Local Community Radio Act Sweeps House Subcommittee in 15 to 1 vote
The Local Community Radio Act was passed out of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet this morning in a sweeping 15 to 1 vote. The Act would allow for the creation of hundreds of new, low power FM (LPFM) radio stations that would broadcast community news and local perspectives to neighborhoods across the country.
“All I can say is, it’s about time,” said Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), a co-sponsor of the bill. “It was absurd and ridiculous that broadcasters went to such great lengths to block the public from having some small measure of access to the airwaves, and disgraceful that we had to spend more two million dollars to prove what the FCC already had shown—that LPFM would not interfere with full power stations.”
Big broadcasters have historically opposed the Local Community Radio Act, claiming that LPFM could cause interference to full power stations, a concern later disproven by a Congressionally mandated study. But with unanimous FCC support, strong bipartisan co-sponsorship, and grassroots momentum, even industry news is now predicting a win. “We do not expect that there is any stopping it at this point,” the Radio Business Report commented this morning.
“The bill still has a long way to go in the legislative process, but I am optimistic that by the end of the year the Local Community Radio Act will be signed into law,” said Congressman Doyle (D-PA), lead co-sponsor of the bill with Congressman Lee Terry (R-NE).
The bill gained the support of former doubters of LPFM, including Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), a former lead co-sponsor of anti-LPFM legislation and ranking Republican on the subcommittee, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), the only former broadcaster in Congress, and Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), who called for the study of LPFM interference in 2000.
“Today’s vote signals a policy shift towards more local and diverse media,” said Cory Fischer-Hoffman, Campaign Director for the Prometheus Radio Project. “We need to use this momentum to push for full passage of the Local Community Radio Act so groups working tirelessly to have a voice in their communities can start building stations.”
Hundreds of groups—including schools, churches, and emergency responders—were denied licenses in 2000 after Congress blocked the FCC from handing them out in crowded media markets.
Advocates point to the successes of existing low power FM stations to prove their value to communities. “When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf, low power radio was the only source of emergency information in a number of counties. Residents in East Texas tuned their battery-operated radios to KZQX-LP while they waited a week for power to be restored,” said Andalusia Knoll, Community Station Director at the Prometheus Radio Project. “In Louisiana, KOCZ-LP has proven essential to the cultural survival of Zydeco music, which is rarely heard on the airwaves. And low power station WRYR hosts public debate about the environmental impacts of development on the Chesapeake Bay.”
“Congress should act swiftly to pass LPFM and support the families, workers, and places of worship that serve as the anchors in our communities,” said Joel Kelsey, Policy Analyst at Consumers Union.
Nancy Zirkin of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights added, “In an era of mass media consolidation, we in the civil rights community believe that it is critical to promote diverse ownership and diverse viewpoints over the public airwaves, and we look forward to the passage of this bill into law.”
The Local Community Radio Act is now poised to move to the full Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by longtime LPFM supporter Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA).