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It was an often-lively debate, but at the end you weren't sure whether to laugh or seethe.

After nearly two and a half hours of argument, spin and even some outright lies, the full House of Representatives voted 274 to 110 to approve the "Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act" - spelling the first near-death knell for the FCC's new low power FM radio service.

While the vote in favor of the bill was carried mostly by Republican votes, the sad truth of the matter is that if it weren't for the Democrats who said "yea," this bill would have died. Plus, another 50 Representatives didn't even bother to vote on it!

The National Association of Broadcasters, National Public Radio, and all of its protectionist cronies have cleared a major hurdle in cutting the rest of the American public out of a chance to participate on the airwaves they all are supposed to have a stake in.

It's a sad day. But the House is only one of four steps left in this process before any chance of legal low power FM radio in the America is dead forever.

The Senate has even yet to schedule the bill for hearing in a committee - things tend to move more slowly in the deliberative 'upper House' of Congress, and it's often guided more by reason than rhetoric.  Regardless, broadcast special interests who seek to ram this legislation through already have half the votes they need there for passage.

Yesterday, President Clinton signaled that he would veto the Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act if it cleared Congress. A short statement from the White House strongly opposed the bill, which the President believes will provide a "voice to the voiceless."

If a veto takes place, Congress will need a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate to override the President and make the anti-LPFM bill law.

There is also the clock, which may or may not be an ally; the FCC plans to open the filing window for the first LPFM license applications at the end of May. That would mean the first legal low power radio stations would go on the air by mid to late-summer.

If LPFM advocates can stall action in the Senate (or following a Presidential veto) long enough, LPFM will actually exist by the next time Congress tries to outlaw it.

Undoing what's already done is much tougher than killing an idea. Expect both sides in Washington, D.C. to only ramp up their efforts to win lawmakers over as the fight over LPFM reaches these critical battlegrounds.

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