Victory! Spokane LPFM KYRS will stay on the air

[Statement from the office of Senator Cantwell]

The Federal Communications Commission today approved KYRS radio's bid to move from 95.3 FM to 89.9 FM, ensuring that the Spokane-area low-power FM station can remain on the air. After the FCC initially indicated that the move might violate existing low-power FM statues, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) asked the Congressional Research Service to examine whether the Commission correctly interpreted the law on which it based its concerns. The resulting report, which Cantwell forwarded to the FCC, determined that the bid for a frequency change by KYRS did not violate current statutes governing low-power FM. The report gave the Commission the flexibility to allow KYRS to change frequencies. In its approval of the move, announced Wednesday, the FCC determined that the frequency change is in the public interest. Cantwell has long worked to encourage media diversity and support low-power FM radio, and has teamed up with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) to back legislation that would encourage more community radio stations.

"This decision will keep another voice in the Spokane media market and encourage a wider range of views here in the Inland Northwest," said Cantwell, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the FCC. "This is especially important during a time when our country is seeing a race toward mass media consolidation. Here in Washington state, we have 15 low-power FM stations, and this number might soon grow. I m going to keep fighting to remove the artificial barriers that keep these stations off the air because local, community-based stations are key to preserving media diversity."

"We are so grateful for the senator's tenacity on our behalf," said KYRS Station Manager Lupito Flores. "We 'e been under threat of encroachment by an out-of-state commercial station for more than a year, worrying whether we would be able to stay on the air. Senator Cantwell should be commended for working with the FCC to find a solution that is good for everyone. The senator is a great champion for Low-Power FM community radio, and we really appreciate all she's done for our little community radio station."

KYRS, a 100-Watt low-power Spokane station among the largest and most successful low-power FM stations in the country, reaches over 300,000 people through its primary signal at 95.3 FM and a translator station operating at 92.3 FM. However, in September 2003, the FCC granted KPND a full-power Idaho station also broadcasting on 95.3 FM a construction permit to build a new broadcast facility closer to Spokane. This new facility will increase the station's broadcast power, allowing it to reach the Spokane market while still serving its primary market in Sandpoint, Idaho. Once KPND completes the facility, its signal at 95.3 FM will cause harmful interference with the KYRS signal. Because FCC rules clearly state that a low-power FM station can receive interference from a full-power station, but cannot cause interference to the full-power station, the new KPND antenna would mean an end to KYRS unless the station moved its primary signal to another frequency. The FCC decision allowing KYRS to move its primary signal to 89.9 FM means the station can stay on the air after the completion of the new KPND antenna. KEWU-FM (Eastern Washington University) and KHQ-TV (Channel 6) both agreed to the move as well.

Cantwell has worked to encourage media diversity and support low-power FM radio. In 2004, Cantwell joined a bipartisan coalition of her colleagues, including Senator McCain, to introduce a bill that would lead to growth in the number of low-power FM radio stations nationwide. In 2005, Cantwell and McCain introduced the Local Community Radio Act to expand low-power FM service and include additional protections to radio reading service for the visually impaired. Cantwell and McCain were able to add this legislation as an amendment to a broader communications bill approved by the Senate Commerce Committee in June.

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