Tales of the Sausage Factory

Support Low Power Radio: Call Your Representative Today!

Low Power FM is a non-commercial service authorized by the FCC in 2000. the National Association of Broadcasters and, to its eternal shame, National Public Radio lobbied Congress immediately thereafter to kill this potential competitor. While not successful in killing the service, the incumbents did manage to get the “Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act of 2000” passed, which severely limited the number of available LPFM licenses. You can get some more background and links at this old blog post of mine.

Today, July 19, 2009, the Prometheus Radio Project is asking everyone who cares about encouraging local, non-commercial radio — as well as anyone who cares about greater opportunities for folks to use the electronic media, to take part in a day of action. Please call your Representative and ask him or her to support the Local Community Radio Act of 2009, which would repeal the RBPA and restore the original rules to LPFM. This would create hundreds of new opportunities for local communities to once again enjoy locally-produced non-commercial radio programming. giving a very different perspective on life, news, art, and entertainment.

Details here.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Life In The Sausage Factory, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , | Comments closed

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Big Low Power FM Win!

Back in 2007, the FCC issued an Order to try to address some of the problems impacting the low-power FM (LPFM) service. You can find out more about how amazing LPFM is, and why Congress needs to pass legislation to remove the artificial restrictions on how many LPFM stations we can have, here on the Prometheus Radio website.

Briefly, LPFMs are very small, very local non-commercial stations that operate at 100-watts or less. The FCC authorized the service in 2000, relaxing the “third adjacent channel” (A radio station must be 3 jumps away from the next radio station) rule to permit several thousand LPFM’s to operate without interfering with full power station. The NAB persuaded Congress to reverse this determination with the ironically named Radio Broadcaster Preservation Act of 2000. That act prohibited the FCC from relaxing or waiving the 3rd adjacent channel spacing requirement.

A few years ago, it became clear that the several hundred LPFMs permitted under the act were in danger of being crowded out by full power stations. Because of what appeared to be an unrelated decision to streamline the process by which full power FM stations can change their market designation. As a result, an LPFM could suddenly find itself impermissibly close to a full power station and need to shut down. Or it might start experiencing interference and get drowned out. The Commission therefore issued an Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which provided some relief by making it easier for LPFMs to relocate on the 2nd adjacent channel, thus avoiding Congress’ mandate that the FCC not reduce or waive the separation distance required on the 3rd adjacent channel. This is not nearly as silly as it sounds, as the process involves a fact-based determination on whether there is actually any interference to any full power as a result of the move. Given how interference works, it is very possible to fit a LPFM into space on the 2nd adjacent without causing interference. Spacing is based on averages to make processing applications easier. Actual engineering can determine how to place a low-power tower to avoid interference. Mind, this would be easier to do if Congress hadn’t absolutely prohibited any waiver of 3rd adjacent spacing. But they did. Happily, however, Congress did not prohibit any waiver of 2nd channel adjacent.

The NAB promptly appealed, arguing that the FCC had no authority to alter first,second or third adjacent as a result of the 2000 Act. This, in turn, stalled the conclusion of the Rulemaking, since why finish a rulemaking if you don’t even know whether or not you have authority?

Today, the D.C. Circuit affirmed the FCC’s decision. It rejected the NAB’s argument based on the plain language of the statute and found that the FCC had rationally justified its decision.

This is extremely good news for LPFM, and for those communities lucky enough to have them. As acting Chairman Copps noted in a statement issued today after the ruling, the FCC is now free to move quickly to finish the pending rulemaking. And, of course, Congress should move just as quickly to pass the Local Community Radio Act of 2009, so that hundreds of new communities can enjoy the diverse voices of low-power FM.

My former colleagues at MAP — especially Parul Desai who did the lion’s share of work on this issue — deserve a huge shout out for this win. I should also mention that it was not a Democratic FCC, but Kevin Martin who brought the 2007 Order to a vote — and then voted with the Democrats against both his fellow Republicans to get the needed 3 votes to clear the Commission.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Media Ownership, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Tales of the Sausage Factory

The Markey-Pickering “Net Neutrality” Bill: Grinding Out One More First Down In The Internet Freedom Bowl.

God knows I love Ed Markey as one of the true defenders of us average folks. Time and again, he has proven himself that rare combination of smarts and political savvy to remain an effective champion against media consolidation and telco and cable interests even when he was minority member. Which is why it always pays to pay attention when he acts.

Markey’s latest bill, The Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008, H.R. 5353 (co-sponsored by retiring Republican “Chip” Pickering (R-MS)), would seem at first glance pretty weak gruel compared to his previous bill in 2006. So what lies behind this apparent retreat from an outright ban on ISPs discriminating to Congressional findings, a mandate for some FCC hearings, and a report? After all, with Markey chair of the Subcommittee, shouldn’t he be pushing something more aggressive? I mean, the Dems control both houses of Congress now, right?

The answer lies in the pragmatics of Washington and the recognition that — unlike in the movies — major battles aren’t won overnight. As I have said before, this is a long, messy fight in which both sides invest a heck of a lot of time and energy in positioning themselves and grinding out short yardage plays to advance the ball. Seen in that context, the Markey Bill is a very effective tool for both keeping the debate alive and advancing the ball another ten yards toward the goal post.

Analysis below . . .

Read More »

Posted in Series of Tubes, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Snowe & Dorgan ReIntroduce Net Neutrality Bill — and A Chance for Some Presidential Politics

Senator Snowe (R-ME) and Senator Dorgan (D-ND) have introduced the Internet Freedom Preservation Act. Interestingly, although neither is on the relevant Committee, both Barak Obama and Hilary Clinton are co-sponsors. While not exactly pandering (both co-sponsored the Snowe-Dorgan network neutrality bill last year when it was a lot riskier to do so), does anyone doubt that their decision to come out strongly in favor of NN this early was influenced by the popularity of this issue with the netroots?

Meanwhile, where the heck did Inouye go? And has anyone talked to the new members yet?

Some reflections on the new bill, and on the new politics network neutrality, below . . . .

Read More »

Posted in General, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Much Better Senate Draft from Democrats

The Democrats of the Senate Commerce Committee have begun circulating this draft revision of the wretched Communications, Consumer Choice, and Broadband Deployment Act of 2006 (aka “The Stevens Bill). Not only is the Democrat draft a lot shorter (a big plus), it:

(a) Eliminates the really bad munibroadband provision in the Stevens Bill with good language similar to the McCain-Lautenberg Community Broadband Act.

(b) Eliminates the excruciatingly awful net neutrality provision in the Stevens Bill and replaces it with the good language from the Internet Freedom Preservation Act sponsored by Snowe, Dorgan, and Inouye.

Happily, the Democratic Draft also contains the good stuff from the Stevens Bill: opening up the broadcast spectrum ”white spaces” and limiting cable market power over regional sports programming. (Although the Democratic draft is not quite as strong there as in the Stevens bill. Ah well.) Sadly, the Democratic draft also contains a broadcast flag provision.

It’s still a draft, of course. But it shows how the momentum on critical issues continues to shift in the right direction now that the public has started tuning in and speaking up. Last month, the telcos and the cable cos were enjoying a victory march reminiscent of Sherman’s march to the sea. Now, the telco/cable push to get Net Neutrality eliminated by Congress is looking a lot more like Napoleon’s march on, and subsequent retreat from, Moscow.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed
  • Connect With Us

    Follow Wetmachine on Twitter!

Username
Password

If you do not have an account: Register