Last year the FCC finally released the Congressionally mandated Mitre report that examined the reality behind the National Association of Broadcaster‘s claims that low-power FM station would interfere with full-power stations. The Commission released the report only under duress–a FOIA request and lawsuit threat.
Now the FCC has officially released the report to Congress along with its recommendation to do away with the third-channel adjacent restrictions that Congress put into law at the end of 2000 in order to placate the NAB’s desire to strictly limit the number of new LPFM stations. The third-channel spacing restriction keeps LPFM stations from being squeezed into spots on the dial that are not suitable for high-power stations (100 – 100,000 watts) because they would create interference with surrounding stations. But, as the Mitre report demonstrates, these spots are unproblematic for LPFM stations, which operate at 10 – 100 watts.
Thus, in essence, the third-channel adjacent restriction greatly limits the number of frequencies available for LPFM stations, and pretty much keeps them out of the largest radio markets.
According to the Prometheus Radio Project, the removal of this restriction would free up spaces for hundreds or even thousands of new non-commercial low-power FM stations.
Unfortunately, unlike most issues of regulatory nuance, this one requires action from Congress, since it was Congress that intervened to put in place a restriction that otherwise is the sole domain of the FCC. And so far only Sen. John McCain has said anything publicly about the report. But he’s a good one to hear from, since he chairs the Senate Commerce Committee and has promised to introduce legislation to take up the FCC’s recommendation.
Of course, the NAB claims the Mitre report is “flawed,” without giving any rationale or explanation of any kind to support this claim. They don’t seem to want to recognize that the report wasn’t even written by the FCC, since Congress mandated that it be an independent report. Its author, the Mitre Corporation, is a respected and established Washington engineering firm and defense contractor — hardly an expected voice for democratizing the airwaves. Even the staid radio journal, Radio World, characterized the Mitre report as “the Seventh Wonder of Broadcast Engineering – the data analysis is deep and exhaustive.”
Prometheus Radio Project’s Pete Tridish is scheduled to be on this Friday’s mediageek radioshow to talk about the FCC’s report to Congress. You can read Prometheus’ press release on the report, or read the FCC report yourself (in .pdf format). You can also listen to the Amherst Alliance’s Don Schellhardt talk about the initial public release of the Mitre report last year, on the July 25, 2003 edition of the radioshow.