The following is a guest commentary by friend and colleague Dr. Christopher Terry, a Lecturer of Media Law and Policy in the Department of Journalism, Advertising and Media Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He spent more than 15 years as a producer in commercial radio. His dissertation examined more than 1000 FCC media ownership decisions between 1996-2010, and he has published quite a bit on media diversity, political advertising and of course, media ownership policy. Contact him via e-mail or Twitter
Today marks four years have since the 3rd Circuit handed down a second remand of the FCC’s media ownership policy in Prometheus Radio Project v. FCC. I thought we might take the opportunity of this anniversary to discuss how radio got so bad.
On February 8th, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed into the law the 1996 Telecommunications Act. Provisions within the Telecommunications Act implemented significant changes the legal, policy and social dynamics of media ownership. Although these changes could be felt across the media spectrum, the radio industry was fundamentally changed by the FCC’s implementation of the legislation. Continue reading “In the Wake of Prometheus, Media Ownership Still Sucks”
The Federal Communications Commission is busy preparing for an onslaught of applications for new low-power FM (LPFM) stations: the filing window opens on October 15th and closes on the 29th. Interested applicants should already be hard at work preparing, because building a radio station from scratch is not a simple process.
But there have been and will be some important info-dumps that can help demystify the issues. In chronological order: Continue reading “55 Days and Counting: Informative Events for LPFM Applicants”
Mark your calendars: the FCC has scheduled a two-week filing window for LPFM station licenses to begin on October 15, 2013. More than a decade since the first (and only) LPFM filing window, this may very well be the last chance to build a wave of new community radio stations in the United States.
The application process is not simple, and there are 130 days to master it. It is crunch-time. Continue reading “Date Set for LPFM's Second Coming”
As part of the compromises made to pass the Local Community Radio Act through Congress, a provision was inserted which requires the Federal Communications Commission to examine the “economic impact” LPFM stations have on full-power FM stations.
Comments on the proposed ground-rules of the “study” are due to the FCC in a month, and the study itself is supposed to be tendered to Congress early next year.
The FCC must probe two questions: what effects will an LPFM expansion have on the advertising revenue and audience-share of full-power radio stations?
On its face, the “study” is nothing more than a make-work exercise for the FCC, arguably designed to slow down the expansion of the LPFM service. Its primary questions are absurd – and pretty simply answered. Continue reading “"Studying" the Implicatons of LPFM's Expansion”
Last week, the founder and Director of Electromagnetism of the Prometheus Radio Project, Pete Tridish, announced his departure from the organization.
Beginning from a background in unlicensed broadcasting based around the Philadelphia station Radio Mutiny, Pete was instrumental in not only organizing microbroadcasters in the lead-up to the FCC’s debate over LPFM more than 10 years ago, but he also worked tirelessly to convince Congress to pass the Local Community Radio Act late last year, which will expand the number of LPFM stations on the nation’s dial.
Apparently, his departure has been in the works for several months, but the announcement was held off so as to not detract from the LCRA advocacy campaign. Continue reading “Prometheus Radio Project Founder Moving On”
Congratulations to everyone who worked tirelessly – both over the last 10 years and the last two weeks – to convince Congress to finally approve the Local Community Radio Act. Given the recent changes in the political winds of D.C., this was most likely the very last chance to fundamentally expand the LPFM radio service.
Things literally came down to the wire: after locking the bill in stasis for months with secret holds from industry-friendly Senators, last-minute negotiations between LPFM proponents and the National Association of Broadcasters, combined with a multi-faceted grassroots lobbying blitz, ended up in a hasty rewrite of the actual legislation, which the House quickly approved on Friday and the Senate blessed on Saturday. President Obama’s signature is a given. Continue reading “LPFM's Second Wave”
What is LPFM?
LPFM stands for Low Power FM radio broadcasting. In the United States, the lowest minimum wattage a licensed FM radio station may have is 100 watts. There are lower-power FM transmitters in use, though, by some stations who want to increase their coverage area by extending their signal. These are called translators or boosters.
While these may only have a wattage measured in a range from dozens to hundreds, they are not true broadcast stations by the FCC’s definitions – they do not originate their own programming. They rely on a “parent” station to provide what they air.
Ham (amateur) radio uses a similar system called a repeater; people don’t broadcast from it. They shoot a signal into it, and then it gets re-broadcast to an area larger than what ham operators might reach with their own gear. In a nutshell, translators and boosters are the repeaters of FM radio.
LPFM is the common term used to define an FM broadcast station that originates its own programming but has the power of a translator or booster. Under current FCC rules, operating such a station is simply not allowed. You may also see LPFM referred to by other terms – like “LPRS,” “microradio,” and “mini-FM,” but they all mean the same thing. Continue reading “The History of LPFM”
Last month, the Prometheus Radio Project published a list of the “Top Ten Problems With HD Radio.” While it’s somewhat incomplete, it is probably the most coherent and concise plain-English critique published so far that best captures the deficiencies in the HD Radio protocol.
Apparently, this did not sit well with the radio industry which, in one of its trade publications, ran a feature “debunking” many of Prometheus’ HD Radio criticisms. Continue reading “HD Radio: Point/Counterpoint”
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. Continue reading “LPFM: Offensive and Defensive Victories”
And the operative word here is, indeed, “hope.” The Local Community Radio Act has been reintroduced in Congress. Honestly, I’ve lost track of the number of times that a bill to undo the 2001 legislative evisceration of the FCC’s Low-Power FM radio service has been put forward; this year it’s come out of the starting gate with more momentum than ever – something like two dozen sponsors in the House (there is no companion bill yet in the Senate).
Media reform groups are putting out the call for the citizen-calvary to flood lawmakers with correspondence asking for quick action on this legislation. While it never hurts to raise the profile of this languishing yet important issue, a reality check is called for as well. Continue reading “More LPFM in 2009? Keep Hope Alive”