(Low) Power to the People

The FCC unanimously voted to allow more low-cost, low-power FM radio stations – especially in metro areas where they had been under restrictions. The number of stations, and potential stations, is not small. “Processing approximately 6,000 FM translator applications and setting the rules of the road for LPFM are the last steps necessary before opening a window for community groups to seek new low power FM licenses starting in October of 2013,” the FCC said.

The audience for low-power radio is larger than most people realize, and they reach people that commercial stations often bypass. As FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, “Thanks to Congress’s work on the Local Community Radio Act, today we are taking the most far-reaching actions in decades to empower new programmers to provide local radio programming and expand media diversity throughout the country.”

It marked a rare moment of bipartisan cooperation. Two members of the House Communications Subcommittee – Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) and Lee Terry (R-Neb.) – worked to lobby the commission on the issue.

According to Broadcasting & Cable, “Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said the LPFM diversity item would create a communications landscape ‘more reflective of the greatness of this nation.’” Clyburn also said that radio remains an important part of our communications, pointing out that during Superstorm Sandy many people who had lost Internet and power were still able to get reports on battery radios.

And FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel told B&C that there was “still great value and art in community broadcasting.”

FCC Expands Media Diversity By Empowering Community Groups To Launch And Operate Low-Power Local Radio Stations (FCC news release, Nov. 30, 2012)

Statement Of Chairman Julius Genachowski Re: Expanding Low Power Radio (FCC, Nov. 30, 2012)

FCC Approves LPFM Item: Will allow more low-power FM stations in urban markets where they had been restricted (Broadcasting & Cable, Nov. 30, 2012)