Globe editorializes in favor of low-power broadcasting.
A BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL
Different voices on the radio
Radio gets to more people and places than any other medium of
communication in the world. A proposal by the Federal Communications
Commission could open the airwaves to the public-spirited and the quirky,
those with something to say but not much money with which to say it. The
FCC should not let the power of established broadcasters stifle this
The commission, under the leadership of chairman William Kennard, is
proposing to reinstitute low-power broadcasting - stations with 1,000
watts of power or less. Conventional FM stations broadcast with as much as
Low-powered stations were forced off the air 20 years ago as the FCC
divvied up the spectrum for conventional broadcasters. Since that time the
industry has consolidated to the point where a single company controls
hundred of stations and listeners are treated to a steady diet of
identical soft rock coast to coast.
The Allston section of Boston was fortunate to have a low-power station in
its midst a few years ago. Steve Proviser, with barely $1,000 worth of
equipment and 20 watts of power, was able to provide an unconventionalmix
of news and music until the FCC shut him down in 1997.
The FCC proposal in its present form applies only to stations with between
100 and 1,000 watts, but it is also open to licensing microstations like
Provizer's. Such flexibility is anathema to conventional broadcasters, and
their views were echoed by Representative W.J. Tauzin, the Louisiana
Republican who chairs the House communications subcommittee. Tauzin
threatened congressional action to block the new stations if the FCC
persists with its plan.
The broadcasters say they are worried about the possibility that the new
signals would interfere with their own. Urban locations would pose
difficulties, although Proviser believes that even the crowded dial in
Boston could accommodate five additional stations. The FCC realizes that
it will face technical challenges, but these will be less in rural or
suburban locations, which also would benefit from new radio voices,
especially if licenses were awarded to nonprofit newcomers and not the
highest bidder from a media chain.
Commercial broadcasters have an unlikely friend in National Public Radio,
which would not exist as a nonprofit nationwide network without the FCC
decision decades ago to reserve the lower end of the FM band for
NPR's chief concern is that low-powered stations would disrupt its planto
offer digital signals - CD-quality sound that would fill the nooks and
crannies of the FM band where low-powered stations would operate.Listeners
would have to buy new radios to listen to digital broadcasts, an extra
expense that may doom the technology, but even if digital
broadcasting becomes commercially feasible, is crystalline clarity really
worthwhile if the programming remains as bland as present offerings? A
multitude of different voices is better, even if it creates a bit of
© Copyright 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.
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