WASHINGTON (March 29, 2000) -- The Chairman of the U.S. Catholic Conference Communications Committee today urged a House committee to oppose legislation that would block low power FM, saying the new non-commercial stations will provide an important alternative to for-profit broadcast conglomerates.
"The sense that radio stations should be responsive to the interests and needs of their communities of license has largely been lost since the deregulation of radio begun in 1984," said Bishop Robert N. Lynch of St. Petersburg (FL). "Programming decisions once made by station employees who lived in the local community are more frequently being made at the corporate headquarters of large broadcasting companies, with little other than the bottom line guiding those decisions. Low power radio offers a positive alternative to the profit-driven, one-size-fits-all programming found on many radio stations."
Over the objections of large broadcasting corporations and their main Washington lobbyist, the National Association of Broadcasters, the FCC authorized the beginning of low power FM radio in January. Opponents waged an aggressive effort to get the FCC to pull low power radio off of its agenda and filed suit in federal appeals court after the FCC's action. And at their urging, legislation to prohibit the FCC from going forward with its plans to license low power stations was scheduled for consideration today by the House Commerce Committee.
In a letter to Committee members, Bishop Lynch urged that they reject the bill and any alternatives that would delay the licensing process.
He said, "Dioceses have long sought to air on local radio stations (a medium once accessible by most community members) programming providing information on essential social services .... However, dioceses have consistently reported to USCC that this community affairs programming and locally popular programs such as the Sunday Mass for shut-ins, which used to offer a means of reaching their communities, has been shifted by local radio stations to early morning times when the audience is asleep. Increasingly, radio stations have outright refused to broadcast noncommercial community affairs and religious programming unless paid for the time."
"Low power radio offers Catholic programmers and Catholic dioceses (and the institutions they support -- schools, health care entities, community development projects, refugee resettlement), as well as other community-based organizations, a practical method of reaching their communities with information and discussion of local issues," Bishop Lynch said.