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LPFM Station Fights Back Against Beasley

Florida low-power outlet says corporate group is trying to eliminate competition

Just how much of a threat might a new LPFM station present to nearby commercial outlets, particularly if the newbie adopts a professional-sounding air product? And just what can incumbent broadcasters do about it?

These questions are at the heart of a case in Florida.

A low-power FM now has responded to complaints from a larger media group that it is breaking FCC rules and should be shut down until it complies.

In July, as RW reported earlier, Beasley Media Group filed a complaint with the commission saying that WVVF(LP) in the community of Town N’Country near Tampa was acting in a manner that positioned itself as a commercial station, not an educational-focused entity.

The licensee of WVVF now has responded to the Beasley complaint and urges the FCC to dismiss it. “There is no precedent for such a request,” said Hispanic Arts of Tampa. “BMG has, with full intent, attempted to manipulate the commission’s processes to gain the benefit of eliminating competition,” HAT said in its response to the FCC, written by attorney Richard J. Hayes Jr. (Read the filing, PDF)

Beasley is owner of WYUU(FM), which plays a Latin pop format in the Tampa and St. Petersburg market. Beasley cited WVVF’s use of professionally produced promotional announcements and its positioning as an alternative to the market’s Spanish-language commercial stations. It said the new station had not aired programming that it had promised when it applied for LPFM status, including local history programs, short stories and daily educational cultural programs.

In its response to the FCC, Hispanic Arts says that it had endeavored to produce professional-sounding on-air promotional announcements similar to the way in which PBS stations have utilized strong branding and positioning. “Without such marketing elements, a radio station is doomed to oblivion in a sea of competing signals,” it wrote.

The organization stressed that it has not yet been able to offer all of its promised programming elements in the time it has been on the air but “intends to grow into those programming elements as it slowly builds an audience and attracts underwriting commitments.”

“Poetry and story reading, by local artists, will come as the station steadily grows. This is the essence of community broadcasting and the reason why Congress authorized the low-power FM service. It is illogical and unreasonable to expect a low-budget, low-power FM station to sign on the air with all of its intended program elements in place,” Hispanic Arts stated. “It cannot be emphasized enough that WVVF(LP) is a start-up, non-commercial, low-power FM station on a shoe-string budget trying to carve out a niche in a tiny corner of a major radio market. If [Beasley] were to prevail in its quest to silence WVVF(LP), it is conceivable that every low-power FM station in the country would be subjected to the same, draconian fate.”

Radio World has reached out to Beasley for comment.