Breaking Through the Great Radio Blockade


The Local Community Radio Act, a bill to allow more low-power stations onto the FM band, has just passed the Senate. As regular Reason readers know, the National Association of Broadcasters was working overtime to block the bill. The reformers had to make some concessions before the lobby would back down, and I'm still sussing out what the full consequences of the revised law will be. But I'm inclined to agree with the activist who told me this was "the best we could have gotten when up against the NAB in Congress." More details to come.


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  1. Glad to see a couple decent things coming out of the lame duck the DATD and the LCRA…

    1. Are you complementing the Obama administration? I’ll set up a room in my attic tonight.

      1. I wouldn’t exactly read that as a compliment. More shock and surprise that TEAM BLUE/TEAM RED didn’t manage to totally screw up completely as the clock runs out on the 111th Session. . .

    2. Where would you rather live, in a radio station or Gaza?

  2. Sounds promising.

  3. Two comments:

    1) The National Association of Rent-Seekers, you mean.

    2) The FCC’s current scope of authority is unconstitutional: at very least, there are major First Amendment conflicts with the FCC’s power as spectrum gatekeeper (government control over who gets an electronic soapbox) and arbiter of programming standards (government control over speech). Celebrating the progress of the LCRA is like a dog celebrating the toss of a a nearly meatless bone in its direction.

    The First Amendment was intended to prevent government control over the expression of ideas — especially controversial ones — as well as the means of publication. The FCC far oversteps both clearly drawn lines. This agency could only be established in an America that was stunned by economic disaster and enthralled by the hero-worship of a charismatic leader. Like the Fed, its time has passed and we need to end it.

    1. The libertarian tendency to declare defeat in the face of a minor victory will never cease to amaze me.

      1. The tendency of the spineless to consider a contemptuously tossed bone as some kind of victory will never cease to enrage me.

        You don’t get it. The defeat is that we still must ask permission to use “the airwaves,” and that this permission can be refused or rescinded merely because of the exercise of free speech that the rulers deem objectionable. The “victory” is no victory at all. If there were a real victory to be rejected, you might be surprised by my agreement with you. But the “half-loaf” compromises offered to libertarians are rarely anything of the sort. Rather, they are well-dressed and coiffed capitulations, in which the victory of principle that libertarians really seek is denied, and control over the masses by our “rulers” is maintained.

        Oh well, whatever, status quo. Celebrate! Drink!

        1. Two-ply toilet paper is a luxury in prison, but not on the outside.

          Victory is a relative thing.

          1. Victory is a relative thing?

            Get back to us when you get out of prision.

            1. Damn. I was just having a discussion with an “apologist”. This is what he told me:

              A person held in a cage, but allowed some time out to engage in productive pursuits is different than a situation of a person held in a cage 24/7/365.

              1. 24/7/365

                NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO.

                FUCK YOU.

                24/365 or 24/7/52. CHOOSE MOTHERFUCKER.

                [I would like things that make robc rant incoherently for $200, Alex]

                1. Nice catch.

                  1. Ive heard it used professional too many times. Makes me punchy.

                2. I think you mean 24/7/52.14 unless they get Christmas off.

                  And of course, 24/7/52.29 for leap years.

                  1. I think you mean…

                    Why you only going with 2 significant digits after the decimal?

                    I meant exactly what I said, I chose 0 significant digits after the decimal. If you were going to go with more exact numbers, you should have pointed out that the mean length of a day is now about 86,400.002 seconds, which means that “24” wasnt exact either.

                    But, being an engineer, I know how to use significant digits properly, so I wrote what I meant.

          2. Let’s talk toilet tissue.

            1. …all we are saying
              …give one piece a chance

        2. That’s only a consistent position if you don’t consider any tiny marginal expansion in government power a defeat.

          By your logic, if libertarians can’t celebrate this, then they can’t complain about, e.g., new and extra TSA screenings. The TSA still existed beforehand and had the power to search you, so what’s the difference? Still in prison before, still in prison now.

          Thinking marginal changes significant in only one direction is the same sort of illogical thinking that most people bring to economics and price changes as well. (“Companies will raise prices if their expenses go up, but will never cut them if their expenses go down, just pocketing the money.”)

        3. You’re the libertarian at the party after 98% of government is repealed (about 2015 is my prediction ;)) complaining about how it happened and the 2% that remains.

          1. No, he is the libertarian at the party complaining that only 2% was repealed.

        4. The defeat is that we still must ask permission to use “the airwaves,”

          Sure, let’s abolish the FCC entirely. I’m going to start with 10kW of QRM over whatever you’re transmitting and see if that’s enough to block you entirely. Isn’t this fun?

