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Feature: The Brewing Congressional Conflict

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2/27/99

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.

The deadline is approaching, and the time for action is NOW. Contact your own representative and let them know you'd like them to sign on to the letter. It's a small political commitment for your legislator to make, but it may have HUGE political dividends - by blunting the first Congressional attack on low-power broadcasting before it can do any damage.

Here is the text of the letter:

The Congress of the United States
House of Representatives
March 10, 1999

The Honorable William E. Kennard
Chairman, Federal Communications Commission
The Portals
455 Twelfth Street S.W.
Washington, DC 20554

Dear Chairman Kennard:

We are writing to commend the Commission for taking action on an issue of great importance to us -- improving access to our airwaves for our local communities. We have become increasingly concerned about the growing concentration of the media in our country and are pleased that the Commission is taking action to increase opportunities for local communities to use our radio airwaves.

One of the fundamental tenets of our democracy is to ensure that diverse interests have opportunities to express themselves at different levels, and that they are not locked out in a monopolistic, globalized fashion. It is as fundamental as free speech. Radio is perhaps the most qualified of any media outlet to provide community access. It is a relatively inexpensive medium to produce and is well-suited to cover community issues and local music. Unfortunately, today's radio is the most concentrated and formulaic medium in the country. Providing licenses to low power FM radio stations would create new opportunities for local voices to be heard in their communities.

Allowing low power FM radio stations on the air would empower local broadcasters to serve their communities with a variety of new voices and services. Low power radio stations would be able to address specific groups -- including minority groups, the religious community, and linguistic minorities -- and provide a forum for debate about important local issues. These kinds of stations would strengthen community identity in urban neighborhoods, rural towns and other communities which are currently too small to win attention from "mainstream", ratings-driven media.

Further, they would provide an outlet for the diverse, local voices and musicians that are presently priced out of the market. These stations would also provide advertising options for local businesses and increased employment opportunities in these communities.

The strong interest in independent radio stations shows that the creation of low power radio service would have wide support. The tremendous public demand for microradio is demonstrated by the proliferation of illegal radio stations, whose operators broadcast at the risk of financial losses and, in some cases, imprisonment.

Again, we applaud the Commission's willingness to address this issue. We are hopeful that the creation of a new class of low power FM radio service will soon become a reality. We look forward to working on making the airwaves more accessible to our local communities.

Sincerely,

Representative David E. Bonior, Democrat of Michigan
Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Republican of Florida
Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut
Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard, Democrat of California
Representative James E. Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina