In January, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a plan to license low power (or "micro") radio stations in many areas of the country, largely due to a campaign waged by a diverse coalition of public interest groups, churches and labor unions. The FCC planned to begin the licensing process for non-commercial radio stations operating at 10 watts and 100 watts.
However, an intense lobbying effort by the broadcast industry threatens to severely restrict the prospects for low power radio. The effort, which included National Public Radio (NPR), culminated in H.R. 3439, the "Radio Preservation Act," which passed in the House of Representatives on April 13.
If approved by the Senate, this legislation will have a dramatic impact: it will reduce the number of possible low-power stations by about 80 percent, delay the FCC's implementation of its plan to license any low power stations, and require a new round of technical tests that many public interest groups insist are unnecessary.(www.mediaaccess.org/programs/lpfm/2pager.html)
Advocates for low power radio argue that the wave of concentration in the radio industry, especially since the Telecommunications Act of 1996, underscores the need for local, non-commercial broadcasters that better serve the public interest.
The Senate is expected to debate the bill to undermine the FCC's low power radio program (S. 2068) in the next few weeks. This gives advocates for greater diversity on the airwaves a chance to communicate with their elected officials about the FCC's low power radio plan.
ACTION: Contact your senators and ask them to vote against S. 2068, the broadcast industry's effort to stifle low power radio. Tell them that greater access to the airwaves, especially in a time of overwhelming media concentration, is an important first step toward a more democratic media structure.
To locate your senator's e-mail address, go to:www.senate.gov/contacting/index_by_state.cfm
The Senate switchboard number is 202-224-3121.