LPFM 3rd Adjacent Bill Makes Progress

The Senate Commerce Committee has opened the door to having thousands more LPFM radio stations on the air, not only in rural communities but also in major markets across the country. Some 800 LPFM stations ranging in power from 10-to-100-watts are scattered across the country
but are generally licensed in rural or small markets where their signals don't bump up against the mega sticks that have 50,000-watts or more of power.

By a consensus vote, the committee on Tuesday (Oct. 30) cleared the Local Community Radio Act of 2007 (S.1675) to be sent on to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office, where it could be scheduled for a full Senate vote, probably sometime early next year. The Senate currently faces a back-log of budget and funding bills that require its immediate attention.

The bill removes third adjacency protections from the FCC's current LPFM guidelines and opens the spectrum to thousands more noncommercial and religious groups, who can now apply to the commission for licenses. The Act, introduced in June by Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and supported by John McCain (R-Ariz.), notes that "through the creation of LPFM, the commission sought to create opportunities for new voices
on the airwaves and to allow local groups, including schools, churches and other community-based organizations, to provide programming responsive to local community needs and interests."

"Low Power FM radio was limited back in 2000, when the big
broadcasters tried to convince America that 100-watt community radio stations would interfere with the biggest stations in America's biggest cities," said Prometheus Radio Project technical director Pete Tridish. "At Congress' demand, the FCC proved that there was plenty of room for low power FM radio. With today's vote, and with the growing momentum to expand low power FM radio in the House of Representatives, communities across the country have a reason to celebrate."

"The United Church of Christ has supported low power radio from the beginning," said Cheryl Leanza, managing director of the United Church of Christ, Office of Communication. "We support this legislation, which, if passed, would mean more churches, community groups and schools around the country will be able to reach out to their local communities."

The bill, which has strong bipartisan backing, is mirrored by a companion bill in the House of Representatives (HR 2802) by the same name, which was also introduced on June 21, sponsored by Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) and Lee Terry (R-Neb.) along with 55 cosponsors, and also has strong bipartisan support.

The NAB has conducted a stealth lobbying campaign against reducing adjacency protections over major concerns about non-professional broadcasters and engineers operating beyond their permitted power levels and frequency allotments and interfering with established commercial outlets that have sizable audiences who rely on the clarity of their radio signals.

"We are obviously opposed to this bill's passage because of the interference implications to millions of radio listeners," NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton told R&R as he boarded a flight to Washington from Dallas, where the NAB board of directors held two days of meetings.

"Putting LPFM licenses in the hands of communities where local voices are being silenced by large national radio chains is a step in the right direction. Finally community members across the nation will have an alternative to McRadio," said Joel Kelsey, a spokesperson for Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports.

In its subtext, the measure notes that the FCC "made clear that the creation of LPFM would not compromise the integrity of the FM radio band by stating, `We are committed to creating a low-power FM radio service only if it does not cause unacceptable interference to existing radio service.'"

Earlier this month, FCC chairman Kevin Martin emphasized that statement and said he would support the Senate's efforts to open up the dial to more LPFM stations.

Currently, FM translator stations can operate on the second- and third-adjacent channels to full-power radio stations, up to an effective radiated power of 250 watts, using the very same transmitters that LPFM stations will use. The Senate bill notes that the FCC based its LPFM rules on the actual performance of these translators that already operate without undue interference to FM stations. "The actual interference record of these translators is far more useful than any results that further testing could yield."

Proponents of the bill believe that LPFM stations have proven to be a vital source of information during local or national emergencies. "Out of the few stations that were able to stay online during Katrina, several were LPFM stations. In Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, LPFM station WQRZ remained on the air during Hurricane Katrina and served
as the Emergency Operations Center for Hancock County," reports the comment section of the measure passed by the commerce committee.

Backers of the measure also argue that it expands the opportunities to give a voice to women and minority groups that have difficulty getting funding to buy expensive, full-power radio stations.

(Thanks to Nexus Broadcasting for passing this to us)