Low Power FM Radio Stations: Consumers Union Urges Passage


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November 19, 2009

WASHINGTON, DC — Today the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously voted the Local Community Radio Act of 2009 (S. 592), sponsored by Senator Cantwell, out of committee. The bill will now head to the full Senate for approval.

Joel Kelsey, policy analyst for Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, said the passage of the bill would be a huge win for consumers who are looking for a wider variety of local programming produced by people in their communities.

“Passage of this bill will result in the creation of hundreds—possibly thousands—of new local radio stations across the country. Recent media consolidation of radio stations means many communities have lost community radio stations that air local programs. The passage of this bill will be a win for every community in need of local programming for community groups and emergencies.”

Low power FM (LPFM) stations are non-commercial stations that operate at 100 watts or less – with a radius of approximately three to five miles. As local outlets, LPFM stations directly serve their communities by licensing to high schools, non-profits, civic organizations, churches, labor unions, and civil rights groups, giving them a forum to discuss local news and issues. Additionally, LPFM stations provide essential emergency services for local communities during times of crisis.

In 2000, the Federal Communications Commission voted to create Low Power FM stations around the country to serve the news and informational needs of local communities. But Congress voted to limit the number of LPFM stations after claims that these low-watt stations would cause interference with full-power FM stations. Those worries have since been studied and allayed and the new bill would increase the number of LPFM stations.

Media Contacts:
David Butler, 202-462-6262, Dbutler@consumer.org
Kristina Edmunson, 202-462-6262, Kedmunson@consumer.org