I’ve searched all the major gov’t databases, including Thomas, and Lexis-Nexis’ Congressional Universe, and can’t find an updated status on the Commerce appropriations bill that contains the onerous anti-LPFM rider, but I’ve received word from the Center for Democratic Communciations and from Radio Free Richmond that the bill did pass Congress and should be signed by President Clinton. The National Journal and The New York Times also confirm the bill’s passage. There is no indication that any of the language limiting low-power FM radio has been altered or removed from the bill, although there is no information that appears to confirm or disconfirm this.
Here is the report I received from the CDC:
by Peter Franck
The National Lawyers Guild Center on Democratic Communications (“CDC”) has just learned that Congress intends to pass an Omnibus Budget Act containing a rider which will gut the FCC’s new Low Power FM (LPFM) service. It now appears that President Clinton will sign this bill.
This is the culmination of a year long intensive lobbying campaign by the NAB, which unfortunately has been given liberal cover by NPRís campaign against LPFM.
For more than ten years CDC has been involved with the defense of micro broadcasters who went on the air at a time when the FCC refused to license low power stations. We argued that those rules were unconstitutional, and the risk of losing in court was one factor in the FCC changing its position and authorizing LPFM.
More than a year ago, in meetings with the NAB we pointed out that they would hurt established broadcasters if they killed LPFM (also known as microradio). The NAB claimed they were worried about interference from unlicensed broadcasters. We pointed out that they would be much better off accepting some competition for audience from these small stations but knowing where the stations were, and knowing that the FCC had assigned them to available frequencies.
We pointed out that if LPFM was killed they would be faced with many stations going on the air in an unpredictable way at unknown frequencies and locations. Because the technology is cheap and readily available LPFM will not disappear, no matter how much Congress, NPR and the NAB try to kill it. For many, LPFM remains the only means for local communities to have a voice.
Disappointed as we are by this congressional refusal to allow a small experiment in media democracy, CDC will look at possible legal challenges to Congress’ unprecedented attack on community radio. Peter Franck, a member of CDC speculated that this new law may well be unconstitutional. Franck added ìLaws passed by congress are easier to challenge in the courts than regulations promulgated by agencies such as the FCC. This is not over.î
Since 1990, the CDC has worked with pioneering microbroadcasters such as Mbanna Kantako and Stephen Dunifer, who took to the airwaves to challenge the FCC’s ban on low power community radio. In response to growing public support, the FCC under Chairman Bill Kennard adopted a Low Power FM service to promote public access to the airwaves. This modest service would have create up to one-thousand new 100 watt and 10 watt community stations. (The bill being passed by congress is a phony ìcompromiseî because it may allow 60 or 70 LPFM stations in the most rural and unpopulated parts of the country.)
National Public Radio and the National Association of Broadcasters failed to stop the FCC from implementing its modest Low Power FM service. But after months of intensive lobbying, NPR and the NAB convinced Congress to quietly kill the service, and prevent schools, libraries, community groups and local government from operating low watt stations. The extent of Congressional meddling into the technical affairs of the FCC is unprecedented, and proves that the public has indeed lost all control over the “public” airwaves. CDC is committed to doing everything it can to help recover them for the public
Peter Franck ,NLG Center for Democratic Communications (CDC)
3450 Geary Blvd., Suite 208, San Francisco, CA 94118; www.nlgcdc.org
CDC: 415.522.9814; P. Franck: 415.381.9960; fax 415.381.9963