By Gautham Nagesh
28 House members wrote to the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday urging the agency to license as many low power FM radio stations as possible while implementing the terms of the Local Community Radio Act.
The law, which President Obama signed in January, is designed to increase the number of noncommercial, community radio stations that transmit at 100 watts or less. The FCC created LPFM as a new class of radio stations in 2000; about 800 have been on the air since then.
“In communities where they already operate, low power FM radio stations have often served enormously important roles to educate the public about news and public affairs, to provide rapid, local response during emergencies, and to serve and enhance cultural, ethnic, and artistic diversity,” wrote the lawmakers including Reps. Mike Doyle (D-Penn.), Lee Terry (R-Neb.), and Ron Paul (R-Texas).
According to the lawmakers, the original legislation authorizing LPFM placed severe interference restrictions that prevented the FCC from authorizing stations in almost all major cities.
The Local Community Radio Act was designed to ease those restrictions and increase the number of local stations available, particularly in urban areas.
The FCC voted at its July meeting to move forward in hopes of licensing new stations next summer. The Commission said it would resume authorizing translator stations, which repeat the signal of full-power stations, in small and rural markets but not in major cities because there is already very little spectrum in those areas for low power stations.
“To make best use of the limited FM spectrum remaining in these more populous communities, we also urge the Commission to ensure that licenses are awarded to truly local churches, non-profit organizations, local governments, and schools,” the lawmakers wrote.
“These groups are ready to use local programming to serve the public, connect their communities, and enrich cultural life.”