Good news for fans of neighborhood radio: Reps. Mike Doyle (D-Penn.) and Lee Terry (R-Neb.) introduced a bill yesterday to loosen the government's restrictions on starting independent, low-power stations in urban areas. Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) sponsored the Senate's version of the legislation. (Yes, McCain. Initially a vocal opponent of low-power radio, he did an about-face several years ago; these days he's pretty good on the issue.)
Here's what the bill does:
* It repeals the Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act of 2000. This misnamed law, pushed by the National Association of Broadcasters, hobbled the FCC's plan to license new low-power stations by effectively limiting the available slots to the countryside. (Fun fact: In the House, every Republican except Ron Paul and Ed Royce backed the bill.)
* Within carefully defined limits, it allows stations to transmit closer to each other on the FM band, thus making room for more broadcasters.
* It asks the FCC, when issuing licenses, to give low-power projects that offer their own programming the same consideration given to "translator" stations that retransmit signals originating elsewhere.
Update: McCain isn't the only presidential candidate backing the bill. I just got an email from Ron Paul's legislative director letting me know his boss is signing onto it as well.