LPFM: Offensive and Defensive Victories

Late last week, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the National Association of Broadcasters’ appeal to have FCC-tweaks made over the years to the LPFM service thrown away. In a nutshell, the NAB claimed that the FCC’s moves to make LPFM stations more equal to others on the dial, and to provide remedial efforts in the case where an LPFM’s existence is in jeopardy by another (larger) station, overstepped the statutory bounds of the LPFM service as dictated by Congress in 2001.
In an 18-page ruling, the D.C. Circuit basically tells the NAB to stuff it: “Congress did not intend to restrain the Commission’s authority to respond to new circumstances potentially threatening LPFM stations other than with respect to third-adjacent channel minimum separation requirements.” Administratively, the Court could find no grounds to back the NAB’s objections. Radio World says the trade organization “is studying the decision and its options,” but the smart money is this horse is dead.
Why? Because the momentum is growing to pass a bill to expand LPFM anyway, and do away with most (but not all) of the restrictions placed on the service by Congressional fiat eight years ago. Recently, the Prometheus Radio Project scheduled a hybrid street-theatre/lobbying day in D.C., of which they made this cool video. The scuttlebutt is that the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet may vote soon to move the Local Community Radio Act up for full House Commerce Committee consideration. One of its sponsors, Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) told the Prometheus-organized policy briefing that “once we get this through the committee and onto the floor, I think we’ll just sail it through the House.”
The NAB is not the well-connected political juggernaut that it was close to a decade ago. If it has any sense it’ll save its legal ammo in an attempt to try and challenge the LCRA if it becomes law (what’s happening in the Senate with the bill is still a bit murky; the House version has 54 cosponsors, the Senate’s version six). Not like that will be a fruitful challenge, but hell, it will fight what is basically no threat to its constituents’ existence out principle. The NAB is just like that.