Low-Power Radio and What the Media Won't Tell You About the Media
Saturday 07 November 2009
by: Amber Sands, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed
There's a classic problem for progressives who want to change the media:
the media doesn't like to cover itself. Especially not when it comes to
issues that challenge the status quo of corporate control. It's like
turning to the military for news about the peace movement, or asking Big
Oil to report on climate change legislation.
So you may not have heard much about the grassroots effort to create
hundreds of new, non-commercial radio stations. Overcoming nine years of
opposition from the broadcasting lobby, the Local Community Radio Act is
on the verge of a vote in the House of Representatives.
The bill would expand low-power FM (LPFM) radio, first introduced by the
Federal Communications Commission in 2000. Media activists and community
groups nationwide demanded this access to the airwaves to combat the
deregulation that concentrated media ownership into fewer hands. The FCC
began licensing low-power stations between the larger ones on the radio
dial, but Congress promptly hobbled the low-power service with
If you're wondering why Congress would step on the toes of the agency that
regulates communications, well, ask the media - they may not cover media
regulation, but they spend millions influencing it.
Fearing competition from stations that would carry original, local
programming, broadcasters claimed that LPFM stations might interfere with
the signals of full-power stations. The broadcasting lobby demanded that
Congress widen the required distance between the radio frequencies of an
existing full-power station and a would-be LPFM. Congress made the spacing
requirements so vast that only rural areas can meet the criteria for a
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