          1. Of course, this was precisely the situation that led to the FRC in the first place. But instead of a reasonable claim-adjudication system, which broadcasters could use to resolve disputes over channel usage and interference, we got (in the FRC and its successor, the FCC) a full-blown regulatory regime, based on the authoritarian notion that nobody could claim the right to use any part of the radio spectrum for any reason without Uncle Sam’s formal permission. We didn’t need the government to act as gatekeeper or censor. It’s best, and perhaps only legitimate function was to keep the players from committing electromagnetic violence upon one-another.

      2. I’m not sure I’d consider it inherent and alone in libertarians or any libertarian subset. It’s a pretty common faction in every aspect of humanity (politics, sports, business, education, etc.) or I don’t think we’d have that old timey Voltaire quote or a named fallacy for it.

        I can understand the sentiment, but some days it couldn’t hurt to take pleasure in the fact you got extra gruel and one less beating today.

        1. What makes you think libertarians don’t enjoy the beatings?

          1. Nothing. Episiarch proves that point.

            1. Wait, what? Explain, please.

              1. when did you stop beating libertarians?

              2. do you need your ass whipped for a Christmas present? Talk about the pleasure in giving 🙂

    2. The FCC far oversteps both clearly drawn lines. This agency could only be established in an America that was stunned by economic disaster and enthralled by the hero-worship of a charismatic leader.

      Yeah, except the Federal Radio Commission was established during good times in the Hoover admin.

      1. I thought Coolidge was POTUS at the time… check your sources.

        The FCC was a larger agency, with more sweeping authority, than the prior FRC (which existed only for eight years before being replaced). My point was that the expanded umbrella authority of the FCC wouldn’t have played well with the public unless 1) they had been softened up a bit by the economic turmoil of the depression, and 2) hadn’t decided to place such great trust in FDR and his administration to “set things right.” The FRC had its enemies, who loudly voiced their opposition to the agency, citing First Amendment concerns, among others. The FRC likely persisted only by being “captured” by the broadcast industry — as the fig-leaf to legitimize rent-seeking by (and elimination of competitors of) the large commercial broadcasters and networks. (Scores of small broadcasters and educational/non-profit stations fell by the wayside as the result of FRC effort.) The FRC might have been modified or eliminated in a future of true prosperity. But once the depression hit and Americans began to look toward DC and the Great White Father to cure their ills, the FRC approach was firmly cemented in place, in a greatly enhanced form, by FDR’s new FCC.

        1. “wouldn’t have played well with the public unless 1) they had been softened up a bit by the economic turmoil of the depression, and 2) hadn’t decided to place”

          should have been

          “wouldn’t have played well with the public unless 1) the depression hadn’t already softened them up, and 2) they weren’t already predisposed to place…”

  4. I agree but you take what you can get. I’m 2% happy.

    1. I haven’t seen the details, and the devil is in the details. But, a tiny marginal increase in liberty over the status quo is nonetheless a victory, assuming this legislation is in fact a marginal increase and not a decrease in liberty.

      1. But we need to keep bitching!

      2. That is the point. Libertarians would indeed cheer even a tiny, marginal increase in LIBERTY. But this is only a marginal increase in the opportunity to be granted government-issued PRIVILEGE.

        If, for instance, the FCC’s criterion for granting low-power licenses were “must issue upon application, subject, when necessary, to demonstration that the new facility will not adversely interfere with established facilities, licensed or unlicensed” THAT would be a true victory for liberty, however marginal, especially if there were no penalties for operating unlicensed and a newly licensed station could not interfere with a previously established “unlicensed” station. In other words, net freedom would increase if the FCC license were little more than a bureaucratic piece of paper, but the bottom line was “natural consequences”: Don’t interfere, electromagnetically speaking, with those who were established here first.

        That’s a long way from what we actually got. So while I will of course take pleasure in the knowledge that more people will now be on the air, it is a real stretch to call that any kind of a legitimate “victory” that libertarians should celebrate, much less an enlargement of general “liberty.”

        On the other hand, any excuse for a party, am I right?

  5. There’s gotta be something in the small print.

  6. Threadjack:

    Christmas Letter 2010

    It has been a good year. Janae earned her driver’s license and Jim was relieved of (some of) his driving duties into town. Zachary had the epiphany that he is smart and, rather than settling for a career in preparing fast food, he ought to actually turn in his homework so he can get better grades. Alyssa is tapering off of video games and tapering on to reading books and riding horses (aka “goin’ worshy-back ridin’.”)

