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Amendment One: Enter Low Power AM!

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by Don Schellhardt

December 8, 2003

Supplement: Model Filing to the FCC's Localism Task Force

In the last edition of this column, we reported that two groundbreaking Petitions For Rulemaking have been filed with the FCC. Both Petitions were filed with the FCC’s Office of the Secretary, via the Commission’s Capitol Heights facility, but were also filed electronically in FCC Docket RM-10803: the Docket for the FCC ’s new Localism Task Force.

Now, we can report that additional action was taken, on December 5, to advance one of these Petitions: the Petition For Rulemaking, filed by Fred Baumgartner, C.P.B.E. of Colorado, to establish a new Low Power AM Radio Service. On that date, Joint Written Comments were filed in Docket RM-10803 by THE LPAM TEAM: a new organization of aspiring LPAM broadcasters and other LPAM advocates.

THE LPAM TEAM is chaired by Kyle Drake of Minnesota. He also chairs THE CITIZENS BROADCAST BAND DISCUSSION GROUP (CBBDG), a group of individual broadcasters, and manages the Amherst Web Site. Although THE LPAM TEAM is affiliated with THE AMHERST ALLIANCE, the group is largely independent in its operations. A large minority of its Members are not Members of Amherst.

NOW the FCC’s Localism Task Force needs to hear from OTHERS who support Low Power AM … and/or translator and Service Status reform for Low Power FM … and/or action to offset the effects of interference from In Band On Channel (IBOC) Digital Radio … and/or repeal of third adjacent channel spacing requirements for Low Power FM.

To this end, a SUPPLEMENT to this article sets forth A “MODEL” FILING you can use as a starting point for your own Written Comments in Docket RM-10803. To make it easier, the filing uses a letter format.

"Take what you want and leave the rest," but please file SOMETHING.

In its own Joint Written Comments of December 5, THE LPAM TEAM endorsed the Baumgartner LPAM Petition. However, the group also offered several recommendations for improving the Baumgartner proposal. These recommendations include the following:

1. Establish a Primary Service Status for LPAM stations to protect them from being displaced by new or relocating full power stations.

2. Eliminate the Petition’s proposed requirement that 60% or more of an LPAM station’s air time must be manned, rather than automated -- adopting instead the current “minimum locally originated content” requirement for LPFM stations.

3. Eliminate the Petition’s proposed requirement that no LPAM station may broadcast more than 85 hours a week.

4. Require minimum mileage separations between LPAM stations, to prevent LPAM-to-LPAM interference, or at least establish an FCC mechanism for resolving LPAM-to-LPAM interference disputes that might occur.

5. Reduce, modestly, the Petition’s proposed minimum mileage separations between LPAM stations and full power stations … The currently proposed minimum mileage separations assume that all LPAM stations will have the best possible ground conductivity (30, compared to an estimated Lower 48 average of 8 or less) and then adds a safety margin of 200%.

6. Keep the Petition’s two proposed classes of LPAM stations -- LPAM-30 (up to 30 watts) in most areas, and LPAM-100 (up to 100 watts) in less densely populated areas -- but allow licensing of LPAM-100 stations in areas in which up to 40,000 people (rather than 20,000 people, as now proposed) live within a 5-mile radius of the station.

7. Consider the possibility of allowing LPAM stations to go above 100 watts in extremely rural areas.

THE LPAM TEAM accepted the Petition’s call for allowing individuals, as well as groups, to gain LPAM licenses. Also accepted was the Petition’s call for allowing LPAM stations the option of airing commercials.

For a copy of the Team’s Joint Written Comments, and/or for a copy of the Baumgartner LPAM Petition itself, please contact Kyle Drake, Chairman of THE LPAM TEAM, at

If you want to join and/or assist THE LPAM TEAM, which currently has no Annual Membership Dues, Kyle is the person to contact as well.

