The U.S. Senate has approved the Local Community Radio Act, which now awaits signing by President Obama.
Advocates at Prometheus Radio Project saluted “bipartisan leadership” of Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and John McCain, R-Ariz., in the Senate and Reps. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) and Lee Terry (R-Neb.) in the House. The bill lifts third-adjacency protections but puts into statute an FCC rule that states full-power stations have primary status, and clarifies how the commission will protect full-power stations against interference.
Prometheus said Congress had responded to “overwhelming grassroots pressure” and that the bill will give the FCC “a mandate to license thousands, of new community stations nationwide.” It went further, hailing this as “the first major legislative success for the growing movement for a more democratic media system in the U.S.”
The likely success became apparent at the end of last week when NAB announced its support of a compromise version of the legislation, which then passed the House.
“The bill repeals earlier legislation which had been backed by big broadcasters, including the National Association of Broadcasters,” Prometheus said in a statement. “This legislation, the Radio Broadcast Preservation Act of 2000, limited LPFM radio to primarily rural areas. The broadcast lobby groups claimed that the new 100 watt stations could somehow create interference with their own stations, a claim disproven by a congressionally-mandated study in 2003.”
In the past week, it continued, LPFM’s friends on the Hill “worked with the NAB to amend the bill to enshrine even stronger protections against interference and to ensure the prioritization of full-power FM radio stations over low-power stations.” Prometheus added that amendments to the bill “will require some further work at the FCC” without specifying further.
Prometheus listed numerous organizations that it said were “instrumental” in the final legislative push including Reclaim the Media, MoveOn.org, the Christian Coalition and the National Association of Evangelicals, among many others. Read its full statement and list of backers here.
There are around 800 LPFM stations on the air at present.