Media watchdog going to bat for LPFM


Free Press, one of the most vocal public interest groups on the media beat, is urging its followers to contact senators and drive the Local Community Radio Act over the finish line, opening the doors for a new wave of LPFM stations by eliminating 3rd adjacency protection for incumbent full-power FM stations. In the process, the organization slammed the incumbents.

The bill passed the House of Representatives and the Senate Commerce Committee with bipartisan support and sponsorship, but according to reports has been stalled by a hold put on it by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY).

Free Press notes that the bill is close to becoming law, but that time is running out to get over this final hurdle, and is urging contact with senators to help bring it to a vote before the 111th Congress fades into history.

In promoting LPFM, Free Press does its best to tarnish existing radio broadcasters. In an email to supporters, it wrote:

“Imagine what we could do with all of the local radio stations this bill would help create:

“a. Communities could air shows about the issues that matter to them, instead of being subjected to channel after channel of shock jocks and predetermined playlists.

“b. Local music could replace the endless cycle of corporate record labels pushing the same songs day after day.

“c. We could flip the dial to finally hear our own neighbors talking to each other about the things that affect our lives.

“This is what local radio could sound like, but only if this bill passes. Otherwise, radio will be exactly the same — bland, monotonous and disconnected from our communities.”

RBR-TVBR observation: We have nothing whatsoever against LPFM, but we would like to say a word in defense of “corporate” radio playlists and jocks. Free Press makes it seem like commercial radio does its level best to drive away listeners. The truth is that nobody knows better than commercial radio operators how hard it is to attract and keep listeners. Stations could base their playlists on the refreshing and wide-ranging musical tastes of air staffers – and in so doing, they would be kissing the bulk of their audience good-bye.

The commercial station that most closely exemplified the LPFM free form programming ideal that we were privileged to listen to personally was the legendary WHFS-FM serving Washington DC and Baltimore. We happen to have eclectic musical tastes and the station was a blessing for all of us in the area.

You often see the adjective “legendary” before WHFS, almost as though it’s an official part of the call letters, but the station wasn’t legendary because of its ratings. In fact, steadily declining ratings eventually relegated it to the dustbin of history alongside beautiful music and serial block scripted radio programming.

Many commercial radio programmers would LOVE to play music from their hearts and their brains. But the same citizens that LPFM proponents propose to serve simply won’t allow it.

LPFMs, with a small budget, volunteer staffing and no need to do any more than cover operating expenses may be able to pull off such a format – and that would be a good thing for the limited number of people within earshot.

But please don’t attack commercial radio for failing to do the impossible.