(Xchange) Wired News : (Low) Power to the People
From Wired News, available online at:
(Low) Power to the People
11:00 a.m. 20.Jan.2000 PST
Radio listeners around the country are likely to hear more alternative
music and religious and educational programming this year, after
federal regulators approved a new class of low-power FM stations
The move responds to small communities, churches, and other local
groups, who said their issues and concerns are being shut out by the
massive consolidation in commercial radio since Congress lifted
ownership limits in 1996.
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Just last October, the two largest station owners, Clear Channel
Communications Inc. and AMFM Inc., proposed merging to create a radio
powerhouse owning more than 800 stations.
On Thursday, the FCC voted 4-1 for a new class of low-power station,
operating at 100 watts or less. These so-called micro stations could
be used for any kind of noncommercial programming.
Micro stations can reach an audience within a radius of about 3.5
miles and cost much less to set up than a typical full-power station
operating at 6,000 watts or more. FCC officials say hundreds of new
low-power stations could be shoehorned onto the airwaves.
But major broadcasters said the new stations will create too much
interference with existing FM stations.
The National Association of Broadcasters accused the FCC of choosing
the advancement of social engineering over radio spectrum integrity.
"NAB will review every option to undo the damage caused by low power
radio," it said in a statement.
Republican FCC member Harold Furchtgott-Roth, voting against the plan,
described it as "entirely irresponsible" for creating too much
But FCC chairman William Kennard said extensive studies showed no
significant interference. "Low-power FM has been subject to as much
testing and analysis and engineering as any broadcasting service that
we've ever looked at," he said.
The FCC initiative is scaled back somewhat from a draft FCC proposal
issued in January 1999. That plan could have allowed micro stations of
up 1,000 watts, capable of reaching an audience 10 miles away. The
earlier plan also left open the question of allowing commercial use of
Groups planning to set up micro stations range from high schools and
universities that cannot afford full-power stations to state highway
agencies seeking an inexpensive way to warn commuters about traffic
problems. Musicians have also hailed the proposal as a way to get more
alternative music on the air.
Copyright 1999-2000 Reuters Limited.
Copyright 1994-99 Wired Digital Inc. All rights reserved.
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