NPR Joins NAB War on Micro Radio

From:             Jesse Walker <>
Subject:          NPR Joins NAB War on Micro Radio
Date sent:        Wed, 13 May 1998 17:08:44 -0400

We knew about NAB, but NPR's stance, though consistent with its history
and thus not a surprise, is news:

"Microradio Proposals at FCC Opposed by NPR and NAB"
May 8, 1998

Citing crowded spectrum and possible adoption of In-Band, On-Channel
(IBOC) digital radio, broadcasters such as NPR and NAB opposed 2
petitions for rulemaking at FCC.  Petitions promote microradio and
low-power radio, respectively, but both involve low-watt broadcasting that
might cover mile or so of ground.  FCC Chmn. Kennard has expressed
enthusiasm for idea and is seen by some to be promoting it as way to
increase diversity in mass media.  That position was echoed by many who
filed in favor of petitions, but NPR challenged notion that microradio
automatically would mean increase in diversity.
      NPR and its stations support "fostering a diversity of broadcast
voices," it said in April 27 filing.  However, it said "it is neither
self-evident nor established" in 2 petitions that "diversity of media
voices" will result from low-power radio. What is clear, NPR argued, is
that "the broadcast spectrum in many portions of the country is now
severely congested," and squeezing in microradio broadcasters undoubtedly
would cause even more interference than already occurs. Problem would be
exacerbated with adoption of IBOC, it said, and would "undermine the
transition to digital radio broadcasting." Microbroadcasters would be
occupying very spectrum radio licensees would need to provide their IBOC
digital signal, it said.  FCC also would also be undertaking burdensome
regulatory duty with microradio, NPR said. FCC not only would have to
register untold numbers of licensees, then monitor how those licenses
changed hands, but microradio would have "profound implications" for
agency's content regulations.  Content regulation would be required for
every microbroadcaster, it said, as "it makes no practical difference to
the listener whether the source of the content is a low-power station
transmitting from a mile away or a full-service station transmitting from
5 or 10 miles away."  Filing suggested that if goal is to provide means
for broadcasting diverse content, that function already is being served by
      NAB argued in filing that FCC has "firmly established" that
low-power radio isn't efficient use of spectrum and that microradio
would "create small islands of usable coverage in an ocean of
interference."  Assn. said that allocating "hundreds -- or even
thousands -- of new low-power stations" would undermine digital
transition.  Another drawback, it said, is that microradio wouldn't be
available in most instances to mobile audiences, and, "more importantly,
the FCC should not establish a new order to curb the
proliferation of pirate broadcasters."  At NAB conference last month, FCC
Comr. Furchtgott-Roth said that while pirate radio "is simply illegal and
must be dealt with," microradio rulemaking "does not in any way, shape or
form compromise" rights of licensees.  Kennard made similar remarks there:
 "Let's not confuse  pirate radio  with microbroadcasting... We are going
to... make sure that anything we do does not undermine the technical
integrity of the broadcast airwaves."
      Some 2 dozen individuals filed comments, all but 2 in favor of
microradio proposals.  Some cited consolidation in commercial radio
following Telecom Act as reason to promote microradio, with many echoing
diversity arguments.  InterNet Assn. said outdated interference
protections for full-power stations no longer are needed because of
technical advances.
      Joint filing by 42 state broadcaster associations and P.R. said
microradio "is so technically inferior that the proposed service makes a
mockery of the word broadcast... This 'CB-ization' of radio broadcasting
stands the Communications Act on its head." States also cited enforcement
problems, which would be "catastrophic for the FCC and the nation's