April 14, 2000
by Gloria Tristani
My grandfather, the late U.S. Senator Dennis Chavez, taught me that one of the most important things we can do as public servants is to give a voice to the voiceless.
That's why low power radio is so important. We all know about the massive consolidation in the radio industry over the past several years, and that smaller, community-based organizations are finding it more and more difficult to get access to the public airwaves.
Low power is a partial antidote that problem. It promotes localism and diversity not by limiting the rights of existing users, but by adding new voices to the mix. Providing an outlet for new voices to serve their communities is why I'm proud to support low power radio.
I want to commend Chairman Kennard for his vision and his passion on this issue. Without his leadership through some very tough times we would not be there today.
But most of all, I want to commend the thousands of Americans around the country who made low power radio a reality. This is a grass-roots movement that refused to give up even with some powerful interest lined up against them.
A few points on the issue of interference.
First, these types of claims are nothing new. You look back at our proceeding to create low power television in the early 1980's, and you saw the same argument that the FCC's rules wouldn't protect full-power stations from interference. There were calls for mandatory field testing of low power stations prior to licensing to avoid interference.
The FCC rightly rejected those calls at the time, and what happened? The fears of interference haven't materialized, and there are thousands of LPTV stations providing valuable service to their communities. In fact, LPTV stations providing valuable service to their communities. In fact, LPTV stations are so valuable, Congress recently enacted a statute to give many of them quasi-primary status. If Congress had heeded the calls of those who claimed that the new service could cause undue interference, low power television may never have gotten off the ground.
Second, we took a conservative approach to low power radio. Because of interference concerns, we did not adopt our original proposal to license 1000 watt stations. Nor did we permit low power stations to operate on 2nd adjacent channels. We could have licensed many more stations that way, but we did not want to do anything that would jeopardize the technical integrity of the spectrum.
Third, I am disappointed in the scare campaign being conducted by those who oppose our rules. If I were a member of Congress and someone played the CD you are about to hear and said "here's what the FCC did," I'd be concerned too.
We cannot allow disinformation to guide public policy. We must be guided by the facts.
Gloria Tristani serves as a Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission.