Published in Television & Entertainment for Richmond Virginia, 5/99
"I've had all the diversity I can stand", said Conrad Burns (R-Mont), Chair of the Senate Telecom Subcommittee speaking at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) 1999 annual April conference to show support for NAB and NPR opposition to the Low Power Radio Service (LPRS).
Now the gloves are off; we can see the real reason that Republicans oppose The Community radio LPRS proposed by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) that would open 3 to 58 new legal slots on Richmond's FM dial for new and local ownership by small businesses, churches and civic organizations.
You may be wondering, "why should I care if some freaks can't get their noise and culture out on a radio station?" Because radio is not just another business.
The Free Press must be free to carry to full spectrum of human experience, culture news and views in order to serve as that chain of links between those who create policy and those who suffer from policy. When media becomes overly influenced by a few powerful interests, it's tainted with an overall bias. An unrepresentative media creates an unrepresentative and unresponsive government … leading to an unjust, unstable society and government.
Since radio stations use taxpayer funded government agencies to protect their use of a limited public resource, the airwaves ... an unrepresentative radio market is literally taxation without representation.
Justice of the Supreme Court William Brennan said "Freedom of speech does not exist in the abstract. On the contrary, the right to speak can flourish only if it is allowed to operate in an effective forum -- whether it be a public park … or a radio frequency. For in the absence of an effective means of communications, the right to speak would ring hollow indeed. And, in recognition of these principles, we have consistently held that the First Amendment embodies, not only the abstract right to be free from censorship, but also the right of the individual to utilize an appropriate and effective medium for the expression of his views."
The NAB and NPR oppose opening three to 58 new legal slots on Richmond's FM dial. Their position is that opening these slots will cause interference "like AM radio at night."
Just as when Ronald Reagan excused auto pollution by saying "trees cause pollution", they have taken a tiny grain of truth and blown it into a Mount Rushmore. Yes, at night when trees cannot photosynthesize, they emit hydrocarbon compounds that the daylight turns into smog ... at considerably lower levels than cars!
Yes, opening these new frequencies will cause interference ... for the magazine subscription's free radio teaser gift! The vast majority of radios will not have a problem. This is like saying that we must let horse buggies and "slopeds" on the Interstate. The top speed would drop to 30mph.
The FCC has long had (and not used) the power to require that receiver manufacturers build radios with enough "selectivity" to select the one weak station you want over the nearby close strong station. The FCC will have to require this if they go with current digital plans because the current American standard (called "IBOC") will "fatten" the current radio stations and their edges will get closer together!
So why the lie? Because they paid too much for the radio stations, competition would hurt their 20% profit margins, and they like that the high prices are excluding "those" people.
Gloria Tristani, FCC Commissioner said, "The number of broadcast owners have dwindled by 12% over the past two years -- even though the number of stations has actually increased by 3%." There are 641 more commercial stations but minorities owned 8 fewer stations in 1997 than in 1992.
I Think I'm right, but I KNOW I'm wrong … my human frailties limit my perception that is modified by my values that are informed by my experiences. The only way I know with any certainty that I have "The Truth" is to either compare it with reality (the systematic trial-and-error of science) or to compare my experience with yours.
After all, at one time Galileo was a freak. But he was right.
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