Evaluating LPFM’s Legal “Victory”

  • Evaluating LPFM’s Legal “Victory”
    On Friday I reported that Greg Ruggiero won his case against the FCC opening up LPFM licenses to former pirates. I didn’t get much chance to think about it Friday and since then have heard some opinions on it that I’d like to share. Mostly they point out that the victory here is very small. I talked to my pal John Anderson about it briefly this weekend because he was visiting here in Urbana, and his basic take on it is that it doesn’t really hit at the heart of the problem. As he posts on his site:

    “the bounty is not that plentiful. The Court did NOT rule on the parts of the LPFM service that regard channel spacing protections – which, as you remember, eliminated the vast majority of Americans from ever getting an LPFM station on their dial.

    On top of that, it’s likely that because of this decision the FCC will revert back to its original proposal to deal with current/former pirate LPFM applicants: if you stopped broadcasting when the FCC first contacted you (if they ever did), then you’re welcome to apply for a license.”

    ML, a member of the Urbana IMC, points out that even with the ruling, it’s still too late if you’re a former pirate but didn’t file an application”

    “This ruling applies only to those who had been pirates before a certain date (I forget when, but it’s past now) and certified that they had ceased broadcasting then. If you’re a pirate now, it’s both too late to apply for a license and you’d have no excuse of not being aware of the availability of a (admittedly partial) LPFM service.”

    In my view, any victory that cuts back capricious legislation like this is good, but it’s important to be realistic and recognize that the deck is still very very stacked against the use of LPFM for democratic purposes, and that LPFM is still not a reality for the dense, urban and often disadvantaged regions that really need them. Unfortunately, the courts are a poor place to adjudicate technical arguments, such as over the spacing of LPFM stations on the dial–the NAB has too many mouthpiece engineers ready to toe the company line. Let me know what you think.

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