We’re now in the waning days of the lame duck Congress and due to backroom machinations of a few Senators the fate of low-power FM radio hangs in the balance. As I wrote in September, one lone Senator (that we know of) has a hold on the Local Community Radio Act, keeping it from moving to the floor for a vote. That Senator is Republican Joe Barrasso of Wyoming, who appears simply to be doing the bidding of the National Association of Broadcasters, which has opposed low power FM from the very beginning a decade ago.
Reason’s Jesse Walker recently analyzed the situation, but from a decidedly libertarian standpoint. He correctly observes that the Local Community Radio Act isn’t likely to have much of an affect in Barrasso’s home state, given that the legislation is intended to expand the number of stations in densely populated urban areas. Sparsely populated Wyoming is not home to any such cities in the first place.
Walker also argues that given the recent, cyclical conservative hubub about public radio funding,
it’s worth paying attention to the fact that a batch of would-be noncommercial broadcasters are itching to go on the air even though most of them won’t qualify for federal assistance.
As a result he sees the blockage or passage of the Act as “a sign of how serious the GOP will be about cutting back big government,” noting that every Senator who has placed a hold on the bill is a Republican.
Unfortunately the rules of the Senate permit this hold to continue indefinitely, as long as Barrasso is willing to stick to it, despite strong bipartisan support in the Senate, and a swift passage in the House earlier this session. I’m not sure if Barrasso can be given any incentive to release the hold. Though one would think Walker’s arguments would be more persuasive to him than many others. But then again, that assumes that Barrasso actually walks the walk of small government and competition, rather than just talking it when convenient.
Interested in urging the Senate to finally move this bill to a vote? Prometheus Radio Project has info and tools.
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