Radio Cops: Beefup or Breakdown?

Just one day before the Federal Communications Commission approved the creation of a low-power FM service, Chairman William Kennard spoke to a group of telecommunications companies and laid out his vision of what the FCC’s new “enforcement ethic” would be in the year 2000 and beyond.

A couple of months ago, the FCC reorganized its resources and created a whole new Enforcement Bureau – consolidating all of the agency’s enforcement activities into one central organization.

Under the old hierarchy, the regulation of telephones, cable companies and radio stations were handled in different FCC bureaus – and each bureau had its own enforcement agents. Now, those agents share a bureau of their own. Does this portend good or bad news for pirate stations? Read More

All’s Not Well

On the heels of the FCC’s vote to create a low power radio service, advocates of LPFM – who’ve fought long and hard for more than a year on the issue – are celebrating. It’s a well-deserved morale boost, but by no means does the FCC’s action victory.

The war over LPFM is a multi-front battle, and while advocates have made substantial gains in front of the FCC, more dangerous fronts still remain.

The Federal Communications Commission, like any other government agency, operates at the whim of Congress. It is Congress who sets the FCC’s funding level, and it’s Congress who tells the FCC what to do by crafting the laws that imbue the agency with its power. Read More

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