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LPFM Makes a Gain on Hill

One backer says vote margin indicates a ‘policy shift’

A bill to remove third-adjacent channel protections from full-power stations, FM translators and boosters in order to fit more low-power FMs onto the dial has made it out of a House subcommittee. Advocates of low-power FM radio hailed the vote as a win over “big broadcasters.”

The House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet passed the Local Community Radio Act in a 15 to 1 vote. Those voting yes included some lawmakers whose support would have seemed unlikely in the earlier days of the LPFM debate, including Rep. Greg Walden, a broadcaster, and Rep. John Dingell. The measure now goes to the full Energy and Commerce Committee. Supporters say Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman is a backer.

The House bill (H.R. 1147) retains third-adjacent channel protection from potential LPFM interference for full-power noncommercial FMs and noncommercial FM translator and booster stations that broadcast radio reading services via an analog subcarrier frequency. The measure also includes interference remediation procedures.

A press release on the Prometheus Radio Project Web site captures the tone among low-power advocates today. It positions the news as a “triumph over big broadcasters” because of NAB’s past resistance to easing restrictions. A spokesman for Prometheus was quoted saying the House vote signals a policy shift “towards more local and diverse media.” Backers also noted recent supportive comments about LPFM from new members of the FCC.

NAB has said it supports LPFM but not at the expense of full-power, local stations experiencing interference. “NAB opposes the legislation on grounds that removing third-adjacent channel protections would result in an increase in interference to radio listeners,” a spokesman reiterated today.