President Barack Obama officially signed the Local Community Radio Act into law 1/4/11, opening the door to noncommercial low power FM stations in urban areas where a crowded dial has hitherto prevented their presence. LPFM sponsor Prometheus Radio Project was understandably thrilled with the news.
The bill will help ease LPFMs into more populated areas by removing 3rd adjacency protection for incumbent full power FM stations. The NAB was successful in tweaking the bill to recognize full power FMs as the primary service in the FM band, and to establish minimum distance separations for new low power entrants.
Prometheus Director of Strategic Planning Danielle Chynoweth commented, “Today’s signing of the Local Community Radio Act provides an opportunity for radio professionals and enthusiasts to help revitalize the radio dial. Low power FM stations bring new voices, new formats, and new communities to the art of broadcasting. Local, expert support will be essential in getting these fledgling low power stations licensed and on the air. The Prometheus Radio Project looks forward to working with volunteers to enrich the media landscape in all our communities. Interested supporters can sign up at www.prometheusradio.org.”
The bill signing was part of a mini-marathon autograph session, which involved a total of 35 pieces of passed legislation. The White House did not issue a statement on LCRA, and in fact, mentioned only one of the 35 in the White House blog, H.R. 2751, the “FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.”
However, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski commented on the passage of the bill, saying, “The Local Community Radio Act signed by President Obama is a big win for radio listeners. Low-power FM stations are small, but they make a giant contribution to local community programming. This important law eliminates the unnecessary restrictions that kept these local stations off the air in cities and towns across the country. I commend Congressmen Mike Doyle and Lee Terry and Senators Maria Cantwell and John McCain for the successful passage of this legislation and their longstanding commitment to local community radio. The FCC will take swift action to open the dial to new low-power radio stations and the valuable local service they provide.”
Commissioner Michael Copps also weighed in, saying, “I have been waiting for this day for a long, long time! Enactment of the Local Community Radio Act gives local radio stations, grassroots media, and consumers nationwide genuine cause to celebrate. Thanks to this legislation, more than 160 million people underserved by local power FM will be able to reap the benefits of these stations. This means potentially many new opportunities for local and independent broadcasters to provide truly local and independent programming—and to be heard.”
Copps continued, “In this day of way-too-much media consolidation, stifling program homogenization, and the decimation of local news, new voices are critically important to sustaining America’s civic dialogue and citizen engagement.” He went on to praise the congressional sponsors of the bill, and added shout-outs to key committee chairs Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) in the Senate and Henry Waxman (D-CA) in the House. Copps concluded, “How fitting that, as we begin the new year, we can turn the page on years of waiting to celebrate a victory for independent media voices and consumers nationwide.”
RBR-TVBR observation: As the FCC Chairman pointed out, the ball is now in the FCC’s court. He has promised to take swift action to get that ball rolling. Of course, the word “swift” may mean one thing when used by a novelist, poet or Olympic sprinter, and it may mean something else entirely when used by a bureaucrat. It will be interesting to see how it translates this time, in calendar terms.