LPFM-AG Responds to Critics

Group tells FCC its proposals offer a fundamental change to ensure low-power FM’s survival
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The Low Power FM Advocacy Group pushed back against critics of its proposals to overhaul the LPFM service in the United States. In comments to the FCC, it characterized opponents as corporate radio entities and faux LPFM advocates.

In a letter filed with the FCC signed by Executive Director David Solomon, LPFM-AG addressed comments from state broadcast associations, the National Association of Broadcasters and various individual broadcasters that strongly opposed its ideas. LPFM-AG said these commenters were advocating “more of the same.” It also criticized what he called “faux advocates of LPFM.” In this category it listed REC Networks (which has its own proposal at the commission), Pete Tridish, Christian Community Broadcasters and the law firm Cohen, Dippell and Everist.

The war of words erupted when the FCC opened a round of comments on LPFM-AG’s petition for sweeping changes. The group wants to upgrade the status of LPFMs, allow low-power stations to boost transmission power levels and allow LPFMs to sell commercial advertising, among other changes. It is unknown whether these ideas have support within the commission or what the FCC’s next steps might be. Radio World reported on the original petition as well as a number of reactions — pro, con and mixed — that have been filed.

Now LPFM-AG has filed a formal 21-page reply comment. It repeated its call for low-power stations to be able to support themselves financially; and it criticized commenters who argued that low-power stations should remain under the current regulatory regimen. “Corporate radio seems to think, through its comment filings, that it is in the public interest for LPFM stations to be so low powered that their signal doesn’t penetrate buildings. It may see LPFM as secondary, not as important as their 100,000 Watt jukebox stations. They seek to retain the right [to] eliminate competition and to force FM radio stations to put their listeners in peril by not allowing them the same access to emergency programming that full­power commercial radio stations enjoy.”

The letter said that LPFM should be able to participate in its own rulemaking processes and to defend its audiences against substandard radio service, which it argues is inflicted on the service by current rules. “To deny the changes proposed [in the proposal] is a statement about public service.”

LPFM-AG also took on the issue of public safety, saying a typical listener doesn’t know the power levels of a station and “should not be left out of an important emergency event simply because they chose to listen to the wrong radio station.”

“It is common practice for a full­-power commercial station to broadcast commercials in exchange for premium coverage of potentially life­threatening situations,” the letter stated. “We feel our audience is as important as their audience, and should be afforded the same level of protection from their equally perceived FM radio stations. … Saving lives should be the name of the day up and down the dial in emergency situations, not a competitive revenue game for the most listeners.”

“The LPFM service needs a fundamental change,” LPFM-AG wrote. “[Our proposal] returns small-town FM radio to small-town America.” And it said the FCC should deem the opposition — “especially the ‘advocates’” — as “uneducated or agenda seeking opportunists who do not have the success of service in mind.”

“This seems to be an FCC for the people,” the filing concluded. “Today’s FCC has the unique position to define what LPFM is and will be, and will be judged historically for its decisions.”

Read the filing.

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