Over the last year, we’ve watched with excitement as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has granted new construction permits for over 1500 new low-power FM (LPFM) radio stations across the country. These new stations are claiming space on the public airwaves to better represent the full diversity of American voices, and include stations run by community groups, activists, churches, labor unions, and college students. These stations may only have a range of a few miles, but their impact on their local communities, including musicians, can be immense.
Now, some community radio advocates have asked the FCC to allow these stations to expand their reach. A petition currently under consideration at the Commission would create provisions for LPFM stations that meet certain criteria to broadcast at 250 watts rather than just 100, thus expanding their geographic reach and allowing more listeners the chance to tune in.
Interim Executive Director Casey Rae Speaks to MN Musicians and Composers
Monday, March 10, 2014
Good morning. Thank you for all for being here, and thank you for having me at the Minnesota Music Summit. It’s truly an honor to be joining you at this amazing event. Today, I want to explore the future of music, which is still being written, and which you all can play a part in writing. Some of the issues I’ll be bringing up will no doubt be familiar to you. Others may not be as familiar. But it’s not just about me giving some prepared remarks, it’s about dialog. It’s about the very real connections between people who are passionate about music, who create it and nurture it. And those are the connections that I love to make. In 2014, there’s no single approach to being a musician or composer, so it’s become critical that we listen and learn from one another.
Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a public notice announcing a filing window for applications for new low power FM (LPFM) radio stations. LPFMs are community-based, non-commercial radio stations that operate at 100 watts or less and reach a radius of 3 to 7 miles (check out our LPFM fact sheet for more info).
These small but mighty stations are an alternative to broadcasters that seem to play the same five songs on infinite repeat, and provide opportunities for local and niche artists to recieve airplay. LPFMs also offer a wide variety of small, independent organizations — including schools, civic groups, churches, and non-profits — a platform from which to engage with local communities.
The new low power application has a few important changes from the past. First, new stations will be permitted in urban areas for the first time ever. As long as an applicant can prove that their station would cause no harmful interference, the FCC will grant a special waiver. This new change will double or triple the number of new stations available, and it’s a major victory for Prometheus and our allies who fought for it.
Additionally, the FCC will offer special incentives to stations that provide local programming, and who maintain publicly accessible studios — a focus on community-driven broadcasting that we can really get behind.
Although some may question the importance of niche broadcast radio stations when an online radio station can be set up with little overhead, Michael Bracy, policy director for the Future of Music Coalition, said LPFM can reach people an online station may not, as well as allow people in those communities to make their voices heard.
“In terms of economic justice, and who actually gets to talk, a lot of people who are still listening to radio as a predominent communications form are the people who don’t necessarily have access to broadband,” Bracy said. “They’re also the ones that aren’t really targeted by commercial media, and frankly, when you look at the demographics they’re not particularly well-served by public radio.” read more
Music and government may not seem like they have much in common. But four panelists did their best to convince an audience at SXSW that they were, in fact, hopelessly intertwined.
“These issues are breathtakingly complicated,” said the panel’s moderator, Michael Bracy, policy director at the Future of Music Coalition. “How do you build a regulatory structure for a market that is changing so rapidly?” read more
Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to approve rules that will allow the unprecedented expansion of true local radio across the country. Beginning in October 2013, community groups will be able to apply for licenses to operate Low Power FM radio stations, bringing local voices to the airwaves in towns and cities across America.
FCC commissioners approved the rules in a unanimous, bipartisan vote. Their actions today represent a significant step towards achieving greater diversity on the public airwaves, and more opportunities for local musicians (which we obviously dig). read more
This post authored by FMC Policy Fellow Daniel Lieberman.
June’s “Future of Audio” hearing got all of us at FMC thinking about, well, the future of audio. Listening to testimonials from music heavyweights like Tim Westergren of Pandora and Cary Sherman from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) left us wondering how the public will experience the soundtrack of tomorrow. read more
[This post was authored by FMC Policy Intern Joseph Silver & Policy Fellow Daniel Lieberman]
Yesterday on Capitol Hill, the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology rounded up some music industry bigwigs including Cary Sherman (CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America); Jeff Smulyan (CEO of Ennis Communications); Steven Newberry (CEO of Commonwealth Broadcasting Corp.); Tim Westergren (Pandora founder); Christopher Gutttman-McCabe (Vice President of CTIA Wireless); Gary Shapiro (President and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association); and a single artist: Ben Allison, a New York-based jazz bassist. The panel, the title of which the recently deceased Ray Bradbury might even admire — “The Future of Audio” — featured a broad discussion that touched upon music, mobile technology, radio signals, and last, but hopefully not least, artist compensation.
On September 6, 2011, Future of Music Coalition, Prometheus Radio Project and the United Church of Christ Office of Communications offered the following comments (PDF) to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on the implementation of rules to provide expanded Low Power FM (LPFM) service to more American towns and cities.
In a July 12 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC opened the door for possible inclusion of low-power FM (LPFM) station applications alongside applications for FM translators (low-power stations that relay full-power FM signals). The FCC has committed to LPFM as a tool for bringing more community voices to the airwaves, but this move may pit existing stations against new applicants in competition for the same limited frequencies.
“It looks like the FCC is taking the right step forward in terms of trying to ensure that those opportunities for LPFM exist at all,” said Casey Rae-Hunter, deputy director of the Future of Music Coalition. Without such a compromise, the opportunity for new LPFMs could “just completely go away,” he said. read more