Low-Power Radio Lives!


The Local Community Radio Act, a bill to loosen the restrictions on low-power broadcasters, passed out of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet yesterday. This is one deregulatory measure that has more support among Democrats than Republicans, so with the Dems in charge in Washington it might actually become law.

Elsewhere in Reason: I gave the lowdown on this legislation in 2007, and I wrote about the pros and cons of the Democrats' views on broadcast regulation last year.

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  1. This is one deregulatory measure that has more support among Democrats than Republicans


    1. Democrats tend to like low-power radio because they see it as a way to get more minority-owned and nonprofit stations on the air. Republicans tend to dislike it because the National Association of Broadcasters lobbies strenuously against it (along with anything else that might lead to more competition in their industry).

      There are exceptions, of course — Dems who are in bed with the NAB, Republicans who take a principled anti-regulatory stance. But that’s the broad outlines.

      1. I should add that this is by no means a radical move — there’s room for far more stations on the FM dial than this law will allow. So it’s not as though the Dems are suddenly embracing laissez faire here.

        1. That’s why I asked the question. ‘Cause you see here, I’m thinking in my mind, Dems have a hard-on for the fairness doctrine (even though it’ll probably not see the light of day in the foreseeable future) and allowing more low-power stations seems an anathema to democratic thought: People, on the air, saying whatever they want!

          I can see your point on the Republican aversion due to a large business association fighting it. Fair enough there.

          My guess is, as you imply, Jesse, Dems like it because in the here-and-now, they probably envision a large number of Pacifica Radio affiliates popping up. My guess is their love of low-power radio will last until the first small-time Rush Limbaugh catches on.

          1. What they envision is much more anodyne than Pacifica.

            1. … ok, I’ll bite. What soothes them more than Pacifica?

          2. I’m really looking forward to WACORN Radio.

          3. Pacifica stations air stuff like this:


            For most elected Democrats, that ain’t soothing.

  2. But Pirate stations are more fun. It’s practically required at Steven’s Institute of Technology for a BS in EE. But you didn’t hear me say that.

  3. But this will mean Mark Hunter will no longer be a cool pirate, so he won’t get Nora. What’ll he do then?!?

  4. Oh, and guys, if it’s legal, it’s no longer Pirate Radio. Just sayin’.

  5. Sorry, Epi, I fired before I aimed…

    1. Don’t let it happen again.

  6. To quote the linked article:
    “LPFMs are 100-watt non-commercial radio that can be broadcast at low cost to a small community area, possibly opening the door for schools, labor unions, churches and non-profit groups to operate.”

    This does nothing to advance the cause of freedom. Rather, it is the pimp daddies of the left selectively choosing their pals to have the right to use some semi-vacant space on the bandwith to promote the Democrat Party. Isn’t there some way to read into the constitution my right to broadcast what I want as long as it doesn’t interfere with Clear Channel?

    1. Who’s going to determine if your broadcast does interfere with CC? Also, if 20 of your neighbors decide to broadcast who’s going to determine if they are interfering with your broadcast. A jury? A judge? How much advertising revenue might you lose by the time a verdict is reached? Perhaps a group of technical experts can predetermine if your transmission is about to interfere by inspecting your equipment. Piggybacking a signal on an EM wave requires some technical expertise. It’s not quite the same as printing and selling newspapers on a street corner.

      Anyway, less regulation and government interference is always better than more.

      Besides, people should probably be more concerned with net neutrality. FM radio is almost as obsolete as the incandescent light bulb.

  7. I’m waiting for Radio Arpaio out here in Phoenix.

    1. With luck, if such a thing ever came to pass, there would also be a streaming internet feed, so we could all listen ;-).

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  9. The fundamental problem is that the government should no more say who can use the spectrum than it should say who can own a press and publish. Sure, there is a role for government to determine and punish malicious or negligent interference, or “squatting” on someone’s customary spectrum space. But that’s as far as they should go. Granting licenses based on such criteria as minority ownership, or forcing broadcasters to run programming that meets government standards of being “in the public interest,” are unconstitutional restrictions of the people’s liberty, imho.

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