FCC, McCain: Open Doors to Big-Market LPFMs

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Congress should allow many more low-power FM stations, especially in major metro markets, the Federal Communications Commission said Friday.

In a move sure to ignite the ire of commercial broadcasters, FCC endorsed a 2003 Mitre Corp. study showing no harmful interference would be created if a current law banning LPFM stations within two channel stops of an existing full power station was eliminated.

"There appears to be no public interest reason to retain third-adjacent minimum distance separation requirements," the FCC said in a report to Congress. Sen. John McCain pledged to introduce a bill putting the recommendations into law.

Congress imposed the ban in 2001 after intense lobbying by the National Association of Broadcasters, which argued that added interference would drive listeners from existing outlets if dials were crammed with new stations.

By scaling back the FCC's plan to let nonprofit LPFMs operate on the second-adjacent channel, the NAB managed to prevent introduction of hundreds of possible low power stations in major markets. Sen. McCain, one of the few Republicans to endorse the FCC's original low-power plan, called the NAB's interference concerns a ruse to stifle competition and announced plans to introduce legislation to put the commission's recommendation into law.
"Four years ago, broadcasters masqueraded their concern about competition in grossly exaggerated claims of interference. Today, the FCC has stripped the broadcasters of this disguise," he said.

Responding to the FCC’s move, NAB Senior VP Dennis Wharton said: "It is unfortunate the FCC is relying on the deeply flawed Mitre study in making its recommendation to Congress. Local radio listeners should not be subjected to the inevitable interference that would result from shoehorning more stations onto an already overcrowded radio dial."

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