    Linda’s was named Hawaii Physician of the Year. Jim continues to be free of that nasty cancer and is working out to be in top shape, or “tic” (aka “thick” for those not familiar with pidgin) as “da boyz” would say. “Tic” can mean lots of other things ? it can be a euphemism for a fat woman, it can refer to cognitive deficits relative to one’s peers (and if any of that causes you to scramble for your dictionary, well, you might be “tic”) ? about the only thing it doesn’t refer to it what it sounds like, “tick”, which if those were in Hawaii would be called “ukus”, and, if jumping, “uku leles” (aka “banjos”).

    Our lives continue to be blessed with MJ or Masefau, our Samoan boy whose hip Linda replaced (Jim silently dissents with the use of the word “blessed” here, and invokes his Fifth Amendment rights to not specify the relevant word from his POV, aka “to STFU.”) He (Masefau) has been with us for a year. Jim has been here longer. Much longer. Much, much, much longer. Make of that what you will.

    Linda: “The other Samoan boys are here many evenings to fill our home with laughter.”

    Jim: Still invoking his Fifth Amendment rights.

    Janae is playing basketball. Zachary is wrestling. Alyssa’s main sporting activity seems to be pushing. Too much brevity? OK, “pushing her luck.” Happy now?

    We did spend a few weeks on the farm this summer, except for Jim, who had 2 weeks of quiet and solitude with the dorg in Hawaii, feeding meat scraps to gain improved loyalty. (Since, presumably, none of you who have made it this far are tic, we will leave unresolved the ambiguity about who was the feeder and who was the feedee.) Janae and Linda visited colleges in Oregon.

    Jim turned 50 this year, without the big party. It was a quiet event. Linda, however, turns 50 next November and there will be a week long party in Las Vegas that will be anything but quiet. Dancing all night, shows, tips for the male strippers, etc???

    Zachary’s football team won the JV championship for JV. Janae is at a small charter school (56 students/class) and her basketball varsity team just beat the number one team in their division, so there should be some playoff action in January. And Alyssa’s soccer team ? well, still invoking those Fifth Amendment rights.


    Merry Christmas, everyone!

    1. Jim,
      While I wish most everyone has happy holidays, I kinda find this TMI.
      But happy holidays to you and yours anyhow.
      And it looks like radio may get a bit more free; not sure who to thank.

    2. Dear Prole,

      I am writing this slowly, as I know you don’t read very fast…

    3. It’s been a banner year!

      We began by getting a new minivan complete with a navigation system. It’s been a lifesaver! We have the routes to all the nearest hospitals and pharmacies pre-programmed. With the time we’ve saved from printing out directions, I’m now able to spend some time knitting. I’m just starting out but I made little Rebecca a new sock to chew on. (This has really helped her stop chewing the couch.)

      John is doing well. He landed a third job hauling trash, which helps cover all our psychiatric co-pays.

      We are so proud of Little Bobby. During his last incarceration, he received the prison’s coveted Inmate of the Month award for his good behavior. And John and I were so impressed by the license plate he made for us for Christmas.

      Rebecca is just terrific, too. Her soccer coach has noticed that she’s kicking harder than ever (thought it’s still at the other players). And the other night, she actually sat down and did her homework.

      It’s been a bittersweet year, as Felix, our cat, is no longer with us. One of the kids left the door open, and he never came back. John says he’s never seen a cat run so fast.

      Well, that’s all the news we have to report for now. Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and hospitalization-free holiday season.

      1. Thanks, Max! I pasted it onto my facebook status. Even though we don’t celebrate Christmas, it was too good to pass up.
        Happy RamaHannaKwanzMas to all.

        1. What? No comment for Pastafarians or Festivus celebrators?


  7. Sorry about the TMI — my bad. Seemed like a good idea at the time …

    1. I thought it was sweet.

    2. all is forgiven. i wish for my friend’s son an epiphany but i think he really needs 2×4 to backside.

  8. Jesse is the reincarnation of someone who became an expert in whale oil rights immediately before the invention of the light bulb or buggy whip cartels right before the first Model T rolled off the line. Destined to fight a good fight over a hill that was once strategically important and no longer is.

    1. Heh. Don’t worry, I write about the Copyright Office’s restrictions on Web radio too.

  9. I don’t see how this increases liberty. Now the FCC can dole out LPFM slots to “community” groups on its whim. How is this different to the status quo? Just more stuff they can dole out vs. less? Seems to me like they’re just giving out some of the FM band to left wing nags.

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