Low Power FM Radio: Please call your Senator

For over a decade, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has joined with a broad, nonpartisan coalition of churches, arts organizations, community groups, civil rights organizations and other institutions to ask the federal government to allow for more 10 and 100 watt non-commercial Low Power Radio stations on the FM dial.

For over a decade, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has joined with a broad, nonpartisan coalition of churches, arts organizations, community groups, civil rights organizations and other institutions to ask the federal government to allow for more 10 and 100 watt non-commercial Low Power Radio stations on the FM dial.  The
Federal Communications Commission agreed with us, and in 1999 created this new service.  In 2000, Congress was lobbied by the National Association of Broadcasters who argued that implementation of LPFM under the FCC’s new guidelines would create interference to existing full-power radio stations.  Congressional leaders bypassed the Senate Commerce Committee by attaching legislation to the 2000 Omnibus Appropriations that restricted the FCC’s ability to grant new licenses in urban areas pending further technical study. 

radioThis study, which was performed by the Mitre Corporation and cost taxpayers over $2 million, validated the FCC’s engineering work to show that new low power FM stations would not cause harmful interference to existing full-power radio stations.  That study was presented to Congress in 2003.

Since then, legislation to lift the restriction against the LPFM service has passed the Senate Commerce Committee in the past four Congressional sessions.  For a decade, every single member of the Federal Communications Commission — Republican and Democrat – has asked for Congress to overturn the restrictions.   In December 2009, it passed the House of Representatives by voice vote. 

Currently, we have received confirmation from most Senate offices that they are willing to support passage of S.592, the Community Radio Act of 2009 by Unanimous Consent.  However, in spite of this overwhelming support for S.592, a few Senators, apparently bowing to pressure by broadcasters’ lobbying arm, the National Association of Broadcasters, are choosing to place secret holds on the bill. 

Because of Congress’ failure to act on this legislation, an estimated 300 churches, neighborhood groups, public safety agencies, educational institutions and arts organizations have been denied the ability to operate local, noncommercial radio stations to serve their communities.  After more than ten years of diligent work before the FCC and Congress, we believed that this Congress would finally pass this simple bill. 

Although this is a busy time for you, we hope you can make a call or send an email to your Senators to send a simple message:  pass S.592 and open more channels for low power FM radio to give churches, schools and community groups a chance to air local programs. 

If you have any questions about S.592, the Community Radio Act of 2009, please call or email Katherine Grincewich, Associate General Counsel, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (202/541-3314; kgrincewich@usccb.org).