FCC Legalizes LPFM

Despite massive resistance from the broadcast industry, the Federal Communications Commission has issued a Report and Order creating a low power FM radio service.

Although it cited everything from the massive public demand to the First Amedment to diversity on the airwaves, the Commission was still divided on the issue, and victory was slim. The vote was 3-2 in favor of legalizing LPFM.

However, the new service is not perfect, and will not serve everyone it could have. The full regulations governing LPFM have yet to be completely written, but the general concept is now reality.

The first applications for LPFM stations might be taken as early as May; there will be a five-day filing window for the applications, and the FCC will give a 30-day notice before opening the application window.

Here are the essentials of the new low power FM radio service: Read More

A Chat with Harold

Today Federal Communications Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth gave a talk to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Public Utility Institute. The event was open to the public, so I went. When’s the next chance of a Commissioner showing up in your backyard – especially on the eve of the vote on low power radio?

After his talk was a social reception. As it wound down, I was able to corner Harold and ask about the LPFM proposal and its future. I was up-front about this site and my work, and he was surprisingly cordial and attentive. It was a good discussion.

But what I learned was disappointing. We’ve already covered the severe limitations LPFM will be saddled with, and how its potential will be reduced to nearly zero. But hearing why from the mouth of one of the five Commissioners who will soon make it so was even worse. Read More

Square One

Various news outlets – some radio-related and others mainstream – say the Federal Communications Commission will move toward a vote to make low power FM radio a reality this week. Many advocates who’ve worked long and hard to see this happen are shouting victory.

On the surface, it’s a heady development – but a closer look at the details shows it’s really not much different from the status quo. There is no cause for celebration; we’ve tried to work with the system, and – mark my words – it will let us down.

Whatever happens this week, it will be one big lie. Read More

Radio – With Video?

If you spin the radio dial to the very bottom of the FM band in Anchorage, Alaska – and then go a little lower – you’ll find a pleasant surprise. There’s a radio station there.

Broadcasting on 87.7 MHz with 920 watts of power, KZND ‘The End’ is causing quite a stir in Anchorage. It was first stumbled upon by an intrepid newspaper columnist and offers “alternative music” to the masses.

But the KZND is out-of-bounds. The FCC says any FM radio station must fall on a frequency between 88 and 108 MHz, and must have a minimum broadcast power of 100 watts. KZND, by broadcasting on 87.7, falls outside the parameters the FCC allows for legal radio broadcasting. Read More

Back in Black

Doug Brewer has a thriving radio equipment sales and repair business, but his main love has always been his radio station, 102.1 – Tampa’s Party Pirate. After two years of silence following a brutal raid by the authorities, Brewer is risking it all to take back the airwaves around his Florida home.

At a scaled-back 125 watts and a smaller antenna, the Party Pirate may not be as loud a voice as before, but the fact that it’s back at all is a feat in itself.

In an interview conducted via e-mail, Brewer says it wasn’t a tough decision to go back on the air. “We were already ready. The (new station) site was developed the same week that they raided us 2 years ago.”

“The hardest thing was to resist the urge to turn the transmitter back on for two years,” admits Doug. “I guess I just felt it was time to do it, and since it’s only about a month to Y2K, well, the timing just seemed right.” Read More