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Friday, October 16, 2009

LPFM bill moving swiftly toward full House vote

From Prometheus Radio Project:
With a unanimous voice vote, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the Local Community Radio Act Thursday. By repealing restrictions that drastically limit channels available to low power FM (LPFM) stations, the Act will allow hundreds of community groups nationwide to access the public airwaves.

The popular, bipartisan legislation is on the fast track to becoming law. Shortly after all five FCC Commissioners reaffirmed the FCC’s longstanding support, the bill passed out of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet by a voice vote. After today’s passage out of committee, the Local Community Radio Act heads for a floor vote in the House.

In his opening remarks today, Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) urged his colleagues to support the bill.

“As a longtime advocate of expanding low power FM radio services and the dynamic contribution they make to localism, a bedrock of our communications laws, I am pleased that the Committee is acting on this important bipartisan measure. Low power FM stations provide diverse, locally-originated programming that serves the needs of the community,” said Rep. Waxman.

Lead co-sponsor Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) noted that earlier concerns about potential interference with full power stations have been addressed.

“We are proud to have the support of many incumbent broadcasters for our legislation,” said Rep. Doyle. “We made changes during the subcommittee's consideration of the bill to resolve concerns from other incumbent broadcasters, and we are especially pleased that National Public Radio expressed their appreciation of these changes.”

The bill has recently gained the support of its former skeptics in Congress, including Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), the only former broadcaster on the committee. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), a lead co-sponsor of the bill that originally restricted low power radio in 2000, also now supports the legislation.

Hundreds of groups across the country are organizing for the opportunity to have their own radio stations. One of the most active among these is the Chicago Independent Radio Project (CHIRP).

“Our goal is to provide Chicago with a showcase for the city's diverse music and arts scenes and to cover local news stories too often overlooked by bigger media outlets,” said Shawn Campbell, President of CHIRP. “Our 140 volunteers are true believers in radio that is live, local, and truly connected to community. We are ready to start broadcasting original content around the clock as soon we are given the chance.”

Advocates say that today’s vote is a call to action for supporters of local media.

“We are sounding the alarm,” said Cory Fischer-Hoffman, Campaign Director at the Prometheus Radio Project. “Passage out of full committee signals that Congress is finally ready to act on local community radio. Now is the time for everyone who wants a voice in their community to urge their Congressional Representatives to support HR 1147.”

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