Gaining Speed

1999’s gotten off to quite an active start for low-power broadcasting in the United States. While a real rule finally legalizing small FM stations remains months (if not years) away, it seems both sides in the battle are taking no chances in getting off to a slow start.
The bad guys are wasting no time attacking the proposed rulemaking and enlisting congressional support as much as possible. The National Association of Broadcasters has named the members of its “Spectrum Integrity Task Force,” who, as a means of public service, I’m providing the names of for your perusal and consideration:

  • Bruce Reese (Chairman) – President/CEO, Bonneville International Corporation
  • Raymond Benedict – Director, Spectrum Engineering & Regulatory Compliance, CBS
  • Michael Carter – President/General Manager, Carter Broadcast Group, Inc.
  • Ed Christian – President/CEO, Saga Communications
  • Diana Coon – Vice President/General Manager, WMAN/WYHT/WSWR
  • Richard Ferguson – Vice President, COO, Cox Radio, Inc.
  • Joe Field – Chairman/CEO, Entercom Broadcast Group
  • Bert Goldman – VP-Engineering, Radio Division, ABC, Inc.
  • William L. McElven – Executive Vice President, Bloomington Broadcast Group
  • Randy Michaels – Chief Executive Officer, Jacor Communications, Inc.
  • Randy Odeneal – General Partner, Sconnix Broadcasting Company
  • J. William Poole – General Manager, WFLS-FM/WYSK-AM/FM
  • McHenry Tichenor – President/CEO, Heftel Broadcasting Group
  • Bayard Walters – President, The Cromwell Group
  • Richard Weening – Executive Chairman, Cumulus Media, Inc.
  • Lawrence Wilson – Presdident/CEO, Citadel Communications Corporation

Looking at this list, and the lack of anyone with experience in engineering or other “spectrum integrity” issues, should make it clear that this is the group of people who will be directing the fight against low-power radio in the United States. If you take the number of executives associated with broadcast groups on this panel and look at the number of radio stations they control, you will see that under these sixteen men is the control of at least half of all radio stations in the United States.
This is a panel of monopolists banding together to look out for their monopoly, nothing more.
Meanwhile, the FCC’s enforcement division continues to investigate unlicensed stations and close them down – at a rate which, if it keeps up, could make 1999 the busiest year ever for LPFM “pirate” busts. Fortunately, it appears the radio cops are softening their tone a bit, doing more visits than equipment seizures. But they’re still taking off the gloves when they have to.
On the other side of the battlefield, the good guys continue to lobby on a scattered level with Congress, with one Representative getting a handful of signatures for his own pro-LPFM letter. Efforts on the local and state government levels show widespread support, though, with everyting from the boards of small bedroom communities to the Detroit City Council supporting the idea.
Free radio stations continue to start up in the face of fines and arrest, and one didn’t even let an equipment seizure slow them down. While Canyon Lake Radio had to move hundreds of miles to stay on the air thanks to the donated facilities of Kind Radio, their broadcasts continue to this day. It’s the most recent show of tangible solidarity between LPFM stations, and it’s a good thing to see.
Things are looking up in the courts as well. The Twin Cities’ Beat Radio just won a round in federal court contesting its equipment seizure. While it doesn’t provide a solid legal foundation for any unlicensed broadcaster to stand on to keep their gear, it is a step in the right direction.
This is just the beginning. The opposition to LPFM is looking to amass its forces and strike quickly against the FCC’s proposed rulemaking before supporters can get organized and make themselves heard. This is where every voice counts. There is a little over a month left for people to file comments on the proposal – this does not have to be anything incredibly detailed or well written, with general thoughts and hopes being just fine.
The FCC needs to hear from the individual – you. After all, the fight is to bring localism and community back into radio, and there isn’t anything more local than one person.
The opposition has vast energy and resources, and has not felt threatened by something in a long time. The sleeping giant is not so sleepy after all – but a slingshot, lots of pebbles and perseverance is the key to victory.