Eric Hoffsten on 23 Sep 2000 14:27:11 -0000

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Re: <nettime> I miss the announcer

FCC Affirms Low - Power Radio Plan


Filed at 10:39 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal regulators affirmed a plan Friday to license
hundreds of new low-power radio stations, making only minor changes such as
adding safeguards to protect radio reading services for the blind from

The Federal Communications Commission largely ignored the complaints of
commercial broadcasters, who say low-power service will interfere with
existing FM stations. The FCC is close to awarding its first batch of
low-power licenses.

"I have always been confident that LPFM can be implemented without
disturbing the integrity of the FM service," said FCC Chairman William

The plan has come under fierce attack on Capitol Hill, where many lawmakers
have moved legislation to curtail or eliminate the FCC's plan altogether.

But in Friday's decision, the commission reiterated its view that the risk
from interference by the low-power radio stations -- operating at 10 and
100 watts -- would be small and therefore did not require a larger buffer
zone to protect full-power stations.

By increasing protections, the FCC would be forced to decrease the number
of low-power stations it could authorize.

The FCC did, however, respond to concerns raised by National Public Radio
and others that the low-power stations would harm so-called reading
services for the blind and visually impaired. Such services, which allow
for books or other text to be narrated, are carried on subcarrier channels.

The commission adopted additional protections for those FM stations that
operate radio reading services, requiring more space between them and the
microradio channels.

About one-third of NPR's members air reading services for the blind on
subcarrier channels. NPR said it would review the details of the changes
made by the commission.

"NPR's position from day one has been that we believe that public radio and
low power FM can coexist in the future as complementary services," said NPR
spokeswoman Siriol Evans. "From the very beginning, we have emphasized the
importance of safeguarding radio reading services for the blind and
translator stations that provide programming to remote rural areas."

The FCC, while not adding protections for commercial broadcasters at large,
did agree to institute a new interference complaint procedure. The process
would be triggered when a full-power FM radio station receives complaints
from 1 percent of its listeners in the area likely to experience

Commission field agents would be available to assist low-power and
commercial broadcasters in their attempts to address the interference. If a
solution is not reached, the FCC will take up a review that it must
complete within three months.

National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton said the
group did not have a chance to review the decision yet, but "we already
know the FCC plan will allow additional interference for listeners."

FCC Commissioner Michael Powell, backing some of the commission's decision,
continued to raise concerns that low-power stations could threaten the
economic viability of small broadcast stations.


On the Net: Federal Communications Commission:

National Association of Broadcasters:

National Public Radio:

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