The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) held their annual conference this year in Las Vegas, and high on their agenda was what to do with those pesky microbroadcasters, or “pirates” as they like to call these crusaders of the airwaves. FCC officials turned out to this event en masse, for it is the NAB who really controls the FCC, not Congress. The FCC spent much time telling the NAB what they wanted to hear: that the FCC is on a single-minded mission to obliterate microbroadcasters from the airwaves and save the precious NAB corporate monopoly. FCC Chairman William Kennard, however, in an interesting comment, indicated that he was not averse to licensing small, micropower stations. “Let me be clear about one thing,” he admonished an old NAB broadcaster at the FCC Chairman’s Breakfast. “Let’s not confuse pirate radio with microbroadcasting.” Is this a sign of the FCC finally cracking, or simply another example of straddling the fence? Will the NAB’s monopoly over the airwaves finally be toppled?
Pete triDish is one of the driving forces behind West Philadelphia’s Radio Mutiny, and the founder of the Prometheus Radio Project. He’s got a very well-thought out way of thinking about the potential for legal low power radio. Read on:
There has been an ongoing debate in the micropower radio community as to whether or not a legalized micro-radio service should allow for locally owned, commercial stations. Advocates for allowing small-time businesses having stations raise a number of compelling arguments. One is that these small stations would be an excellent business opportunity for minority-owned stations which would serve markets that are currently ignored as a result of the artificially high hurdle to get involved in broadcasting. Indeed, we have already seen this in the example of a station like Hippolito Cuevas’s station in Connecticut – a station that was very quickly accepted by the Latino community, in a town where a fourth of the population is Latino and there is no Spanish language radio. Cuevas makes the argument that there would be no way for him to make his station work without some commercial revenues. He says that the commercials that he would take – for example, from local stores that could never afford the outrageous rates of regular stations – are in fact a form of community service. A growing number of entrepreneurs are becoming interested in this possibility, and the few hints that the FCC has dropped about what sort of proposal it might accept for a legalized micro service have mentioned minority entrepreneurship as a major factor.
The following is the text of a broadcast fax sent late last week to commercial stations nationwide. Radio Ink is one of the largest magazine publications in the broadcast industry.
AN URGENT ONE-TIME FAX FROM RADIO INK PUBLISHER ERIC RHOADS. APRIL 23, 1998
ATTENTION: Please forward to the highest ranking official in your station immediately.
In every FCC action brought against micropower broadcasters Part 15 has always been cited. Given the FCC’s own definitions this is a blatant misapplication of their own regulatory structure.
First let us examine the definition of a FM broadcast station under Part 73:
FM broadcast station. A station employing frequency modulation in the FM broadcast band and licensed primarily for the transmission of radio-telephone emissions intended to be received by the general public. (§ 73.310 FM technical definitions.)
Note the operative phrase “to be received by the general public”. Even though micropower stations are non-licensed their emissions are intended to be received by the general public. Further, they operate in the FM broadcast band and employ frequency modulation. Therefore, they are an FM broadcast station as defined by 73.310.
RM-9208 PETITIONERS ASK FCC FOR SUSPENSION OF PROSECUTIONS
by Don Schellhardt
The RM-9208 Petitioners (Nick Leggett, Judith Leggett and Don Schellhardt) ask the Federal Communications Commission for a suspension of microbroadcasting prosecutions.
EXCERPTS FROM THE LEGGETT/SCHELLHARDT SPECIAL COMMENTS
We ask the Commission to take the following steps:
1. Suspend all ongoing microbroadcasting prosecutions until such time as the Commission has: (a) adopted a final rule which legalizes some or all microbroadcasting stations; OR (b) decided and announced that it will not legalize any such stations.