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Radio AM to FM: March 3, 2000

NAB Shows True Colors

The NAB -- National Association of Broadcasters (or is it National Association of Bastards?) spent much of the past two decades pushing for -- and winning -- the type of deregulation that has resulted in a radio industry without soul. An industry that forgot about news, public affairs and operating in the public interest; an industry that through consolidation has essentially given two companies monopoly power in most U.S. radio markets while at the same time taken away real choice among formats.

I call it Wal-Mart radio.

So it should come as no surprise that the NAB has stepped up the fight against the FCC's decision to allow low-power FM radio stations. The group has gone to court to fight the ruling by filing a Petition For Review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, claiming that the new stations would add to and cause interference to existing stations in spite of FCC studies to the contrary.

The NAB is asking the court to find that the FCC's decision to allow low-power (10 - 100 watt) FM stations is "arbitrary, capricious and otherwise contrary to law." In essence, the NAB is asking the court to overturn the ruling so that stations like KIIS-FM (102.7) and Star (KYSR, 98.7 FM) won't have to spend tight resources competing with middle or high school students broadcasting announcements regarding the school PTA.

It may sound funny, but the major stations and group owners are scared more than you can imagine. At least one of the two major group owners has a policy to always sell any stations to be dumped to a foreign-language broadcaster so as to lessen the competition. The group owners hate competition, as real competition would force them to hire real programmers and -- get this -- allow them to really program. Heck, they might even have to pay their air talent real money and treat them as entertainers instead of last week's leftovers.

If low-power FMs arrive en mass and provide viable alternatives to the corporate programmed fully-researched, homogenized and pasteurized programming they cram down our throats, then the big bucks they paid for their stations would become worthless.

Interestingly, low-power FMs were once allowed and actually a major part of the educational section of the FM band. CSULB had a student-run station called KSUL, North High in Torrance had KNHS. Many "public radio" stations got their start as low-power FM stations. Funny how there wasn't an interference problem back then.

So while the NAB would like everyone to believe they are protecting us, the listener, from interference caused by additional FM stations (right ... name the last time the FCC made a ruling that caused greater interference), be sure that they are nothing more than scared broadcasters. Scared that their monopoly may be broken up by kids. Scared that someone might actually broadcast in the public interest. Scared that listeners might be siphoned away by a stations that don't treat listeners like sheep.


Copyright © 2000 Richard Wagoner and The Copley Press.

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