Following the recommendations of the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC), the House of Representatives voted to remove
technical restrictions Congress placed on low power radio in 2000 at
the request of commercial broadcasters. These restrictions have kept
low power radio out of the top 50 radio markets, which reach over 160
Because of new requirements for LPFM stations in the 2009 bill, the
National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) dropped its longstanding
opposition to the Local Community Radio Act. These changes require LPFM
stations to resolve interference to other stations, if it were to occur.
“The NAB and NPR have removed their objections and do not oppose
this bill. The time has come to make the airwaves available to the
people they serve. The time has come to give low power to the people,”
said lead cosponsor Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA).
After the bill passes the Senate, the FCC can finally move forward
with the low power radio service, licensing 100-watt stations to
community groups nationwide. Due to the Congressional restrictions, the
FCC was forced to dismiss most of the thousands of applications filed
in 2000 by non-profits, churches, schools, and local governments.
During the House debate of the bill, lead cosponsor Rep. Lee Terry
(R-NE) read a letter from Wes Hall, founder of an Omaha non-profit
seeking a low power station. Hall wrote, “You cannot build a community
without a cohesive voice and this will give a voice to the voiceless.
Low power FM is the beacon that lights up the future for us.”
Low power radio first hit the national spotlight during the
Hurricane Katrina crisis when emergency workers were able to run low
power stations using small generators or car batteries. Gary Galloway,
an emergency responder in Mississippi, used low power radio to
broadcast alerts when storms ravaged his community.
“My team has been deployed to tornado outbreaks, hurricanes, plane
crashes, pipeline explosions, and other disasters that exceed the
capability of local government,” said Galloway, who visited lawmakers
to tell his story. “My experiences have taught me that low power FM is
a crucial tool for Emergency Management to communicate with citizens
when lives and property are in jeopardy.”
Wednesday’s House vote marks the closest the Local Community Radio
Act has been to becoming law since it was first introduced in 2005.
“The offices of Representatives Doyle, Terry, Waxman, and Boucher
have demonstrated incredible leadership in fighting for community
access to the nation’s public airwaves,” said Diane Foglizzo, Campaign
Coordinator for the Prometheus Radio Project. “We’re excited to have
Senators Cantwell and McCain leading the way in the Senate to finally
turn this bill into law.”
The Prometheus Radio Project [www. Prometheusradio.org] is
a Philadelphia-based non-profit organization that advocates for greater
citizen access to the airwaves through the licensing of low power radio
stations. Read more: www.expandlpfm.org.