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Congress grills FCC, NAB on Low Power FM

Representative Mike Doyle was on a roll today at a Capitol Hill hearing on getting more Lower Power FM radio stations rolled out across the country. He had the Federal Communications Commission and National Association of Broadcasters before him, and wanted to know why, if LPFM third adjacent interference is such a concern for commercial broadcasters, translators that broadcast within three notches of nearby licenses are in such widespread use.

“Translators are technically indistinguishable from Low Power FM stations,” FCC representative Peter Doyle (presumably no relation) conceded at the hearing. These devices extend the reach of radio stations beyond their primary signal.

“I’m looking at page five of your testimony,” Mike Doyle continued, “that says that there are already 1,800 of these translators already broadcasting right now on the same frequencies that these non-commercial groups want to broadcast on. Is that correct?”

The FCC gent went off on a bit of a tangent, pointing out that most of these translators broadcast in the commercial rather than public portion of the FM dial.

“But we have translators on third adjacent,” Rep. Doyle pressed.

“Absolutely,” FCC Doyle agreed.

Rep. Doyle turned to Caroline Beasley of the National Association of Broadcasters, there to testify against expanding LPFM.

“Ms. Beasley, does your organization or you personally, are you advocating for the elimination of these translators?”

Beasley ducked the question. “I can’t speak to that because the company I work for doesn’t use translators,” she explained.

“How powerful are these translators?” Doyle asked the FCC.

250 watts, came the reply.

“250 watts. So two and a half times more powerful than any LPFM station,” the Congressmember proclaimed. “So what you are telling me is, and I hope my colleagues will listen to this, is that what we would call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but when it comes to FCC and the big broadcasters, this name is critical. Translators that serve the interests of big broadcasters work just fine on these third adjacent channels, and there’s no complaints, and no issues about interference, but when a Low Power FM station run by community groups, schools, churches, local governments cause interference, these somehow cause interference.”

“I just hope we can eliminate this double talk that’s been taking place for years,” Doyle concluded. The hearing was part of the drive to get that third adjacent interference rule eliminated so that thousands more LPFMs can be licensed. The Future of Music Coalition has details on the campaign here. More on Doyle’s Local Community Radio Act of 2009 here. My latest Ars stories on LPFM here and here.

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