The History of LPFM

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”

Clear Channel: For Sale (and Selling)

Though Clear Channel may possibly be shopping itself around, the Mays family that runs the company sits quite pretty. Should the company be sold and Lowry and his two boys be asked to leave, their golden parachutes call for tens of millions of dollars in stock and cash payments each: even the taxes on that income will be paid for by the company.
There is some evidence that Clear Channel has begun quietly selling off selected properties, specifically involving “support businesses” and clusters of radio stations in smaller markets. This would make sense as the company cleans up its books to position itself in the best light for potential suitors to either take it private or buy it up to sell off piecemeal. Continue reading “Clear Channel: For Sale (and Selling)”

Mikey Powell: Telecoms Investor

Not much surprise in the news of former FCC chieftain Mikey Powell going to work for Providence Equity Partners, which specializes in venture/vulture capitalism involving global media interests. Powell, as a “Senior Advisor,” will no doubt assist in the management of Providence’s ~$9 billion portfolio. His pinstriped suits should fit in very well there. Continue reading “Mikey Powell: Telecoms Investor”

Parting Ways

There is much news to report as the introduction of America’s new low power FM (LPFM) service continues. While progress is good, it’s apparent now that the service – and its new constituents – are working to separate themselves from the movement of electronic civil disobedience which spurred its creation.
The FCC has been quietly issuing new LPFM station construction permits in small batches; the current count is now up to 41, and it’s expected that handfuls will continue to be released throughout the year.
The lack of fanfare from the FCC, who could certainly use a bit of publicity on an issue like this to at least maintain its rhetorical populism, is a bit disturbing. Continue reading “Parting Ways”

New Year: Same Game

2001 will be a very interesting year for the U.S. microradio movement. It is enjoying more popularity than ever even though a recent legalization effort was severely curtailed.
Unfortunately the long and protracted battle for low power radio licenses has come to a dismal end: commercial broadcasters and National Public Radio brought their full weight to bear to quash a two-year grassroots effort to add more voices to the dial.
FCC Commissioner Michael Powell is the likely candidate to become FCC Chairman this summer; Michael is the son of Colin Powell, President-elect George W. Bush’s nominee for Secretary of State. Consider this: Shortly before the FCC approved the merger of AOL and Time Warner last year, Colin Powell moved much of his investments into AOL stock – and reaped a killing when the merger was approved by his son. Continue reading “New Year: Same Game”

The True Face of the Dark Side

It was to be a busy annual convention for the National Association of Broadcasters: with consolidation at a fever pitch and various new technologies being unveiled, corporate broadcasters all over the nation converged on Las Vegas last week to talk shop and pitch wares.
As is the typical form, FCC Chairman William Kennard addressed the assembled executives and managers at a breakfast meeting.
These annual addresses typically are a “state of broadcasting” kind of speech, where the FCC Chairman at the time lays out his goals for the coming year. One of those goals will be the creation of a low power radio service. In fact, Kennard made special mention of it in his speech.
The entire event was broadcast over the Internet – all but Kennard’s low power broadcasting comments. Continue reading “The True Face of the Dark Side”