Supporters of new low-power radio stations are ramping up the circus antics, literally, as the 111th session of Congress nears adjournment before the holidays.
Hula hooping, juggling, professional circus performers and volunteer community radio leaders performed outside the National Association of Broadcasters Washington headquarters on Monday.
NAB EVP Dennis Wharton says trade association employees watched the protest: “It was entertaining, but I’m not sure the folks employed by Cirque du Soliel should feel threatened,” he said.
The point of the protest, according to the organizer, Prometheus Radio Group, was to ask NAB to stop making LPFM radio jump through hoops to get the Local Community Radio Act passed. The bill, among other things, would drop interference protection to existing third-adjacent FMs in order to fit more LPFMs on the dial.
LPFM supporters believe passage could lead to “thousands” of new LPFMs on the air. The measure has passed the U.S. House and the Senate Commerce Committee, but has not been slated for a vote by the full Senate. Prometheus claims NAB has persuaded several senators to block the vote; something a spokesman for the trade group wouldn’t discuss.
NAB has interference concerns with the legislation pending in the Senate (S. 592). It’s seeking language clarifying language that co-channels and first- and second-adjacent full-power FMs will be protected through minimum distance separations. NAB also wants a clarification that full-power FMs are a primary service, to reaffirm existing FCC rules (that are not written into congressional statute) about the rights and obligations of full-power stations and their status in relation to “secondary” services such as LPFM, FM translators and FM boosters.
“It’s time to expand LPFM,” according to Pete Tridish, the founder of the Prometheus Radio Project, which has been working on the issue for a decade. “LPFMs can only help revitalize the radio dial by increasing listenership and putting local voices on the air.”
Prometheus said approximately 40 people took part in the show at NAB HQ.