Unwise bill


Sen. John McCain, with no more primary battles to fight, appears to have too much time on his hands. The senator has proposed a bill that would insert yet another bureaucratic agency between broadcasters and their audience and would adopt a "shoot now, ask questions later" model for potential interference, with the questions left to the courts.

McCain has introduced legislation that would allow the FCC to roll out its low-power FM stations despite studies suggesting possible interference problems with existing full-power stations. It would give the National Academy of Sciences the job of determining whether interference exists, then allow broadcasters to sue to stop it.

That's all broadcasters need: the opportunity to spend many years and dollars in court to protect themselves and their listeners. And in the bargain likely see those listeners courted-and perhaps won-by other delivery systems.

The bill sets up a mechanism for dealing with interference after it has occurred. It's like requiring farmers to keep their barn doors open while creating a mechanism for helping them find their horses. The courts are already crowded enough without adding a whole corps of complainants, and the National Academy of Sciences must have better things to do with its time.

What Congress should concentrate on instead is making sure that there is no interference from low-power FM in the first place. If there is, they should nip the service in the bud, not allow it to grow unchecked. This bill should go the way of the esteemed senator's presidential campaign.