Multiple Threats

As groups get organized and prepare to apply for an LPFM license when the first opportunities come around in May, opposition to the new service is growing and attacking from multiple directions.
There are three threats which pose significant immediate danger to the new LPFM service. Each one is unique, and each one could shut the service down before it even starts.
The first threat is Congress. Rep. Mike Oxley’s (R-OH) “Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act of 1999” continues to draw more co-sponsors; it’s very likely that by the end of February, anti-LPFM forces will have mustered over half the votes they need to get the bill through the House of Representatives.
This Thursday, February 17, a special hearing on the FCC’s “spectrum management responsibilities” will be held in front of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee (the group of lawmakers with direct oversight of the FCC).
Oxley’s anti-LPFM bill is expected to be the major topic of discussion. So far only the Amherst Alliance has been invited to testify in favor of the service. At least a few dozen witnesses are expected to testify against LPFM. Ironically, one of those will be Kevin Klose, the current president of National Public Radio.
Meanwhile, Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) is still putting the final touches on a companion bill to kill LPFM. This is expected to be introduced before the end of February.
The second major threat is in the courts. The National Association of Broadcasters have retained the services of the Washington, D.C. offices of Jenner and Block to file a lawsuit to block the implementation of the LPFM service. The NAB plans to argue that the FCC “acted irrationally” when it approved LPFM.
The lawsuit will be filed as soon as the Federal Register (the government’s official record of business) publishes the announcement about FCC’s LPFM action. That announcement (and the filing of the lawsuit) could come as early as this week.
The NAB’s goal here is two-fold: the first is to postpone the initial application window for a matter of months. Second, the NAB will then attempt to get the court to overturn the LPFM decision – The lead attorney on the NAB’s case doesn’t think the case will be a “slam-dunk,” but he’s optimistic he can prevail.
The third – and newest – threat is a major spectrum land-grab. Religious broadcasters have used FM translator stations for years as a low-cost way to spread their message. These low-watt repeaters of larger religious stations are the facilities most threatened by a new LPFM service.
In an attempt to snap up the channels available around the country for LPFM stations, religious broadcasters have filed a massive flurry of new translator applications. The hope is to crowd potential LPFM stations off the dial by hoarding available frequencies. More than 150 new translator applications have been filed over the last two weeks!
The biggest potential spectrum-hog is noted televangelist Jimmy Swaggart and his Family Worship Center Church, Inc., who accounts for more than 75% of the latest translator applications. Swaggart’s SonLife radio network already has hundreds of translators on FM dials across the country. Many of these new applications may have been filed illegally.
With each passing day, it’s becoming more clear that the foes of LPFM plan to stop the implementation of this new service at all costs. These are just the three most significant threats facing it – there are others out there. That magic day in May may turn to ash before the official start of spring.
That’s why if you’re waiting to see how LPFM shakes out before you put up your own station, don’t – you may be waiting forever.