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Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20554
News media information 202 / 418-0500
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Internet: http://www.fcc.gov
TTY: 202/418-2555

This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).

March 27, 2000


Six months from today, the first low power radio stations may be on the air. Just a few minutes from now we will know in what states those stations will be.

Unfortunately, there are those who have been working non-stop to keep those first small stations from going on the air. Why? Because they know that once new voices can be heard, nothing can silence them.

This is about the haves - the broadcast industry - trying to prevent many have-nots - small community and educational organizations - from having just a little piece of the pie. Just a little piece of the airwaves which belong to all of the people.

These schools, community groups, churches, state public safety agencies and volunteer fire departments only want the opportunity to reach their communities through these small low power radio stations.

As Chairman of the FCC, I am responsible for making sure that the radio spectrum is used to serve the interest of all Americans. When hundreds of stations are owned by just one person or company, service to local communities, and coverage of local issues loses out. Low power radio stations will allow local needs to be served on the nation's airwaves, and will give voice to the previously voiceless.

Ironically, broadcasters used these very same arguments to oppose low power television. Low power television has been widely acclaimed for its community service, and its coverage of small, local events - such as high school football games and municipal hearings - that large stations don't cover. Congress just this past November recognized the importance of using the airwaves for low power broadcasting by passing the Community Broadcasters Protection Act of 1999 to give LPTV protection as Class A TV stations. Just as Congress rejected the NAB naysayers with low power TV, Congress should also say no to the same self-serving opposition to low power radio.

The critics are claiming that low power radio stations would cause interference to existing radio stations. Let me assure you that as Chairman of the FCC I take very seriously my role as guardian of the radio spectrum. As Chairman, I would never preside over the creation of a new service that would harm existing radio service.

No service ever considered by the FCC has been as extensively studied as low power radio. Nevertheless, the critics are taking their "sky is falling" arguments that failed on the merits at the FCC to new decision makers. The FCC engineers carefully considered engineering studies submitted in opposition to low power radio. Now low power radio opponents are submitting these studies to Congress and the courts hoping that these bodies - without engineering expertise - will undo the well-reasoned decision of the FCC.

The FCC has decades-long experience in dealing with FM radio issues. Our engineers are skilled at evaluating all sorts of technical tests and engineering claims and counter-claims that parties routinely present to the FCC, and then reaching expert conclusions and decisions based on the record, and based on the overall public interest.

That is precisely what happened in the LPFM proceeding. In fact, if anything, the engineering decision in the LPFM order was a conservative one - reducing the proposed service from 1000 to 100 watts, not authorizing LPFM service on the 2nd adjacent FM channel, and creating a buffer zone - to give even greater protection to existing radio service than a strict reading of the engineering record would have warranted. This was a responsible public interest decision that will not impact the existing radio service.

Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail. The idea of small 100-watt, community based radio stations realistically causing engineering or competitive threats to the large area-wide stations on the dial is implausible. It is often the case that many industries - not just broadcasters - are traditionally against any change and any competition to the status quo.

But these predictable self-serving protectionist arguments should not be allowed to override the tremendous public interest goals, reflected in the Communications Act of 1934 and the Telecommunications Act of 1996, that the FCC should maximize the public's use of the airwaves, encourage the provision of new technologies and new services to the public, and provide new access to the airwaves for more people.

- FCC -