by Katie Sanders
Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., assured supporters of his renewed effort to expand low-power, noncommercial FM radio stations that bipartisan legislation reintroduced in February is likely to become law this year, saying there are no valid arguments for not taking action.
He told a roomful of self-proclaimed “community radio advocates” preparing to lobby for his bill that House Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher, D-Va., seemed “inclined” to schedule the measure for a hearing and markup soon.
“Once we get this out of committee and onto the floor, I think we’ll just sail it through the House,” said Doyle, whose bill has 38 co-sponsors.
The measure would statutorily repeal “third-adjacent channel” restrictions imposed by the FCC that have prevented the licensing of more stations that generate signals of no more than 100 watts. A companion bill has been introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.
Past bills have been opposed by the National Association of Broadcasters, which has argued that a proliferation of low-power FM stations can significantly interfere with transmissions from larger commercial radio stations.
Doyle called the assertion a red herring that has been refuted by a 2003 MITRE study, which found no significant problems with interference. The study’s findings have been challenged by the NAB.
Representatives from low-power FM radio stations, joined by New Jersey musician Nicole Atkins, said easing FCC restrictions would bring more diversity in station employment and programming while offering an outlet for discussions on topics pertinent to local audiences.
The community stations are also critical for spreading local emergency alerts, said Liz Humes, national programming director of Richmond Independent Radio.