Congressional Hearing Indicates Promise for Bipartisan Local Community Radio Act

For Immediate Release

Prometheus Radio Project
Contact: 

Cory Fischer-Hoffman, Prometheus Radio Project (610)-761-5414
Jen Howard, Free Press, (202) 265-1490 x22

Congressional Hearing Indicates Promise for Bipartisan Local Community Radio Act

WHAT: House subcommittee hearing on Low Power Community Radio Act WHEN: Thursday, June 11, 10 AM WHERE: 2322 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON - Rep. Rick Boucher, Chairman of the House
Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Communications,
Technology and the Internet, will hold a hearing on removing unfair
restrictions placed on Low Power FM (LPFM) radio stations. The
bipartisan "Local Community Radio Act" (HR 1147) would create new
opportunities for hundreds of low power, community radio stations in
cities, towns and suburbs across the United States. The sponsors of
this bipartisan legislation, Reps. Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Lee
Terry
(R-NE), have joined with community organizations, churches,
and public safety officials from across the country in support of low
power radio. The bill currently has 54 co-sponsors from both sides of
the aisle.

Low Power FM stations are community-based, noncommercial radio stations
that broadcast to neighborhoods and small towns. LPFM licenses allow
schools, churches, labor unions, local governments, emergency providers
and other nonprofit groups to have a voice in their communities. In
2000, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began to issue LPFM
licenses. However, soon after, Congress passed the Radio Broadcasting
Preservation Act, which drastically and unnecessarily limited the radio
spectrum available to LPFM stations. Since then, thousands of
applications submitted to the FCC have been dismissed because of these
spectrum limitations. The Low Power Community Radio Act (HR 1147) would
free up a fraction of the dial for low power radio, returning a portion
of the publicly-owned airwaves to public use.

The hearing follows a June 5 ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for
the D.C. Circuit in favor of the FCC and against the National
Association of Broadcasters (NAB), affirming the 2007 FCC decision to
protect LPFM stations against "encroachment" by full power radio
stations. Had the FCC not intervened, these low power stations would
have been forced off the air by full power stations seeking to
relocate. The Prometheus Radio Project, represented by Media Access
Project attorney Parul Desai, intervened in the case on behalf of the
FCC and the threatened LPFM stations.

During the last Congressional session, the "Local Community Radio Act"
garnered much grassroots support, as well as nearly 100 cosponsors in
the House. The Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Sens. Maria
Cantwell
(D-Wash.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) and
co-sponsored by then-Senator Barack Obama, unanimously passed
out of the Commerce Committee.

Cheryl Leanza, expert witness for the United Church of Christ
(UCC), the National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB), and
the Prometheus Radio Project, will testify on the importance of LPFM
radio to churches and communities across the country.

"Ten years ago, the Federal Communications Commission first proposed a
new low power radio service that would open up the airwaves to the
people, and usher in a wave of dynamic, local, independent voices. The
low power radio stations that have made it on the air are a testament
to the diversity and ingenuity in this country," said Cheryl Leanza
of the UCC. "If Congress passes the Local Community Radio Act of
2009, it will at last make it possible for most communities in America
to truly reap the benefits of low power radio."

By holding the June 11 hearing, Chairman Boucher indicates a
commitment to move this legislation toward mark-up. In Rep.
Boucher's home district, the Southwest Virginia
Community College hoped to include a student-run and community radio
station in their new Learning Resources Center. Because of limitations
that the Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act placed on the FCC, their
application was dismissed. HR 1147 would make it possible the Southwest
Virginia Community College and similar groups nationwide to include
radio, an inexpensive and accessible resource, in educational and
community programs.

Public safety officials have endorsed Low Power FM because of the
instrumental role that these stations have played during emergencies
and natural disasters. During Hurricane Ike, many residents in Eastern
Texas lost electricity for up to a week. Fortunately, some communities
in the path of the storm had access to emergency information because of
their local low power radio station. In Chalk Hill, Texas, residents
used battery-powered radios to tune in to low power station KZQX-LP,
which stayed on air because it could be powered by small generators.
LPFM has been a crucial--and sometimes the only--source of emergency
information during times of crisis.

