FCC approves 255 applications for low-power radio stations

Thursday, December 28, 2000

As many as 255 low-power radio stations in 20 states may go on the air
in coming months despite recent legislation that scaled back efforts by the
Federal Communications Commission to create such a licensing program.

The agency recently announced that applicants for those noncommercial
stations, all operated by government agencies, schools, churches and nonprofit
groups, could begin receiving construction permits next month. In the meantime,
the FCC is also accepting petitions to deny the applications.

“I predict that as these first stations go on the air, we will see
more and more applications from schools, churches and community-based
organizations,” FCC Chairman William Kennard said in a statement. “And
these new LPFM stations will not create any harmful interference problem for
existing radio service.”

Kennard originally had hoped to pepper the dial with hundreds, if not
thousands, of stations ranging in power from 50 watts to 100 watts with a
radius as great as three miles. The commission approved the new licensing plan
last January, in some respects relaxing existing spectrum protections.

But Congress scaled back the plan by restoring broadcast safeguards of
spacing stations at least two radio channels apart on the dial, known as
third-adjacent channel protection. The legislation, passed as a rider to an
appropriations bill, also empowered Congress to determine the standards by
which low-power stations can get licenses.

Low-power advocates viewed passage of the bill, called the Radio
Broadcasting Preservation Act of 2000, as a slap at the commission’s powers.
But they were pleased with the FCC’s effort to award licenses that adhered to
the standards of the new law.

“We’re gratified that there are so many that did survive the
legislation,” said Cheryl Leanza, deputy director of the Media Access
Project, which had organized support for low-power radio.

“The legislation certainly is a setback, but I think its passage has
galvanized a lot of low-power support with the public,” Leanza said in a
telephone interview. “There certainly will be a lot of organizations
supporting those low-power stations that can move forward.”

Among the successful applicants is the Southern Development Foundation
in Opelousas, La., which has been planning a barn-raising effort with the
Prometheus Project to launch one of the first stations. It had one scheduled in
November but delayed it.

“This time, we won’t set a date till the construction permit is in
our hands,” a statement at the Prometheus Project Web site said. “We
encourage folks to come to learn how to set up a radio station, learn radio
skills and plan the next phases of the struggle for community radio.”

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