If you want to join and/or assist THE AMHERST ALLIANCE, which I currently chair, the Annual Membership Dues are $20.00 for individuals (including Part 15 broadcasters and aspiring LPFM or LPAM broadcasters) … $35.00 for non-profit organizations (other than licensed radio stations) … and $50.00 for licensed Low Power Radio stations (with a Construction Permit). For more information, visit the Amherst Web Site at or contact me at

However … whatever else you may do, please read the “Model” Filing in the SUPPLEMENT that accompanies this article … and make your views known to the FCC’s Localism Task Force, via your own filing in FCC Docket RM-10803.

Supplement: Model Filing to the FCC's Localism Task Force


As I write these words, Congress is engaged in a Special Session to consider a massive Appropriations (that is, spending) bill to fund several Federal agencies and Departments. Included in the latest version of that bill is language which would leave alone the FCC’s recent increase in media cross-ownership ceilings -- but would mandate a partial “rollback”, from 45% to 39%, of the FCC’s recent increase in national TV ownership ceilings. The House version of the bill had contained a full rollback, from 45% to 35%, but the House/Senate Conference Committee changed the number from 35% to 39%.

It just so happens that 39% is the exact percentage needed to protect certain TV broadcasters from mandatory divestiture of TV stations, and/or other penalties, for illegally going to a 39% market share when the legal limit was still 35%.

So much for the GOP as the party of “law and order” …

In any event, one persistent error in the current media reports needs to be corrected. The mass media and the trade media alike have been depicting the 39% figure as a “compromise.”

However, the latest legislative language is “a compromise” only in the narrowest sense of that word. The language is a “compromise” between the conservative Republican leaders in Congress, who wanted to leave the recently boosted cross-media ownership ceilings totally untouched, and President Bush, who also wanted to leave the recently boosted cross-media ownership ceilings totally untouched, but wanted to leave the recently boosted TV ownership ceilings totally untouched as well.

President Bush had repeatedly threatened to veto any bill which overturned any part of the FCC’s June 2 decision to ease media ownership ceilings. He finally agreed not to veto the bill after the House/Senate Conferees had agreed to protect some of his key corporate campaign contributors, in the broadcasting industry, from the legal consequences of breaking the law.

Interestingly enough, had the conservative Republican leaders in Congress decided to call the President’s bluff, it is virtually certain that the President’s veto would have been overridden. However, such a veto override vote would have made more visible than ever how many individual Republicans in Congress are willing to break ranks with the President on media ownership issues. Needless to say, the Republican leaders of Congress must have been terrified by the thought of revealing in public how many Republican legislators do not agree with their Fearless Leader.

This “compromise” does not extend to Democratic Party leaders in either the House or the Senate. They now view their Republican counterparts as guilty of “welching on a deal” to restore the 35% cap on TV ownership. They are so angry that this week they are trying to kill the current spending bill completely, sending everyone back one step, rather than go along with the 39% cap on TV ownership -- or with another new provision, also added by the Conference Committee, that overturns overtime legislation passed by both Houses of Congress this summer.

While not nearly as visible to the public, the “compromise” also leaves out many individual Republican legislators who are again being asked to take the unpopular side of an issue -- for the sake of a President who, obviously, does not mind using them as “cannon fodder”
in his battles with the general public. How long will such Congressional Republicans continue to “fall on their sword” for a national leader who is not worthy of them? And -- how long will they keep on re-electing Congressional party leaders who really don’t care what they think?

They should take some advice from a former Republican: me.

The leaders of the Republican Party need to start paying more attention to their own rank-and-file voters than they pay to their corporate campaign contributors. The Republican joy ride could end as early as 2004, if -- in the words of former Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) -- the Democrats “offer a choice, not an echo.”

Senator Goldwater, incidentally, also said this, in the midst of the first Bush Administration: “The modern Republican Party is being built on sand. It’s going to be in really big trouble if the Democratic Party ever gets a new idea.”

Supplement: Model Filing to the FCC's Localism Task Force


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