The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) advocates for HR 1147
because it would diversify media ownership, creating opportunities for
underserved communities to own and control their own media outlets. At
a policy briefing on April 23, 2009, the LCCR released a report
entitled "Low Power Radio: Lost Opportunity or Success on the Dial?"
The report concluded that "the FCC's Low Power FM initiative represents
the best opportunity in years for diversity in radio broadcasting and
ownership."

LPFM is also an important resource for supporting local music and
emerging new artists. Local musicians with little chance of making
commercial radio playlists get regular airtime on LPFM stations. Even
established artists recognize the importance of good local radio: the
Indigo Girls, Kronos Quartet, Saul Williams, and Jon Langford, among
others, have submitted video testimonials to Future of Music
Coalition's newly-launched "I Support Community Radio" campaign,
viewable at www.futureofmusic.org.

With grassroots and bipartisan support behind the bill, advocates are
optimistic about the future of low power radio.

"The Congressional Hearing on Low Power FM radio demonstrates
commitment from Congress to undo the wrong that they did in 2000, when
they limited this important service," said Cory Fischer-Hoffman,
Campaign Director for the Prometheus Radio Project. "Congress must
respond to the communities across the country who are demanding the
right to use the public's airwaves to broadcast locally. Now is the
time to pass HR 1147."

More statements in support of the Local Power Community Radio Act:
 
"Low Power FM radio expansion provides a crucial opportunity for
increasing media access and diversity," said Candace Clement,
campaign coordinator for Free Press. "The Local Community Radio Act
will put community voices back on the airwaves, helping to repair the
damage left by decades of consolidation on the broadcast dial."

"Media has always played a powerful role in our democracy. Low Power FM
directly hands that power to our nation's most vulnerable and
underrepresented members," said Amina Fazlullah, Legislative
Counsel for US PIRG. "It's not just radio; it's a conduit that helps
every day people connect to each other, connect to the greater
community and connect to government."
 
"At a time of rampant consolidation when local voices have almost
completely disappeared from the airwaves, low power FM provides an
outlet where those community voices can be heard," said Shawn
Campbell,
President of the Chicago Independent Radio Project
(CHIRP). "It's neither right nor left-it's "small 'd'" democratic.
Everyone can support this bill."
 
"It's now beyond dispute that massive consolidation in commercial radio
has all but eradicated localism and diversity on the public airwaves.
Low Power FM represents an important opportunity for those with a love
and respect for local broadcasting to serve their towns and cities,"
said Michael Bracy of Future of Music Coalition. "Future of
Music Coalition knows just how important LPFM is to the artists who
make up America's rich musical tapestry-from jazz to bluegrass to
zydeco to indie rock. It's long past time for government to do the
right thing and lift the unnecessary restrictions on LPFM for the
benefit of communities, musicians and listeners across the country."

"The current cost of starting up an FM radio station is close to $2.5
million," said Joel Kelsey, a policy analyst with Consumers
Union, the non-profit publisher of Consumer Reports. "This financial
hurdle often places station licenses outside the reach of local hands,
at a time when consumers are craving access to more local media. A vote
for low power radio is a vote for the families, the workers, and the
places of worship that serve as the anchors in our communities."
 
"The American Federation of Musicians gives its whole-hearted support
to the Low Power FM legislation," said David Schoenbrun,
President of the Musician Union Local 6. "We believe it will help
enormously to correct significant loss of diversity on the airwaves and
give much-needed exposure to local musicians who would otherwise not
have access to broadcast media for their creative products."

"Radio is one of the most accessible forms of media we have today,"
said Kaleb Wentzel-Fisher, instructor at the Media Arts
Collaborative Charter School, "which is why it is of the utmost
importance that the community have a voice among the thousands of
commercial stations."

"This hearing is an opportunity to highlight the need for more LPFM
stations to provide local community coverage that is so sadly lacking
elsewhere," said Media Alliance Executive Director Tracy Rosenberg.
"We're thrilled Congress is talking about using public airwaves to add
more diverse voices and perspectives to the media."

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The Prometheus Radio Project is a non-profit organization founded by a small group of radio activists in 1998. Prometheus builds, supports, and advocates for community radio stations which empower participatory community voices and movements for social change. To that end, we demystify technologies, the political process that governs access to our media system, and the effects of media on our lives and our communities.

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