Tuesday, March 20, 2012

FCC makes ready for low power FM licenses

Washington – Community activists will have a chance to apply for an estimated 1,000 new low power FM broadcasting permits as early as this fall.

In a vote yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission approved clearing a backlog of about 6,000 pending applications, hundreds of them for FM “translators” that would serve as repeater stations to rebroadcast the signals of distant broadcasting stations operated by conglomerate corporations that own an unlimited number of stations.

Instead, non-profit organizations with community-based missions will be allowed to apply for non-commercial construction permits to set up stations of 100 watts or less power in 12 mid-sized populated urban areas, including San Antonio and Sacramento.

The new stations will be limited to effective radiated power (ERP) of 100 watts (0.1 kilowatts) or less, with maximum facilities at 30 meters (100 feet) antenna height above average terrain (HAAT). A low power FM station has a broadcasting radius of about 3.5 miles

The decision resulted from the decade-long work of the Philadelphia-based Prometheus Project to pass the Local Community Radio Act of 2010, which cleared the way for the commission's decision.

The Prometheus activists had persuaded the FCC to stop processing the translator station permits in 2005 in favor of the new pending legislation.

Said Milena Velis, an organizer and educator with Philadelphia-based Media Mobilizing Project, “In Pennsylvania, we're facing big challenges, from education cuts to rural poverty to environmentally destructive shale drilling. We see community radio as a way to bring people together and create solutions from the ground up.”

Similarly, Carlos Garcia, lead organizer with Puente Arizona, said “Anti-immigrant voices dominate the airwaves. Community radio can help us tell our own stories, share news and information, and get organized.”

The low-power stations have a start-up price tag of $10,000 and cost about $1,000 per month to operate.

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