Trumped in Congress
By the fall of 2000, the broadcast industry's legion of sympathetic votes in Congress had grown substantially. It got the House of Representatives to approve the "Radio Preservation Act" by a substantial margin, and it looked like the votes were coming together in the Senate.
But rather than risking debate on the Senate floor, as battles over the Federal Budget ran into overtime, the NAB convinced Minnesota Senator Rod Grams to attach the anti-LPFM bill to a spending measure funding the FCC and other federal agencies.
On a voice vote alone, this spending bill was approved in December, 2000, and the controversy over the presidential election obscured any scrutiny. Lame-duck president Bill Clinton could not veto the entire budget bill just because of the LPFM "rider," so he signed it into law.
Over at the FCC, more than a thousand applications for new low power radio stations had already been sent in, filed under the program's original, less-restrictive rules.
Due to the Congressional meddling in the LPFM service, well more than half - a number FCC Chairman Kennard estimated at more than 80% - of those applications had to be thrown out, just a few bureaucratic steps away from becoming new community voices.
Following the defeat, several Congressfolk who backed the industry cutback in the LPFM plan were either voted out or retired from office. Minnesota Senator Rod Grams, who acted as the front-man for the poison pill, was ousted in a close election.
As Republicans assumed near-complete control of the federal government in 2001, the prospects for low power radio to flourish grew dimmer.
Republican Congressfolk were more likely than not to support the radio industry's position on low power radio. This did not deter Senator McCain from attempting to right the wrong. McCain was incensed that the jurisdiction of his Senate Commerce Committee was bypassed during the Federal Budget process.
In late February, 2001, McCain introduced the "Low Power Radio Act of 2001," which would undo the damage the broadcast lobby did to the new LPFM service. The bill would repeal the restrictions forced on LPFM while shielding new stations from potential legal harassment from large corporate radio outlets.
Unfortunately, LPFM was already
a dead issue in D.C., and the bill went nowhere.