Friday, April 24, 2009

LPFM On the Hill Recap

Nicole Atkins on the Hill (More and better pics on the way!)

This just in: Washington DC has been been invaded. . . by Low Power FM supporters! We had you there for a second, right? OK, probably not.

As we previously mentioned, advocates from around the country have come to the Federal City to talk to their representatives about the importance of community radio (specifically LPFM) to their towns and cities. In addition to visits to Congressional offices, supporters went to the FCC and even the White House to tell their stories.

On Thursday, April 23, there was a policy briefing in the Rayburn House Office building. FMC brought Asbury Park, New Jersey singer-songwriter (and Columbia recording artist) Nicole Atkins along to talk about how her town could use an LPFM station. Like, pretty badly.

"Asbury Park has become something like a ghost town over the years, but it's starting to come back," Nicole said. "When I was first starting out, there was a really great local station that was the first to play my music, which gave me confidence as an artist. There’s no longer any stations like that in my town, and LPFM would be a way to give other artists the same chance I had.”

Low Power FM stations are community-based, non-commercial radio broadcasters that operate at 100 watts or less and reach a radius of 3 to 7 miles. LPFM provides a platform for underserved musical genres, minority, religious and linguistic groups and offers a forum for debate about important local issues. LPFM also has a crucial role to play in disseminating public information for the welfare and safety of local communities.

The FCC has wanted more LPFM stations for a long time, but earlier in the decade, the National Association of Broadcasters successfully lobbied Congress to restrict these stations to all but the smallest communities, claiming interference with their own megawatt signals. This is a bit like saying that a flashlight will steal brightness from a floodlight, and an independent FCC-commissioned study completed in 2003 found no significant interference would be caused by LPFM. (Read our fact sheet to learn more about the issue.)

That's why there's a coordinated effort to get a bill passed that would lift the ban on LPFM in more American towns and cities. Groups like FMC, Prometheus Radio Project, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Media Access Project, United Church of Christ, the Media and Democracy Coalition and Free Press are all doing their part to provide important information about the benefits of LPFM — from emergency preparedness and local issues-awareness to art and cultural programming that probably wouldn't be heard on commercial (and even te bigger non-commercial) stations.

Low Power to the people!

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