Burns Takes Aim at LPFM

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The National Association of Broadcasters said Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), a former broadcaster himself, will introduce a bill Thursday to allocate $800,000 to further study interference issues related to low-power FM radio.

Professing a fear of undue interference, NAB is trying to put the brakes on a legislative effort that would expand LPFM's into urban markets by loosening interference restrictions.

Following a study that found that allowing new LPFMs within two channels of existing broadcasters would not cause undue interference, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced an LPFM bill that would remove the prohibition on so-called third-adjacent-channel restrictions, allowing LPFMs to enter markets previously deemed too crowded. The Burns legislation would be an amendment to that bill.

"NAB believes that removing these protections will allow the FCC to authorize thousands of interference-generating stations," the association said in a release Wednesday. "While we do not oppose LPFM as a concept, we do not think the service should be expanded at the expense of subjecting millions of Americans to aggravating interference on their favorite radio stations."

The bill would require the FCC to conduct independent audience testing, as well as conduct an economic impact study on existing broadcasters.

Restrictions barring LPFM stations from operating on third-adjacent channels (a two-channel separation) from full-power stations were not necessary, concluded a MITRE Corp. report submitted to the FCC in June of 2003, prompting long-time LPFM proponent McCain to move to end the prohibition.

The report found that LPFM stations can be operated on third-adjacent channels if "relatively modest" geographic separation -- from a few tens of meters to slightly more than one kilometer -- is maintained. Congress imposed the restrictions in 2000, citing conflicting data, but it required the FCC to conduct the study.

The NAB slammed that report, saying it should be "rejected out of hand," branding it "fraught with major technical flaws, including site selection, frequency selection ... and testing methodology," which invalidated "any recommendation regarding the feasibility of relaxing third-adjacent-channel spacing requirements for LPFM stations."

Burns' office could not comment on the amendment.

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