Peter Molnar, professor of speech law, Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest, Hungary -- Broadcasting & Cable, 7/16/2000 8:00:00 PM
Station to station
Editor: The FCC announced in January that it planned to create a new class of low-power, non-commercial FM radio stations. The House of Representatives has voted to ban the proposal and Senate action is expected soon.
As a Hungarian, resistance to these small radio stations is surprising and troubling. Non-commercial radio and television stations in the United States have served as models for Hungarian media regulation in our newfound democracy.
Hungarian pirate radio stations of the early'90s were fighting not only for the start of the frequency-licensing process but also for the access to non-commercial broadcasting. During the struggles over the supervision of state-owned broadcasters and the licensing of private-use national radio and television airwaves, we passed provisions in the 1995 Hungarian media law that support non-commercial, community broadcasters.
The National Association of Broadcasters claims that the low-power FM stations would cause interference, but the FCC maintains that this will not be a problem as the stations will be equipped with the appropriate separation requirements dictated by the engineering data end tests of the Commission.
If the FCC's low-power radio plan fails, liberals in emerging democracies will lose an attractive model for an open media market. Agents of the centralized communication system will point to the United States with a dark smile and ask why idealists are talking about civic access to radio and television frequencies, when the leading democracy in the world fails to guarantee that opportunity for its own citizens.
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