Making Contact With Your Congresscritter

The Amherst Alliance is circulating this friendly reminder that with Representatives and Senators ostensibly home for a week-long break it might not be a bad idea to refresh their memories about pending efforts to expand community radio (both FM and AM).
Four years ago it was election-year shenanigans which allowed the National Association of Broadcasters and National Public Radio to curtail LPFM by legislative fiat. With media issues generally enjoying a higher profile on Capitol Hill there may be an opportunity here – but LPFM/LPAM is now competing with other media interests and issues (like indecency) which have more political flair at the moment.

Congress Pulls Fast One on Media Reform

All the hoopla and hard work this year in Washington, D.C. on the issue of media reform can now officially be declared futile. In the horsetrading sessions typical at the end of a congressional session, provisions unrelated to federal government spending get attached to spending bills – this allows controversial pieces of legislation to clear Congress with little fanfare and controversy.
Congressional allies of media reform incrementally ceded ground to the GOP majority controlling the horsetrading, settling for a single provision attached to a multi-billion dollar spending bill that would restore the FCC’s original television station ownership cap (prohibiting one network from reaching more than 35% of the national TV audience, down from the 45% limit approved by the FCC in June).
But back in the smoke-filled room this week, a “compromise” was reached – instead of restoring the original 35% cap, the “compromise” will prohibit networks from owning stations that reach more than 39% of the country. Continue reading “Congress Pulls Fast One on Media Reform”

Amherst Alliance in Last-Minute Lobby Flurry

Congress is getting ready to wrap up business for the year; work left undone so far includes the rollback of the FCC’s changes to media ownership rules. There’s a quasi-insurrection brewing in the House of Representatives, where 190 congressfolk have signed onto a letter asking Republican leadership to allow a vote on the FCC rollback.
The Amherst Alliance’s Don Schellhardt put together another detailed analysis of where things stand now, and includes helpful boilerplate examples of what to say if you’re inclined to call your representative and urge some action.
The Amherst Alliance has also launched a petition drive to the FCC designed to immediately expand the LPFM service back to its original parameters and request that the FCC protect LPFM stations from digital radio interference. Visit the Amherst Alliance’s web site and sign on, if you can…

October Amendment One: "Halftime" In Washington

Don Schellhardt weighs in with some excellent analysis in October’s hefty Amendment One. He’s got harsh words for Senator John McCain and even harsher words for Kevin Klose and National Public Radio.
McCain may ultimately stall media reform efforts in Congress by protecting his own committee turf, while NPR’s stalling tactic in the FCC’s resolution of the LPFM interference issue has apparently torpedoed a proposed Senate committee hearing on LPFM, which would’ve been chaired by (yes, the same) John McCain last month.
Outside of the folks at Free Press (who are actually being paid to work Capitol Hill), nobody’s got a closer read on the situation than Don. Detail-wise, he’s the man in all respects.

Free Press Kicks off Call Congress Campaign

With reports of the FCC veto effort stalling on Capitol Hill, the lobbying begins again in earnest. These shenanigans often take place as correspondence between congresscritters; one can often gauge the level of political support certain bills have by the number of signatures on a letter of support for it circulating the House or Senate.
Such a letter is now making its way around the House, which is where much of the resistance to this particular media reform campaign is coming from. Free Press continues to gather signatures on its petition to Congress, but now they’d like folks to pick up the phones. Why? Bob McChesney sez because it’s quick, painless and may actually do some good (and the record so far is no small feat):
“If your Representative hasn’t signed it, please call them and ask him/her to do so. Over 120 (out of 435) have signed already. Instructions are provided.”

September Amendment One Parses Politics of Media Reform

In an exhaustive feature this month, the Amherst Alliance’s Don Schellhardt not only breaks down the situation in Congress on the prospects for media reform, but whomps you with charts detailing the latest Senate vote, including a symbol-laden synopsis of each vote-caster’s current political situation. It is a huge mass of information, with a grassroots lobbying tips for your own use sprinkled through.

Courts, Congress Move on FCC Media Rules

As was somewhat expected, the Senate approved a Resolution of Disapproval yesterday which would force the FCC to redo its media ownership rulemaking. I’m with Mediageek on the relative importance of this. More interesting was the Third Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision to retain jurisdiction over the spate of suits seeking to reverse the FCC’s decision.
Prometheus and the Media Access Project are duly pleased with the decision, and rightly so – when Mikey Powell waves his hands and says “don’t blame me, blame Congress and the courts for making me do it,” he speaks partial truth. Continue reading “Courts, Congress Move on FCC Media Rules”

LPFM: Back from the Dead?

Those still hoping for a meaningful low power radio service in the United States received a boost in morale last week when Arizona Senator John McCain introduced the “Low Power Radio Act of 2001.”
The bill, officially named S. 404, would repeal the restrictions placed on the FCC’s new LPFM service by Congress late last year. It would also require the FCC to quickly investigate complaints of interference between new LPFM and full-power stations.
McCain’s legislation also contains a provision designed to keep full-power stations from bullying the new “little guys” around: under his plan, if a complaint is found to be unwarranted, the station who brought the action could be subject to a stiff fine – and the money would be given to the LPFM station targeted by the complaint. Continue reading “LPFM: Back from the Dead?”


LPFM’s Demise
In the waning moments of 2000 Congress has performed a partial abortion of a plan to expand community radio. As part of the federal government’s new budget, the House and Senate have approved a law that trumps the FCC’s authority to move forward with a plan to legalize new low power FM (LPFM) station licenses.
The FCC’s original intent (nearly two years ago) was to create as many as 800 new radio stations around the nation by slightly relaxing interference rules on the FM dial; this plan – and the threat of the competition it would create – mobilized America’s broadcast industry to protect its turf. Commercial broadcasters even teamed up with public radio interests in an unholy alliance never seen before to oppose these potential new voices on the dial. Continue reading “Screwed!”

Moment of Truth

Events taking place in Washington over the next month will determine the fate of the low power radio legalization effort in America.
The FCC approved the new LPFM service in January, and began taking applications for new stations this summer. However, when Congress tentatively approved legislation to severely curtail the new rules, the FCC effectively put all LPFM work on hold, and has temporarily suspended the next application filing window, which was to be opened this week.
The forces fighting for and against low power radio are both gearing up for this final faceoff. The commercial broadcast interests, fueled by deep pockets and close connections on Capitol Hill, are making a final lobbying push to get Congress to kill LPFM through its federal budget approval process. If that doesn’t work, Plan B involves a court challenge to the FCC’s new rules. Continue reading “Moment of Truth”