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Feature: The History of LPFM
Part 16

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The FCC in 2001

The Federal Communications Commission, at its highest levels, is also a creature of politics, and when the winds shifted from left to right in the 2000 elections, several high-level officials at the FCC saw the writing on the wall.

The first to leave was FCC Chairman William Kennard. Having been appointed by a Democratic President, he knew his time was running out, and he gracefully resigned before President Clinton left office in January, 2001.

It should be noted that the ruling political party in Washington has ultimate control of the FCC; representatives of that party fill three seats on the five-member Commission.

Newly-inaugurated President George W. Bush tapped FCC Commissioner Michael Powell to chair the Commission. He was one of the two Republican FCC members left over from the Clinton administration, and his industry-friendly decisions, statements and speeches made him a popular pick with the lobbyists.

Powell quickly appointed a vice president from Disney's washington offices to serve as his chief of staff. Powell's father, Colin Powell (Secretary of State), once served on the board of America Online - whose mega-merger with Time Warner was approved, in part, by his son.

Powell did not recuse himself from the merger vote: subsequently, his father's stock interests in AOL soared in value.

Michael Powell is not friendly to low power radio. He was the only Commissioner to split his vote on LPFM's approval. After assuming the role of Chairman, Powell has tendered conservative lip service to the ideals behind low power radio but has not pushed the agency toward implementing the new service.

Ultimately, several hundred new stations may be licensed around the country, but most (if not all) will be located in relatively rural areas. It is a fact that a significant majority of Americans will not be able to pick up any new stations on their dial.

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