Low-Power Radio Gets Out of the House


At last:

A celebrity endorsement by WALL-E helped pave the way for the bill's passage.

The Local Community Radio Act passed the House of Representatives Wednesday evening with a resounding voice vote and now moves to the Senate. The bill will open the airwaves for hundreds of new non-commercial stations across the country, bringing low power radio to urban areas for the first time.

Following the recommendations of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the House of Representatives voted to remove technical restrictions Congress placed on low power radio in 2000 at the request of commercial broadcasters. These restrictions have kept low power radio out of the top 50 radio markets, which reach over 160 million Americans.

For more on the bill, see this post. For more on low-power radio, see this book.


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  1. Oh wow, now that looks like fun!


  2. Oh wow, now THAT looks like a lot of fun.

  3. I LOLed at the alt-text. (parenthetically, is anyone surprised that Anonymity Bot thinks being a shoddily built “robot” looks fun?)

    1. No, and I think Teh Bot is having Electric Dreams of Short Circuit

      “Number Five is….alive!”

      1. Good point, but I don’t remember Johnny 5 having a penis for a left hand.

        1. Hence why Teh Bot is so excited, he views that as a feature, not a bug.

      2. God damn it, dude, that was my first thought and you had to go and do it.

  4. Does this mean I won’t have to listen to the same pool of 100 songs from the classic rock station on my morning commute?

    1. Yes, but you will get 100 different LP stations on the same frequency during a 15 mile drive. Some might be good, but expect it to be more like The Twitter experience than a H&R experience.

  5. Anybody else get sticker shock from the book?

  6. It’s a good move. With satellite radio and the prevalence of MP3 players plugged into the auxiliary jack, the best way to get people to listen to/use (non-talk) radio is to provide the airspace for niche broadcasters. As marlok alludes to, “mainstream” FM is barely tolerable these days ‘as is’.

    1. One time a Richmond album rock station promised “DEEP CUTS” and then played Freebird, Walk this way, and Smoke on the Water.

      1. Did they say “DEEP CUTS” in a low, booming voice on their promos and station IDs?

  7. “The time has come to give low power to the people,” said lead cosponsor Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA)….Hall wrote, “You cannot build a community without a cohesive voice and this will give a voice to the voiceless. Low power FM is the beacon that lights up the future for us.”

    In the era of cell phones, email, internet radio, video-on-demand and Twitter, these claims ring a little hollow, if not anachronistic. How will this necessarily low-power means of communication accomplish anything more than a ghettoization of the message? Vanity broadcasting will “give a voice to the voiceless”? That’s comically naive. Not that the principles involved are not valid.

    1. Ah, come on, you’re being too negative, not to mention short-sighted. In poor inner-city communities, how many people do you think are going to be using “internet radio, video-on-demand, and Twitter”? And cell phones are not a mass-communication method, and people are not exactly going to be reading their email while driving their cars, working manual-labor jobs, etc. It’s just another means of communication, and it’s being made available to smaller groups with less capital. Nothing wrong with that.

  8. Anybody else get sticker shock from the book?

    Walker is one of the few writers whose work I’d recommend even with that extraordinary price tag. That being said, I’d see if my library system had that book right quick.

  9. The blog format comes to radio?

  10. Sorry about the sticker shock! My fault for not linking to the paperback edition. Fixed now.

      1. The hardcover didn’t originally cost that much, by the way. I suspect that after the paperback came out they decided that only libraries would want to buy the hb, and repriced it accordingly.

        1. Makes sense, Jesse. When pricing my paperback I had to jack the price up $2 when I added brick & mortar stores as a distribution channel to get the royalty out of negative range. “Compensated” by putting a $4 discount on eStore sales.

  11. One of the things I miss the most about Memphis is being able to listen to WEVL.

    I don’t think they are low power, but they are run by community volunteers.

    It is great to listen to a music show put on by someone who really loves a certain niche.

    I hope that this means I can get more stuff like WEVL here in sunny Minnesota.

    1. If you want to listen to WEVL, here is the link to their web cast.

      * WEVL is the only bumper sticker I have ever put on my car.

  12. Two-to-one: the move to “allow” low-power radio will result in many broadcasters asking for (and receiving) government funds to give “voice to the voiceless:, or rather, to spew propaganda. Nothing in Washington happens on a vacuum…

  13. “played Freebird, Walk this way, and Smoke on the Water.”

    Does any one have any idea how many times have we’ve heard these songs? 500, 1000, 10000 times?

