Undated document supplied by NPR, January 2000. No Commercial Obligations or Influence
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The FCC’s establishment of two low-power FM (LPFM) classes of stations — 10-watt and 100-watt — could populate radio dials with more than a thousand tiny noncommercial broadcasters, assuming the plan weathers possible challenges from Congress and existing broadcasters. FCC officials say the initial LPFM proposal, unveiled a year ago, generated a record volume of public comment, with churches, high schools, minorities, microradio activists and others defending the plan against attacks from established broadcasters. The plan that won approval by a 4-1 vote is more modest than its predecessor. It nixed the idea of commercial LPFM stations — which may allow a boom in noncommercial radio beyond the reserved band. And it dropped the 1,000-watt class of low-power stations, allowing a max of 100 watts — broadcasting about three miles.
Seventeen million dollars slipped through WQED’s fingers last week when a partner in its long-delayed deal to sell sister channel WQEX abruptly backed out, even though they had won a go-ahead at the FCC a month earlier. George Miles, president of the Pittsburgh station, paraphrased a newspaper report on the turnabout: “We have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.” Important issues about pubcasting’s reserved channels were at stake in both WQED’s victory and its defeat, but they got little attention as all eyes turned to a couple waves of explosive controversy surrounding the FCC decision:
First, in mid-December , reporters swarmed over the news that Presidential candidate and FCC overseer Sen. John McCain had intervened to hurry up the FCC decision on behalf of Paxson Communications, a campaign contributor that was part of the three-way WQEX deal. Then, at the end of the month, religious broadcasters recoiled and conservative politicians raged when the FCC spelled out its thinking behind its WQEX decision. This week, Rep. Michael Oxley (R-Ohio) and 42 or more co-sponsors will introduce a bill to undo the FCC’s new guidelines for religious broadcasters on reserved educational channels.