I have the radio blues

When I was a kid, I broadcasted music into my youngest brother’s room. A little later, I broadcasted to the neighborhood kids who were within about 100 feet of where I lived. When I got out of high school, I applied for a job at a radio station (didn’t get it). Later I became a DJ that played for parties and for evening cruises on a boat. Now I want to start a small radio station here in town. It’s apparent to me it’s been a life-long ambition.

A couple of weeks ago Congress passed the Local Community Radio Act of 2010. The original intent of the bill was to reverse the changes that Congress did with the Radio Broadcast Preservation Act of 2000 (which of course sounds very charitable, like a good thing, but really just preserves Big Radio).

To recap this tale, the FCC started a new radio service in the late 1990’s called Low-Power FM (LPFM). These types of stations have a broadcast range of about 5 miles. In 2000, the big radio corporations convinced our Congress that these tiny stations were causing undue interference with them. Congress reacted by drastically reducing the number of stations that could fit on the radio dial. This effectively prevented any new LPFM stations. The interference claims were later found to be false. For the past 6 years, there have been bills introduced in Congress to reverse the preservation act, and finally an amended version has passed.

The amended version is only a slight improvement to the preservation act that existed before. Yet everyone is patting themselves on the back for a job well done.

Today, I was ready to get the ball rolling. The odds of actually getting a license are slim, but I decided that it’s worth a try. I wrote a letter to the local newspaper, inviting those interested in starting a radio station to contact me. After I wrote the letter I read the text of the final bill that passed. Now I think I’ll wait before sending it until I can do some more research into the technical caveats of the bill.

LPFM licenses are only granted to community non-profit groups. So the first thing that has to happen is a non-profit corporation has to be formed. Then some engineering work has to be done to figure out the location of the transmitter, choose the frequency and power levels. Then an application is submitted to the FCC, where it’s either accepted or rejected. All of that can be done without much monetary investment.

But my big concern with this bill is what happens next. We get our license and our organization goes out and raises money for studios and transmitting equipment. We begin transmitting. And with a single day’s notice, we can be shut down by the FCC for a bogus interference claim filed by one of the Big Radio stations. What’s worse is that the bill provides for “informal” complaints, which sounds to me like unsubstantiated claims of interference. Now look at all of the time and money wasted.

This is the final bill that passed both the House and the Senate: HR 6533 (the third link down).

I had read an earlier version a couple of weeks ago, and was troubled by much of the language in the bill. The final bill is even worse, particularly sections 3 and 7. Congress isn’t qualified to be setting technical/engineering policies for the FCC. It’s obvious that most of the language in the bill was created by the National Association of Broadcasters and other Big Radio lobbyists. The FCC already has plenty of applicable interference resolution rules and procedures, but this bill needlessly makes those even more convoluted and does whatever it can to favor Big Radio.

I need refresh my knowledge of the distance requirements between stations with the caveats listed in section 3, and do at least a preliminary analysis of whether it’s even possible to have a station here.

Why am I doing this? Oh yeah. The dream.

Is radio dead? Does anyone listen anymore? That’s the subject of another post.

4 thoughts on “I have the radio blues

  1. Despite the wacky language you pointed out, it sounds like another step in the right direction. A baby step, yes, but a step, none-the-less. Keep at it.

    • Yes, baby steps, especially because it’s easy for me to get overwhelmed. The FCC doesn’t give very much notice for their “filing windows”, which are usually less than a week long. So I feel pressured to get my ducks in a row so I’m ready to go when the window opens.

  2. I actually do listen to the radio, although only when I’m driving. I’m lucky to live in an area that has a public radio “new music” station – in five minutes, you could hear Patsy Cline, the Mountain Goats, and Atmosphere.

    • Hi Chris, Jase said you’d be stopping by to look around. 🙂

      There is a public radio station that “serves” our town, but I’ve never liked it, or the management. Over the years it’s grown and is now pandering to the big Denver market where the dollars are.

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