The Yugoslav Crackdown on Free Radio

All good things must come to an end, and it appears that’s the case with Yugoslavia’s B92. The Belgrade broadcasters had been an unlicensed, full-service community radio station in every sense of the word.

When the NATO air campaign began, B92’s importance changed significantly. Only hours before the first bombs fell, Yugoslav authorities confiscated B92’s transmitter and arrested and detained its founder for about eight hours.

The station wasn’t intimidated, though: it became a coveted source of information to the rest of the world from inside a country under political siege. Internet and satellite uplinks from B92 staffers continued – until Friday. Read More

Free Radio Under Fire

Standing center-stage in the world headlines right now is the current NATO military campaign against Yugoslav military targets in the province of Kosovo. Ideology and other issues aside, information as to what’s happening inside the country right now is sketchy, as all journalists from NATO countries have been expelled from the province and from other key locations in Yugoslavia where regular updates on action can be obtained.

Fortunately for the world, and not so for the Serbian-controlled government, intrepid broadcasters who’ve been counteracting state-controlled media influence are right in the thick of things. And this isn’t just a ragtag bunch of activists looking to make a statement, staring at official letters threatening court action or fines.

These “pirate” broadcasters have it all on the line – and the risk could be life or death. Read More

Less is More

The FCC’s initial proposal for LPFM radio stations calls for 1000 watts of power as the highest level available. A second class of stations, called the LP-100, would broadcast with a maximum of 100 watts. Meanwhile, there’s a third class of proposed stations called the LP-10.

LP-10 stations are currently proposed as a secondary-type service, which means they could be forced to shut down at the near-whim of a higher-powered station. The plus side is that LP-10 licenses will be the least restrictive, which will allow for much more flexibility in programming, scheduling and economic needs of operation.

The scary thing is not the importance placed on such a type of service, but the silence to its proposal itself. Most comments filed so far have only dealt with the higher-wattage station classes, almost completely neglecting the LP-10. Read More

First Skirmish

Things may seem like they’re moving at a quick pace, but this is just a flurry of activity before great lull before the next Big Phase in the legalization of low-power FM.

While supporters of a low-power radio service continue to work on their comments and enlightening more people to what may lie on their radio dial, the National Association of Broadcasters is finally grinding into motion. The first meeting of its LPFM “war council,” otherwise known as the Spectrum Integrity Task Force, met last week, undoubtedly laying out the long-term strategy in the fight against legalization.

On the NAB’s own website duscission boards, LPFM doesn’t appear to be drawing much interest. A whopping two posts have been made about the subject, touting all the economic harm that LPRS will supposedly do to “small” stations. Not even a clap from the audience. Either most commercial broadcasters today are woefully Internet-illiterate or don’t really much care about LPFM becoming a reality.

The NAB has a request to extend the deadline for comments and replies on the LPFM proposal until October, which would effectively keep all possible movement forward on the idea bottled up for at least another six months. It claims it wants to use the time to do “studies” on what “interference” LPFM may cause its members’ over-valued “broadcast properties.”

Translated, this means two things: the first is manufacture a “spin” on the technical data – painting as terrible a picture of signal interference as it can. The second is to lobby as much support in Congress as possible for a potential end run around the FCC completely.

LPFM proponents haven’t been napping, either. The Amherst Alliance, frustrated with all of the delays in action, fired off written correspondence to the FCC in tones that were not completely diplomatic on the issue:

5 months passed from the initial RM-9208 Notice in February of 1998 to the closing of the comment period in July of 1998. After that, another 6 months passed from the close of comments to the issuance of a Proposed Rule in late January of 1999. Read More

Gaining Speed

1999’s gotten off to quite an active start for low-power broadcasting in the United States. While a real rule finally legalizing small FM stations remains months (if not years) away, it seems both sides in the battle are taking no chances in getting off to a slow start.

The bad guys are wasting no time attacking the proposed rulemaking and enlisting congressional support as much as possible. The National Association of Broadcasters has named the members of its “Spectrum Integrity Task Force,” who, as a means of public service, I’m providing the names of for your perusal and consideration: Read More