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Low Power FM bills moving forward with Senate action soon

HopeHmm. It seems like there’s a fair chance that a law opening up new possibilities for Low Power FM might actually get to prez Obama’s desk this or next year. I’ve been skeptical up until now, but Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington’s Local Community Radio Act S 592 is scheduled for markup and committee vote on Thursday at the Senate Committee on Commerce Science and Transportation. And a similar bill has gotten out of Committee in the House. So we’re seeing some serious movement on this front.

How nice it would be if this actually got passed, so at least some medium sized (if not big) cities could get some new community radio stations. The gist of these laws is that current interference restrictions would be relaxed, making it easier for community groups to get licenses.

Here’s the text of Cantwell’s bill and a press release from the Prometheus project:

Official Summary
3/12/2009–Introduced.Local Community Radio Act of 2009 – Repeals provisions in the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2001 that required the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to:
(1) modify rules authorizing the operation of low-power FM radio stations to prescribe minimum distance separations for third-adjacent channels;
(2) prohibit applicants who have engaged in the unlicensed operation of any station from obtaining a low-power FM license; and
(3) conduct a program to test whether low-power FM radio stations will result in harmful interference to existing FM radio stations if minimum distance separations for third-adjacent channels are not required. Requires the FCC to modify its rules to eliminate third-adjacent minimum distance separation requirements between specified stations. Requires the FCC to retain rules that provide third-adjacent channel protection for full-power noncommercial FM stations that broadcast radio reading services via a subcarrier frequency from potential low-power FM station interference. Requires the FCC, when licensing FM translator stations, to ensure that:
(1) licenses are available to both FM translator stations and low-power FM stations; and
(2) such decisions are made based on the needs of the local community.

November 17, 2009

WHO: Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

WHAT: Markup and Committee Vote on S 592, The Local Community Radio Act (LCRA)

WHEN: Thursday, November 19, 2009, at 10 a.m.

WHERE: Senate Russell Building, Room 293, Washington, D.C.

WHY: The Local Community Radio Act would allow for hundreds of new, non-commercial radio stations around the country. These independent community stations are run by non-profit organizations such as schools, churches, emergency responders, and neighborhood groups.

The Local Community Radio Act, co-sponsored by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Senator John McCain (R-AZ), has passed the Senate Committee twice before. However, this time the Senate bill is accompanied by a House version of the bill, HR 1147, which recently passed the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet and the House Energy and Commerce Committee for the first time. This greatly increases the Act’s chances for passage in this legislative session.

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