Senate committee says yes to Low-Power FM

[Prometheus Radio Project statement]

Senate Bill 1675, the bill designed to 'implement the recommendations of the Federal Communications Commission regarding Low Power FM', was introduced by Senators John McCain (R-AZ), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA). This bill is designed to allow thousands more Low Power FM community radio stations to reach Americans in cities, and all across the country.

The Senate Commerce Committee had moved twice in the past to expand low power FM radio opportunities to community groups in America's cities. This year, the bill is accompanied by a strong House of Representatives companion (House Bill 2802, sponsored by Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Lee Terry (R-NE)) with 55 cosponsors, and diverse bipartisan support from Georgia to Guam.

This unusual bipartisan partnership, and this successful movement of the bill into the full Congress, came about as a result of the enthusiastic and energized grassroots advocacy of Americans frustrated with the poor quality of media across the country.

"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 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."

Over 800 Low Power FM (LPFM) radio stations currently serve communities across the United States, but almost every city and suburban area in the United States lost their chance to build their own community radio stations when Congress limited the service, at the demand of big broadcasters. Corporate lobbying interests such as the National Association of Broadcasters had curtailed the expansion of the LPFM service, keeping these non-commercial, completely local stations from being built in all but one of the top 50 markets in the US. If the Local Community Radio Act becomes law, hundreds, if not thousands, of these stations will reach American communities.

"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, Inc. "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."

This vote comes the day before the FCC will hold a public hearing on localism in Washington DC, the fifth in a series of six public hearings the FCC has held over the past year. It also follows close on the heels of Chairman Kevin Martin's Oct 18th announcement that he plans an FCC vote on dismantling remaining media ownership rules by the end of the year. The Commission has drawn wide fire for this decision, from civil rights leaders and community groups, as well as legislators.

"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.

"Low power FM radio is one strong tool that we can use to fight media consolidation," said Prometheus program director Hannah Sassaman. "The big broadcasters can try to keep us down, but we will fight to make sure our legislators listen to local civil rights, school, neighborhood, and community groups -- and we will build local radio stations that are accountable to us.

Many groups came together to support this fight to expand low power FM, including the Alliance for Community Media, Common Cause, the United Methodist Office of Communications, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Future of Music Coalition, the Media Access Project, Reclaim the Media, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, Free Press, the United States Public Interest Research Group, the Christian Coalition, the United Church of Christ, Office of Communication, Inc., Consumers Union, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and many more organizations.

To find out more about the Prometheus Radio Project and it's organizers' and allies' efforts to bring diverse, community media to America and the global community, visit

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