NAB using dishonest tactics to hold back community radio bill

by Paul Riismandel, Radio Survivor

The National Association of Broadcasters has never been a friend to low-power community radio. Back in 2000, when the FCC first created the service, the NAB did everything it could to try and keep it from becoming a reality. While the broadcast lobby failed to stop it outright, the NAB did succeed in getting Congress to significantly curtail LPFM with a last-minute attachment to an omnibus budget bill passed in December of that year. One of the weapons the NAB used was a bogus CD that purported to demonstrate harmful interference caused by low-power stations, that was later disproved by an independent report ordered by Congress.

While the NAB isn’t pushing the interference claim quite as hard this time around, the lobby hasn’t given up on using disinformation. Radio Survivor has obtained an email sent out to unnamed Senators by the NAB on November 30 in which the organization claims that the Local Community Radio Act (S.592) isn’t even necessary to put more LPFM stations on the air. Without explanation or evidence, in the email the NAB claims that,

Currently, thousands of slots are available across the country for new low power stations. The Federal Communications Commission could license these frequencies to any group or organization today, without any change in policy.

Quite simply, that contention is untrue. However, even if there are some unused LPFM-appropriate frequencies in sparsely populated areas, more important is the fact that the Local Community Radio Act aims to permit LPFM stations in cities where there are none, because they are not permitted under the existing, curtailed rules.

Apparently the NAB is using this claim as part of its campaign to get Republican senators to place anonymous holds on the bill, and it seems to be working. Four previously anonymous holders were identified so far this year, and once their names were out in the open, the holds disappeared. At least one good reason for this is that once the Senator placing the hold is known pro-LPFM groups can reach out to him and provide the whole story.

The last one outed was Wyoming Sen. Joe Barrasso, who released his hold a few weeks ago. But there are still more anonymous holds keeping the bill from moving forward for a proper vote by the full Senate.

With less than a month left in this session of Congress time is running out to pass the Local Community Radio Act. The Prometheus Radio Project is asking LPFM advocates to call the president of the NAB, Gordon Smith, and ask him to “please stop blocking LPFM.” His number is 202-429-5449. Prometheus is also asking anyone who calls to let them know how the call went by emailing them at info@prometheusradio.org.

The full text of the NAB email to senators:

From: National Association of Broadcasters [mailto:gr@nab.org]
Sent: Tuesday, November 30, 2010 12:06 PM
To:
Subject: Broadcaster concerns with S.592

Your office may have heard recently from some organizations regarding S.592 – the Local Community Radio Act.

As currently drafted, S. 592 is of concern to your local broadcasters. In an effort to ensure reliable protections against signal interferences, the radio broadcasting industry has been working to ensure modest changes to the legislative language. Despite this, proponents are trying to push the bill through the Senate.

While supporters of S.592 may have expressed a desire for expanding low power radio licenses, please know that there are many other voices in this debate and an expansion of licenses needs to be balanced against existing low and full power operators. Currently, thousands of slots are available across the country for new low power stations. The Federal Communications Commission could license these frequencies to any group or organization today, without any change in policy.

We hope you will keep these facts in mind and the concerns of your local broadcasters as you review this legislation. For more information, feel free to contact the National Association of Broadcasters Government Relations department at (202) 429-7150.

article originally published at Radio Survivor.

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