serving” the community of license with their air signal anyway. Read More

The Hundt Follies

FCC Chairman Reed Hundt has announced his resignation from office. Hundt’s in good company; FCC Commissioner James Quello has already announced his intent to step down, and Commissioner Andrew Barrett flew the coop in April.

The current Commission has been unmatched in its zeal to sell out the public. It was under Hundt and cohorts that auctions of portions of the spectrum became common practice. While the agency was mandated to adopt the process with the passage of the Telecom Act of 1996, the zeal with which it went ahead with the sales is disturbing.

The auctions have been somewhat controversial, but when the plan brought hundreds of millions of dollars into the government’s coffers, the outcry slackened off. Now the winning corporations “own” the rights to broadcast on various areas of the spectrum, and the public loses. Read More