FCC Approves Diversity-Enhancing Item

Commission to Allow More Low-power FM stations in Urban Markets

The FCC voted unanimously Friday to allow for more low-power FM stations, particularly in urban areas where adjacent-channel restrictions had restricted their numbers.

While not a TV topic, it was an item about increased media ownership and media voices diversity, an issue FCC chairman Julius Genachowski was been criticized about in the original small-screen space.

Genachowski pointed out that the vote was an example of Republicans and Democrats working together to create new opportunities for programming and diversity everywhere, rural and urban. He called it "a big step to empower community voices, promote media diversity and enhance local programing." Genachowski said he knew.

To make that point, and in an unusual move for an FCC public meeting, Reps. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) and Lee Terry (R-Neb.) both members of the House Communications Subcommittee and principal backers of boosting low-power FM opportunities via the Local Community Radio Act, appeared at the meeting and spoke in glowing terms about the commission's radio diversity initiative. It was an unusual appearance, a point made by commissioner Robert McDowell, who said of the legislators' presence. "It is a rare opportunity to be directly overseen by our overseers."

Doyle said LPFM was a tough fight in Congress and thanked the FCC for its action. "You guys did it, and you did it right," said Terry. He called it a big deal, and said it would provide a "tapestry of voices that is really going to enhance communities and culture."

Craig Aaron, president of Free Press, one of those who have criticized the FCC over what he sees as a rush to vote on TV and radio media ownership rule revisions without sufficiently vetting their impact on diversity, tweeted Friday as the FCC prepared the LPFM vote: "Hey @FCC, doesn't it feel great when you do something for the public? Glad to see #LPFM order. Can't wait to hear new voices on the air!"

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said the LPFM diversity item would create a communications landscape "more reflective of the greatness of this nation." She said radio remains a vital tool for the needs of the nation, citing emergency information access during Hurricane Sandy. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said there was "still great value and art in community broadcasting." She called Terry one of the true heroes of community broadcasting, added that she should know since as a staffer for the Senate commerce Committee she worked on a similar Senate bill. Rosenworcel called the item balanced and one that would create new opportunities while protecting full-power stations.

Commissioner Ajit Pai also praised the diversity potential of the new applications, but said that he supported the item in part because it codified that second-adjacent-channel waiver requests would be contingent on a showing that there be no interference to existing stations, but said it had also included a requirement that adjacent full-power stations be served with a copy of the waiver request so they could weigh in sooner if they had issues.