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Feature: Controversy in Michigan

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11/1/98

Support for low-power broadcasting is growing and gaining some political ground.

The following is a move in the right direction - Michigan's legislature is considering resolutions in both houses advocating the legalization of a low-power broadcast service. Not surprisingly, the state's broadcasting association jumped on the defensive. Here's the texts from everyone involved.

Michigan State House Resolution No. 379

Reps. Freeman, Baade, Ciaramitaro, Kelly, Tesanovich, Profit, Dobronski, Prusi, Gubow, Kukuk, Bodem, Godchaux, Leland, Olshove, Harder, Hale, Brater, Parks, Anthony, Scranton, Schermesser, Martinez, Kilpatrick, Bogardus, Jelinek, Scott, DeHart, Basham, Willard, Baird, Murphy, Birkholz, Richner, LaForge, Quarles, Hanley, Cherry and Varga

A resolution to encourage the Federal Communications Commission to restore approval for low power FM radio broadcasting.

WHEREAS, For many years, low power radio stations filled a unique niche in the communications needs of local communities. These operations, which used less than 100 watts of power, were licensed as Class D FM stations; and

WHEREAS, In 1978, The Federal Communications Commission made a policy decision to stop licensing low power radio stations. This decision was based on concerns that low power stations were a hindrance to the orderly development of FM radio and a potential impediment to the efficient operation of facilities serving greater numbers of people; and

WHEREAS, In recent years, the rate of consolidation in the radio broadcast market has increased. As a result, far fewer locally based radio stations have programming that serves their communities. These concerns have prompted many people to promote a change in FCC policies. A petition of rulemaking, which proposes the reestablishment of low power FM broadcast services, is currently under consideration; and

WHEREAS, Allowing low power FM radio to return to the airways will achieve several worthwhile goals in communications options open to people in our country. These community radio services will increase the local presence in the media, increase diversity of ownership, provide more choices to the public, offer new opportunities in business, and promote communications that better reflect the character and needs of our communities; now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the House of Representatives, That we encourage the Federal Communications Commission to restore approval for low power FM radio broadcasting; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That copies of this resolution be transmitted to the Federal Communications Commission.

The resolution was referred to the Committee on Public Utilities.


Michigan State Senate Resolution 234

Introduced by Senators Kenneth DeBeaussaert and Christopher Dingell.

A Resolution to urge the Federal Communications Commission (F.C.C.) to adopt RM-9242 to create a new service of small, locally-owned FM stations.

WHEREAS, Twenty years ago the F.C.C. stopped issuing new Class D broadcasting licenses (stations of less than 100 watts). Today, to launch a station the F.C.C. will consider licensing requires a minimum investment of $80-100 thousand dollars, making it too difficult for the general public to launch a radio station; and

WHEREAS, A national grassroots movement has emerged to re-legalize community radio. A formal rule-making petition, RM-9242 would create a new service of small, locally owned FM stations. This petition is now before the F.C.C.; and

WHEREAS, Corporatization of our local airwaves is by far the main factor behind the withering of our State's once-thriving music industry, the home of Motown. Detroit's commercial stations devote under one percent of their airtime to locally-produced music. The same thing is happening country wide; and

WHEREAS, The result has been devastating to not only musicians, but also local clubs, music stores, record stores, studios, labels and publishers; indeed the entire local music economy; Now therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the Senate, That we memorialize the Federal Communications Commission to adopt RM-9242; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That copies of this resolution be transmitted to the F.C.C. Chairman, William Kennard and to the "Michigan Music is World Class" Campaign.


The Michigan Assoication of Broadcasters then wrote the following letter to State Senator Ken DeBeaussaert, following his introduction of a Resolution in favor of relegalizing community radio:

Senator DeBeaussaert,

The members of the Michigan Association of Broadcasters respectfully, but strongly, oppose House Resolution 379 and Senate Resolution 234, concerning Class D F.C.C. licenses. The M.A.B. also disagrees with the reference in HR379 that far fewer locally-based radio stations have programming that serves their communities. A recent state and national survey showed that Michigan Broadcasters served their local communities far beyond what is required by the F.C.C. In 1997, Michigan broadcasters donated over $22 million dollars worth of their airtime to their communities, and helped to raise $15.2 million for charitable organizations. A majority of M.A.B. radio stations are Michigan-owned and operated. M.A.B.'s largest category of membership is the small broadcaster. It is in the best interest of all our stations to provide the highest level of community service possible.

It is our assertion that flooding the airwaves with Class D radio licenses will have the opposite effect on what you wish to accomplish. Opening the window to Class D radio stations could:

---Increase the cost of regulating and monitoring the technical standards, which can also be a safety issue, by requiring the expansion of the F.C.C. Who will pay for the cost of all this new bureaucracy? The F.C.C. is already over-burdened, and this would create even more gridlock within the Commission.

---Decrease the professionalism and technical compliance due to the ignorance of new, non-professional owners.

---Upset many Michigan Citizens and Zoning Commissions who have repeatedly proven that they do not want new towers destroying the landscape and their neighborhoods.

---Outlets already exist for new music in local clubs, local cable access channels, college and high school radio stations.

---Cause community service and programming to decline. Increased competition could over-saturate the market. Profits could deteriorate, driving some traditional radio stations out of business, or force them to scale back their overhead to the point that community service will suffer. This is especially true in small markets where the traditional stations could be forced out of business.

We oppose these resolutions because of the adverse affects (sic) they will have on Michigan Broadcasters and the communities that they serve.

Sincerely,
Karole L. White
President, M.A.B.