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DJ Chairman Genachowski Throws a Few Bones to Radio at NAB

DJ Genachowski

The National Association of Broadcasters wraps up its annual national trade show in Las Vegas tomorrow. Radio has its own annual show, so at the big one it tends to take a back seat to television when it comes to big announcements. Nevertheless, when FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski gave his remarks [PDF] to the crowd on Tuesday, he had a few things to say about radio.

First, the Chairman revealed his own secret radio past, telling attendees that he was “a radio DJ while in high school, spinning disks — literally — on an old carrier current station.” I must note that means young Julius was actually broadcasting without a license. But I also presume his high school station operated legally under Part 15 rules for AM carrier current, which also kept his signal confined to school grounds.

Genachowski laid out the statistic that “radio has actually grown its over-the-air audience by almost 10 percent over the last decade.” If accurate that about matches the growth in the US population over the same period (based upon the Census Bureau’s current population estimate of 309,069,148). He also touted a couple of the bones the Commission recently threw to the radio industry, authorizing the HD Radio power increase and allowing AM stations to have translator repeater stations on the FM dial.

Genachowski used most of his time to defend the FCC’s controversial proposal to ask TV broadcasters to sell back some spectrum space to be repurposed for wireless broadband. Still, he did make a nod towards the upcoming ownership rules review, saying that the Commission will issue a Notice of Inquiry “soon.” At the moment its up to tea leaf readers to decipher what will be up for consideration. Genachowski’s only comments on the rules review amounted to vague pronouncements of respect for “the traditional Communications Act values of competition, localism, and diversity,” while acknowledging that “an America with universal broadband access and deployment looks different from one without.”

At least it’s nice to hear the FCC Chairman give some props to radio, especially since he didn’t attend last year’s NAB Radio Show (Commissioners Atwell-Baker and Clyburn went instead). We’ll see if he chooses to grace this year’s.

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