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Feature: The History of LPFM
Part 8

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High-Power Broadcasters React to Low Power Radio

The National Associaton of Broadcasters, the industry's main muscle in Washington, D.C., paid attention to the massive uprising in "pirate radio" during the late 1990s. As early as 1997, the NAB declared war on unlicensed broadcasters, urging its members to scan their local radio dials and turn in any pirates they could find.

Simultaneously, with its massive lobbying resources and financial backing, the NAB began hitting the FCC hard with criticism. After all, it was one of the major masterminds behind the Telecommunications Act of 1996. If it could craft an entirely new law of the land, it should surely be able to crush a small revolt challenging its effects.

The chairman of one of the Congressional committees that oversees the FCC's budget, Louisiana Representative Billy Tauzin, received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the NAB. He threatened to cut the FCC's funding if it continued to consider re-legalizing low power radio.

The radio industry claimed that allowing such stations on the air would not only create massive interference to their operations, but threatened the economic stability of many stations.

Neither of these arguments made much sense - the "traditional" FM radio station operates with a power measured in the thousands of watts. Low power stations operate with wattages much smaller than that. If anything, the bigger station would interfere with the smaller one.

The buzz-phrase surrounding the NAB's primary argument was
"spectrum efficiency" - ironically, the same phrase the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (who also officially opposed RM-9208 and 9242) used back in 1972 to convince the FCC to outlaw low power FM radio in the first place.

In the meantime, the commercial radio industry was thriving like never before.  The consolidation and streamlining of operational costs took revenues to an all-time high. But listenership was in decline, and the number of unlicensed low power stations continued to grow.

There was a fundamental problem with the turn radio had taken: traditional broadcasters sensed the dissatisfaction in the public with the product it presented and were afraid they would be forced to change their ways away from maximizing profits and minimizing substance.

After hearing both sides of the argument on RM-9208 and 9242, and faced with the increasing flood of unlicensed stations taking to the airwaves, the FCC chose to begin the process of resurrecting a licensed low power radio service.

Next page --> FCC Proposes Re-Legalization -->
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