I am the author of the petition for rulemaking which served as the model for most of the Federal Communications Commission's plan for licensing low-power FM stations. There has been some confusion on this issue and your article mentioned it: Micro radio is not low-power FM, and low-power FM is not micro radio.
I had originally asked for a power ceiling of 3,000 watts but am quite pleased with the 1,000 watts offered by the FCC. However, I would like to see the maximum antenna height raised from 60 meters to 100 meters, which will increase coverage by another 2.5 miles.
While I understand pirate radio's effect through raising awareness of the issue, I do not condone illegal, unlicensed broadcasting. Jesse Walker's article was accurate and well thought out on many points. However, letting each broadcaster choose his or her own frequency and then work out interference problems invites havoc akin to taking down stop signs and letting drivers work it out on their own.
I have worked in the broadcast industry for more than 35 years and owned low-power TV stations for the last 10 years. Your idea of reducing power so ten 100-watt stations could operate in the same area as one 1,000-watt station is flawed technically. This may work with lightbulbs, but not radio propagation.
We have many factions within the LPFM movement, but certain technical parameters must apply to all, unless we are to scrap AM and FM entirely. Our problem at present is to find a way to keep the big corporate broadcasters from stealing all the new LPFM channels. I proposed that applicants must live within 50 miles of the proposed station, but some within the FCC have told me that this type of rule could be struck down as unconstitutional, especially given decisions handed down recently affecting the criteria used by the FCC in comparative hearings in the past.
Skinner Broadcasting Inc.
Miami-Fort Lauderdale, FL
Were you out to lunch when "Radio Waves" was accepted for publication? Following are a few quotes from the article with my comments interleaved:
"A series of buyouts has swept through the industry, with the number of station owners shrinking by more than 700 in less than three years, leaving four corporations in control of more than 1,000 stations nationwide." Whenever I see numbers without sufficient data to evaluate or compare them, I'm immediately suspicious. Is that 700 (and 1,000) out of 7,000, or 70,000, or 700,000? I don't know whether to be concerned I'm being manipulated. Is it necessarily bad that conglomerates are forming, or is it merely the free market?
"The conventional wisdom blamed this on Docket 80-90, a Reagan-era rule change that had loosened the restrictions on how many operations could coexist in one market, opening the FM dial to 689 new outlets." This passage suggests that it doesn't take much to change the number of stations by 700.
"With 12,000 radio stations licensed in this country, broadcasters don't need to be told how congested the spectrum is." At first I thought that here was a number I could compare with the first one. But that was 700 station owners, and this is 12,000 stations. I still don't have a number to compare with the first one. This one (12,000) does relate to the number (689) of stations that opened as a result of Docket 80-90. That number is less than 6 percent. Hardly a fraction to be concerned about. Perhaps that's why the numbers were placed so far apart.
"So if our hypothetical station (let's call it KBIG) decides to sell itself outright to a chain (let's call it KRAP), it can. But if it wants to reduce its wattage and let an entrepreneur or civic group take over part of its previous coverage area, it will somehow have to guarantee to the buyers that the FCC will allow it to transmit to the space it has emptied."
When I read this statement, I thought I had accidentally picked up the Utne Reader instead of REASON. The author seems to believe that conglomerates are bad and small stations run by your neighbors are good. I thought that was for free markets to decide. In fact, the author's general prescription is not elimination of legislation, or even less legislation--just different legislation, perhaps tilted toward smaller business. The latter strikes me as favoritism.
Laurence V. Marks
I greatly enjoyed "Radio Waves" (June). I'm a 30-year broadcast veteran who preferred to find Internet-related employment when my last radio gig came to an end in 1994. I believe that deregulation and the elimination of local competition will be the last nail in the National Association of Broadcasters' coffin. I'll never be satisfied until the government tells these bastards that they cannot own multiple facilities in the same license class in the same signal area. What an outrageous perversion of the free market and what a shameless approbation of local media monopoly! The original Communications Act has been disgraced, and Congress, NAB, and most of the brain-dead American people all have dirty hands in this matter.