House votes to expand local community radio

Reclaim the Media:

On Dec. 16, the House of Representatives passed the Local Community Radio Act (HR 1147) by voice vote. The bill would allow for the creation of hundreds, possibly thousands, of new, low power FM (LPFM) radio stations dedicated to broadcasting community news and local perspectives to neighborhoods across the country.

In the Senate, the companion bill has been approved by the Commerce Committee, championed by Senator Maria Cantwell. A full-Senate vote has not yet been scheduled, but is the next and final step for the expansion of LPFM to become law.

Background: the FCC first created the Low Power FM service at the beginning of the decade, in tacit recognition of the fact that deregulation under the 1996 Telecommunications Act had led to a severe drop in local radio ownership, and the virtual extinction of minority ownership. LPFM allowed local community organizations, churches, synagogues, schools and governments to apply for their own small, noncommercial stations broadcasting to their cities and towns.

Almost immediately, however, the broadcasting industry convinced Congress to place strict limits on new low-power stations, citing purported concerns over interference and asking for additional research. After additional study ruled out interference issues, the FCC reiterated their support for Low-Power FM. It took public-interest groups and community activists until this year, however, to successfully get the Local Community Radio Act this far.

The Dec. 16 win in the House is being celebrated as a victory by media activist groups that have worked tirelessly over the last several years to reach this point, including the Prometheus Radio Project, Media Access Project, Reclaim the Media, Future of Music Coalition, the United Church of Christ Office of Communication Inc, the Chicago Independent Radio Project, and community radio aficionados in every part of the country.

article originally published at Reclaim the Media.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey