... or you had a show on a station run by new and new local
owners with different values?
What different kinds of events and people
would be "newsworthy"?
What different kinds of music would you hear?
NLPFMAC Frequently Asked Questions:
What IS LPFM (a bit of history)
What does "Short Spaced" mean and why should I care?
What is a "subcarrier" and why does this allow NPR to
hide their anticompetitive actions behind the blind?
Why will the new (currently proposed) Digital Audio Broadcasting
plans make all this work worthless if it comes
LPFM is desighned for the small fry, how does the FCC plan
to keep all the same huge institutions that have grabbed most of the existing
radio stations from getting the LPFM stations? (Ownerhsip restrictions).
What is Low Power FM (LPFM)?
On February 20th, 2000, the Federal Communication Commission
(FCC) voted 3-2 in favor of creating new opportunities for "The Rest Of
US" not heard on the radio dial to build "Low Power FM" radio stations
to serve our neighborhoods.
LPFM is specifically designed by the FCC to be simple
enough and affordable enough that a coalition of civic organizations, small
churches and advocacy/ educational organizations could apply for them over
the Internet. LPFM stations are estimated to cost less than a mid-range
new car. 100 watt LPFM stations would cover a 7 mile diameter. During the
first round of applications, only the 100 Watt applications will be accepted.
After this first round, 10 Watt applications will be accepted.
LPFM is a variation of a kind of radio station that has
legal before. Previous to the Reagan-era FCC, you could apply for
what was called a "Class-D" radio station of less than 100 watts. They
were very affordable.
National Public Radio wanted to get the "amatures" (otherwise
known as "citizens") out of the picture so that they could sound more like
commercial radio and thus get greater donations and secure their economic
future in a new political climate (Reagan) that was extremely critical
and intolerant of anything other than a corporate Wall-Street-Elite-centered
version of Judeo-Christianity.
Besides, have you visited a pubcaster lately? At
least in the major metro areas, they often smell of new rugs and fully
digital studios. They have equipment where all the lights work and there
are no marks on the side of equipment that mean "smack here". Having worked
in commercial radio, I can tell you that most public broadcast facilities
are in considerably better condition than many commercial radio stations.
Also, many public broadcasters have very well paid managemnt. At
WCVE, the Central Virginia public broadcaster, the CEO makes over $100,000
a year, and they have a surplus of over $25,000,000.
And if you though that the scandal of selling mailing
lists to the Democratic Party was bad, consider that WCVE canceled an environmental
show called "Living On Earth" after it played a show that was critical
of gasoline additives called MTBE ... in 1994, six years before
the pollution of groundwater became so bad that even CBS's 60 Minutes
had to give it coverage in order to retain credibility. WCVE's Chairman
of the Board of Directors is A. Prescott Rowe, for many simultaneious years
the "Vice President of External Affairs" (Public Relations) for Ethyl Corporation.
Ethyl Corporation invented tetra-ethyl lead gasoline additive that allowed
gasoline to be used in the high performance engines of WWII. "Ethyl Gas"
was also (and in third world nations, still is) a major source
of brain damage. If it hadn't been for high octane gasoline (due
to the additives), we might have switched decades ago to Butane, Propane,
Methanol or Ethanol that all have a natureal octane rating of around 120
octane ... and burn cleaner besides! So any news that gasoline additives
are bad for the environment is not going to help the primary sugar-daddy
of "ethyl radio" WCVE.
If the public broadcasters lost governemnt funding, they
might actually have to struggle for a living, and the smell of new
carpet and electronics is addictive.
Notably, NPR has refused to carry programs sponsored by
Labor organizations, although they seem to have no problem with documentaries
of medical issues funded by medical corporations.
Furthermore, it looks as though some of what some of us
took to be "Right Wing Nuts" were right ... public radio is run
by government propaganda experts. As taken from the NPR website on
"Prior to joining NPR in December 1998, [Kevin] Klose
served successively as Director of U.S. International Broadcasting, overseeing
the U.S. Government's global radio and television news services (1997-98);
and President of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), broadcasting
to Central Europe and the former Soviet Union (1994-97). Klose first joined
RFE/RL in 1992 as Director of Radio Liberty, broadcasting to the former
Soviet Union in its national languages.
As RFE/RL President, Klose radically downsized RFE/RL
and moved it from Munich, Germany, to Prague, the Czech Republic.
He also helped devise and implement a strategy to coordinate
all U.S.-funded international broadcasting (Voice of America, Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Radio/TV Marti, Worldnet Television)
to save money, refocus the mission, and modernize operations in the post-Cold
Klose is a founder of the Intermedia Survey Institute
of Washington, a non-profit research firm specializing in media and opinion
survey in Eurasia. "
Thus NPR lobbied to end the Class-D radio stations.
It should thus be of little surprise that NPR opposes
Low Power FM radio stations. After all , they don't want to hear the population
say, "If NPR didn't do it, who would? ... my community radio station
down the road that is critical of GE and Archer Daniels Midland, which
'government radio' is not because they are funded by them! "
PRI savaged LPFM as "unsustainable" at the last meeting
of the National Association of Community Broadcasters. That's convenient,
since it was groups like PRI that have lobbied so heavily to bring LFPM
down from a commercial service of 3000 watts to a "nonprofit org-only"
service limited to 100 watts. If that turns out to be too small an area
and thus population to sustain enough donations to keep LPFM stations on
the air, it will be due to groups like PRI. I suspect what PRI really means
by that statement is that they charge too much for their programming
and present LPRM stations won't have the money to buy their programming
and some local LPFM programmers might actually produce more compelling
programming for their area than the local pubcaster that is turning over
money to PRI for piped-in programming!!
Other forces opened up the airwaves to stations that were
willing to pay for directional antennas and full power translators, known
as "satellators" quickly sprang up. These stations all cost huge resources
to put on the air and so only the richest of churches and most determined
of community groups got on the air.
Thus though getting rid of the Class D stations was supposed
to create a clearer radio dial so that the pubcaster's signal could travel
further without any intervening station making it difficult for a cheaper
reciever to separate ... they lost most of that gain to the huge religious
"satellator" networks that sprang up in the gap.
Then came 1992 ... the Oil ...er ... Gulf War.
The media had a love-fest with smart bombs. The population hurled in disgust
realizing that NPR was only slightly better in that they had longer more
detailed stories but not much more critical of government policy than CNN.
There have always been radio pirates, however now pirates
took to the air in huge numbers as a form of civil disobedience. There
developed a consensus among a growing part of the US population that the
media including increasingly NPR and Pacifica, had no place for their
values and culture.
Pirates at this point had been on the air in a few scattered
places to serve poor tenant groups and the like. Now more people
from a more mainstream culture were getting disgusted with the media. Technological
advances were making civil disobedience of a new kind possible, direct
action by building a neigborhood radio became really feasible for less
Then came 1996. The 1996 Telecom Act allowed an unprecedented
merger-frenzy among the commercial chain-owners of stations. Previous to
1996, the largest radio station owner had 38 radio stations. After Clear
Channel Communications Inc. finishes ingesting AM-FM in 2000... they will
control over 800 radio stations just themselves. In the last Duncan America
Radio programming market analysis book, Clear Channel controls those stations
that choose the programming for 80% of Richmond, Va's listeners alone.
This put a lot of radio-heads who used to work
for pitiful wages at a job they loved, radio, out onto the streets.
Now pirate radio really took off!!
Pirate stations started showing up in the arbitrons. Actual
competition of a capitalistic nature was occurring. This would not do!!
The largest socialistic (in all the worst meanings
of the word) organization on this section of the planet went into high
gear. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) ran to Uncle FCC,
"Uncle, Uncle, those dirty pirates are taking our audience away!"
Though he was a legal counsel for the NAB before President
Clinton apppointed him to be the first African-American FCC Chairman ...
even William Kennard obviously became disgusted with the abject antincompetitive
mafioso behaviors of the NAB ... and decided to do something that hasn't
happened at the FCC in over 20 years ...
William Kennard actually decided to help citizens get
back on the FM dial that we own!!
And so the Low Power FM service was born.
Basically Low Power FM is tecnically NO different
than hundreds of exsting stations. The new slots created on the FM dial
for the LPFM stations are created by in-effect playing a kind game of "musical
LPFM would be a "Short Spaced" radio station service.
"Short Spaced" stations have already existed for over 30 years ...
basically by luck or by lawyer, the bigger and/or luckier insitutions of
this nation have been able to create space for their existence on the FM
dial that would be denied any normal mere mortal civillian.
Allow me to explain Short Spaced.
"SHORT SPACED" MEANS ???
"Short Spaced": Legal radio stations must have a buffer
of space between them to allow cheaper receivers a chance to separate the
signals. Since 1964 when vacuum tube receivers and transmitters both fidgeted
all over the dial, stations have had to maintain three "station lengths"
between them or they were guilty of a kind of "tailgating" called being
"Short Spaced". Imagine another analogy; if you were required to parallel
park by pulling in to a parking space like a bus does, a certain space
is needed on both sides of your "slot" to avoid hitting the next parked
vehicle. Back in 1964 the "drivers" were pretty sloppy and so three spaces
were needed front and rear. Well, some of them were not sloppy and technology
has since provided for digitally tuned radios such that now stations regularly
coexist with only two and sometimes only one "buffer space" in-between!
These stations are technically in violation of the rules and would not
normally have been allowed to get on the air in the first place. But these
stations were allowed to end up closer than theoretically necessary due
to occasionally libertarian FCC commission or because the stations had
high powered lawyers and technicians to persuade the FCC. And so we arrive
in 2000 with a regulation that is applied more loosely for the politically
connected and wealthy and not for newcomers. What is really ironic is that
the representatives of the connected stations, the National Association
of Broadcasters (NAB), themselves defended the hundreds of commercial high
powered "Short Spaced" stations in 1996. The NAB said that "Due to improvements
in receiver technology … the rules are overly restrictive." The FCC agreed
and allowed those stations to continue!
That is why it is duplicitous for the NAB to argue
we will cause anarchy. The laws of physics work the same for us as for
them, if they can build stations that close together with no problem for
98% of receivers at 50,000 watts, then so can we at a mere 100 watts.
The LPFM rules created February 20th, 2000 do not actually
change anything other than systematically and fairly applying
the same relaxation of rules that the connected could buy … to the
"Rest Of US" who have been left off the radio dial … until now!
"SUBCARRIER" MEANS ???
This then brings us to another related issue, subcarriers.
National Public Radio opposes LPFM becase (they claim)
LPFM stations will disrupt the subcarrier based reading servics for the
blind.. This would be a serious problem ... if it were true!
To explain that, allow me to explain how FM Subcarrier
There is a kind of a "radio station within a radio station"
called a "subcarrier channel." When you see the stereo indicator come on,
it means that your radio has detected the three subcarrier channels that
create the stereo sound. The way it works is that FM stands for "Frequency
Modulation". To explain, imagine if I hum at 60 pulses a second (like that
hum you sometimes get on your stereo while plugging something in) and raise
my voice to 400 pulses a second and then back down, I just passed information
to you represented by the change in the frequency (pulses per second) of
my voice. If I then charted that change and that change corresponded to
another voice… then I would have an FM message in my voice that would be
translated to that other speaker's voice by an "FM detector". That FM detector
can detect those changes in frequency well beyond my ability to hear. Normally
the monaural sound is modulating the "voice" of the FM transmitter anywhere
from 20 times a second (20hertz) to about 15,000 times a second (a cymbal
crash). But it is capable of "hearing" changes well up to 100,000 changes
per second. I can modulate the FM signal in ranges of frequencies that
become channels of radio within a radio channel this way! That is how many
blind people get their reading services, the exact same way that you get
two stereo channels out of one radio signal, from the subcarrier channels.
So anything that harms the subcarrier reading services would also harm
the stereo signal.
That means that the hundreds of registered "short spaced"
stations would have trouble existing in stereo … and they have no problem
existing in stereo indicating that they have no problem with their subcarriers
That's why NPR's complaints that LPFM will destroy
blind reading services are misleading.