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Nick Leggett Dies; Was Advocate for Microcasting and LPFM

One colleague describes him as “one of the sparks that started the [LPFM] fire”

Nickolaus Leggett, an important proponent in the early days of the low-power FM movement in the United States, has died.

He was an electronics technician, analyst, technical writer and inventor who held multiple U.S. patents, but may be best known to Radio World readers as one of the original petitioners for “microstation radio broadcasting,” which grew into the LPFM movement. He also lobbied for reform to amateur radio antenna rules.

A colleague in both of those efforts, attorney Don Schellhardt, told RW that Leggett died April 26 in Virginia after a long fight with cancer and would be remembered with a family ceremony on Martha’s Vineyard.

Schellhardt visited Leggett a couple of weeks prior to his death and said his friend remained “full of spirit and passion,” especially in opposition to “those who oppose basic civil liberties.”

Leggett’s wife Judith Fielder Leggett, an IT network engineer and signatory to the 1997 petition to the FCC (read it here), recently established The Nickolaus Leggett Memorial Fund; contributions are to be used to promote technological innovation. Radio World will post the link once available.

LPFM advocate Michi Bradley has posted about Leggett’s passing: “Nick was the co-author of the petition that became RM-9208, one of the two petitions that resulted in the LPFM service we have today. While his vision for the service conflicted with the visions of the major players in LPFM, we will always recognize him as one of the sparks that started the fire.”

In 2005, Leggett was quoted by Radio World saying, “LPFM has been worth the work and effort to make it happen. There was some disappointment for some that several evangelical groups grabbed up so many of the LPFMs. I think it just needs fine-tuning, and there is a need for another window of application.” The FCC eventually did create such an expansion.

The FCC did not ultimately license LPFMs at a 10-watt “micropower” level that Leggett favored, though he never gave up on that effort. He also hoped the FCC would expand low-power service to the AM band.

In 2013 — still eager to explore the possibilities in very low-power, localized radio signals — he urged the FCC not to forget the value of AM in emergencies when electric power is unavailable; he suggested the agency use AM radio to enable inner-city neighborhoods to provide local neighborhood broadcasts. Radio World wrote about his idea at the time: “Such a service would allow minority groups to organize and develop their own neighborhoods and the talents of community residents, [Leggett] told the FCC, adding that he originally thought LPFMs would have provided this service, but noted the commission recently decided against allowing ‘especially low-powered stations that could have been accommodated in the urban FM spectrum.’”

Leggett’s byline appeared in other contexts in Radio World. He authored a commentary in 2011, “It’s Time for a Lighthouse Protocol,” describing a technical idea for using millimeter-wave frequencies to accommodate local broadcast stations.