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Local Community Radio Act Approved by Commerce Committee

The Senate Commerce Committee has approved the Local Community Radio Act. The act allows more low-power FM stations to share spectrum with full-power radio stations by reducing separation between them, though it provides an expedited process for interference complaints.

The rule of the road had been that low powers could not be added within three channels on either side of an existing full-power station, but that third-adjacent channel protection has been eliminated.

A House version of the bill passed in the Energy & Commerce Committee Oct. 15. Both versions now await votes in the full House and Senate.

The bill was long-opposed by broadcasters, who have always been concerned about increased interference. But after conducting a study, the FCC concluded they could be allowed in without undue interference, and the bill includes an expedited complaint process about such interference if it occurs, as well as extra protections for translators that extend full-power signals to hard-to-reach places.

"Today's vote brings us one step closer to a new golden era of radio -- where music, news and information that matter to local communities are back on the dial," said Free Press in a statement.

It was also hailed by at least one Senator during the markup hearing Thursday as an opportunity for more women and minorities to get into the broadcasting business.