New LPFM Expansion Effort Launched in Congress

A coordinated introduction of bills in the House and Senate by bipartisan duos suggests the chance to rescind the Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act may be pretty good this year – but, as the Mediageek has already noted, prior Congressional history on this issue means there’s still a lot that must happen before any LPFM expansion becomes law.
There are several factors working both for and against the growth of LPFM. One is that telecommunications and media-regulation issues more generally are occupying a lot more of Congress’ time this session: several large debates related to broadband deployment and network operation, spectrum repurposement, possible corporate mergers (such as the proposed XM/Sirius marriage), and copyright/royalty regulation are already sucking a lot of political time and energy.
The good news is that everyone engaged in the lobbying fight, on both sides, only have a limited amount of time and resources available to throw at things. Thus, while the large dogs of industry scrap over the bigger picture, there’s a better-than-even chance that the ever-growing power of the public interest lobby can mobilize effectively to shepherd a relatively obscure side-issue through the legislative process.
At the same time, it must be noted how the radio landscape has changed since 2000, when LPFM was first formally introduced. Since then translator stations have proliferated significantly, and the FCC stands on the cusp of introducing new rules to allow AM stations to assemble their own fleets of low-power FM repeater-stations, which further restricts the amount of available spectrum for new entrants.
There’s also the as-yet unrealized 10-watt class of LPFM station: Congress’ negative intervention into the service in 2001 did nothing to stop the FCC from encouraging the proliferation of LP-10 stations, but as of yet the agency’s done nothing to actually move forward to do so. One must wonder whether the promise of pending legislation that would fundamentally revamp the technical rules of LPFM might give the FCC the political breathing-room to remain idle.
Even so, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to let your members of Congress know that they have an opportunity to right a seven-year wrong by supporting the Local Community Radio Act.