    1. What is this ‘Freebird’ song of which you speak?

    2. I. Hate. Jurassic. Rock. In CT there must have been 4 or 5 of those stations, playing the same shit for the past 30 years. No joke.

      1. Oh, please. Maybe hearing older music all the time suggests something about the quality of more recent music?


        1. Every time I hear this, I want to giggle. Let’s play a game. Go back and look at the top 40 charts for your preferred timeframe. You know what you’ll see? A festering pile of crap with a few good songs in it. Sturgeon’s Law applied back then, just like it does now.

          1. Dude, I’m not talking about all of the music. Are you kidding? There was horrific crap produced–at the top of the charts–in every decade I’ve lived through. I’m just talking about the better stuff.

            If music has no legs, there’s likely something not quite right about it. At least on any large scale. Beauty is in the eye and all of that.

            1. There’s a lot of good new stuff coming out, but by and large it seems you either have to listen to college radio or go digging through Wikipedia, YouTube, MySpace, iTunes, etc. to find it.

              1. I always wondered how classic rock DJs do their job without offing themselves on air.

                Seriously. How many times can you listen to the Same. Fucking. Songs.?

                1. Why do you think they’re listening?

  14. Hmm. I sense an investment in broadcasting equipment in my future.

    1. I was thinking that for a few years. On the fence now, thinking it would just end up with content as what I commented about earlier.

      1. Honestly, I’d probably set it up to stream content from my SqueezeServer direct to broadcast with the occasional podcast thrown in. Who knows, I might get an audience that way.

  15. This isn’t surprising to me.

    In the early days of radio, the state made the deliberate and conscious decision to kill low-power radio in order to facilitate making radio a mass-market corporate undertaking.

    Now that technology has advanced to the point where the progeny of that decision will probably end up getting destroyed anyway, the state is happy to change its mind. Now that the technology is dead, the supply of it no longer has to be artificially restricted to allow the kleptocracy to profit.

  16. This SHOULD shut up the idiots who want governmental control of talk-radio content… but it won’t.

  17. Why does anybody think this is a good thing? I don’t understand. This isn’t going to be a free for all where we all get to run our own stations. This is going to allow groups like ACORN to run LPFM stations. My classic country extravaganza will have to remain classified as “pirate”.

    1. I’ve no doubt that ACORN will make a run at as many stations as they can, but there’s other entities that want to give this a shot. Whether it’s Scout groups, churches, schools, or what have you. I think neighborhood-level radio stations may find traction in my city’s Hmong, Mexican, and Somali neighborhoods.

      I imagine all of these outfits will have the same quality as the weekly newspapers that currently serve the neighborhoods, but I’ll accept baby steps for now.

  18. Just in time for the precipitous decline in the relevancy of radio.

    Good work Congress!

  19. Someone tell Ken Cartwright!

  20. I thought we already had low power radio: Air America.

  21. It wasn’t just — or even mostly — the opposition of commercial broadcasters; “Public” radio was even more opposed.

  22. I think it would be great to get the Acornistas out there spewing their bilge to as many people as possible. They’d soon have few or no adherents left. Who wants to be nagged all day?

  23. Wait, wait… if there are MORE radio stations, how will Obama tell the FCC to shut down the ones who don’t kiss his ass 24/7?

  24. What nonsense. Auction that spectrum off, and may the best and highest uses win.

  25. Check out a Sydney, Australia community radio station, it also streams at
    50% aussie music, 1/2 that from Sydney. We rock.

  26. I was disappointed that there was no provision for LP AM. Also, that the FCC remains the bureaucratic gate-keeper that gets to decide who is or is not qualified to occupy broadcast spectrum space. Oh yeah, revolutionary change courtesy of your friendly government. BFD.

    If you have ever looked at an FCC station license application (blank or completely filled out), you will have some sense of the politically correct, forelock-tugging, butt-kissing exercise in masochism that applying for a station license is and has always been. This process is not necessary, only serving to mold the community of broadcasters into some politically determined shape that does not realistically respond to the demands of the market or even the social or political needs of the localities to be served. With LPFM, the FCC is just trying to perpetuate itself, by creating yet another captive constituency that can “benefit” from regulation… geez.

  27. Where I live in N. FL, our local “Public” radio just made the switch from classical music (not ‘classic rock’, but Hayden, Beethoven to all-talk, purile political propaganda, all the time. Many of us protested but were ignored; now we shall have our revenge!

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