Low-Power FM Plan Faces Battle In Congress

Some on Capitol Hill working to block licensing of small, 100-watt stations.

The Federal Communications Commission began the process for licensing low-power FM radio stations Monday (March 27), saying in a press release that citizens in several states will be able to file applications for stations in late May.

But, according to the New York Times, the operation may be doomed since Congress is working quickly to shut it down. Last week a House of Representatives subcommittee passed a bill to block the program, and consideration by the full House could come soon.

FCC chairman William Kennard has said the program is designed to open radio to such small community groups as churches, schools and fire departments. Musicians including the Indigo Girls, Bonnie Raitt, Mudhoney's Mark Arm, Fugazi's Ian MacKaye and ex-Minutemen bassist Mike Watt have supported the program.

The National Association of Broadcasters, which represents the radio industry, has for months lobbied against allowing low-power FM, claiming that the small, 100-watt stations will interfere with existing signals. National Public Radio has teamed up with the NAB in the fight, the Times said.