My friends at Prometheus Radio Project invited me to come to Washington, DC and participate in LPFM Lobbying Day 2008. Roughly 30 community radio advocates from around the country gathered in DC Monday and Tuesday to let our elected officials know about the Local Community Radio Act. Introduced by John McCain and Maria Cantwell, the bill would authorize the Federal Communications Commission to expand access to new radio station licenses to over a thousand community groups. The LPFM bill has already passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee and has bipartisan support in the House, with 70 co-sponsors currently.
LPFM is low-power radio, run by legally licensed stations at 100 watts or less. For the equivalent wattage of a bright light bulb, communities can broadcast news, music and public safety information for several miles in all directions. Hundreds of these stations already exist, but the broadcast industry convinced Congress back in 2000 that “interference” from the little guys would make static and negatively impact the big guys, and everything got put on hold.
Former FCC Chairman William Kennard famously called this argument a “smokescreen.” And in 2003, at a cost of more than $2 million to the taxpayers, MITRE completed a comprehensive study proving Kennard, Prometheus Radio, and hundreds of community organizations right. The MITRE study results mean simply that for five years Congress has been holding the FCC back from creating new community radio stations.
February 26th I met with staffers for Senator Maria Cantwell and Senator Patty Murray in their offices, accompanied by Joel Kelsey, policy advocate at Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine. After our morning appointments, I took off on my own to the House offices of Rep. Rick Larsen (Everett, Bellingham and Northwest Washington) and Rep. Brian Baird (Olympia and Southwest Washington).
Senator Cantwell is very strong on media ownership issues, speaking via video at the FCC hearing in Seattle last November, standing up for our privacy by denying telecoms immunity for warrantless wiretaps, and co-authoring the LPFM bill that is gaining momentum. My meeting with her senior policy advisor Michael Daum was very educational, and ultimately very encouraging. He pointed out that whoever wins the Presidency, McCain, Obama, or Clinton will be supportive of this bill. If we can push this forward sooner, would Bush sign it into law if the 110th Congress passes HR 2802 and S 1675?
My next meeting, accompanied by Joel from Consumers Union who will be a guest on Digital Crossroads in the coming weeks, was with Jason Park, legislative assistant to Senator Patty Murray. If you live in Washington, please shoot Jason an email and let him know you support S 1675 and thank him for Senator Murray’s support of local and diversity media. [jason_park at murray.senate.gov]
I also spent time in the offices of Congressman Rick Larsen and Congressman Brian Baird. If you are represented by Larsen, contact Michael Dabbs [michael.dabbs at mail.house.gov] and if you live in Baird’s district, contact James Ward [james.ward at mail.house.gov]. Let me know if you want more ideas on what to say, otherwise let them know you value local, community media and think it is about time for Congress to empower the FCC to grant more LPFM licenses to non-profit community groups.
I also spent time on the 8th floor of the FCC speaking with staffers of Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps and a staffer of Chairman Kevin Martin about the impacts of community radio. I also met two members of Irish Parliament, including John Cregan, Chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. He will be a guest on an upcoming Digital Crossroads as well.
Right now, click over to Expand LPFM, email your elected representatives (wherever you may live) and make your voice heard.