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Don Schellhardt

Page history last edited by PBworks 12 years, 7 months ago

Comments From: Don Schellhardt

 

20/Dec/2007

 

(1) Some people appear to believe that Amherst is against allowing any kind of commercial activity in the community of Low Power Radio stations. This is NOT true. When LPFM was pending before the FCC, back in 1998 and 1999, Amherst fought FOR allowing LPFM stations the option of airing commercials. We fought AGAINST limiting LPFM license eligibility to "established community groups" alone. Other LPFM advocacy organizations -- notably, Prometheus Radio Project -- took contrary positions, and perhaps Amherst is being confused with these other groups.

 

More recently, in assembling and leading the coalition that signed on to the Petition For Rulemaking triggered FCC Docket RM-11287, Amherst called upon the FCC to make LPAM "complementary" to the current version of LPFM -- principally by: (a) allowing LPAM stations the OPTION of operating commercially; AND (b) by changing the LPFM licensing preference for those applicants who are "established community groups" into an LPAM licensing preference for those applicants, whether or not they are historically "established" in a community, and whether or not they are full-blown "community groups" or simply small groups of entrepreneurial individuals, who offer viable programming formats that are not presently present on the dial in a community.

 

Amherst, in short, is not against having SMALL businesses running Low Power Radio stations. We believe LPAM licensees should have freedom to choose. Those who think we are against business as such may be confusing us with Prometheus Radio Project, Media Access Project, the United Church of Christ and/or Free Press -- ALL of whom have fought, successfully, to keep Low Power Radio stations 100% non-commercial on the FM Band.

 

Amherst IS against LARGE corporations running Low Power Radio stations. In fact, we have asserted from the outset that too many FULL POWER radio stations are now controlled by a handful of large businesses, plus NPR and a few mammoth religious broadcasters.

 

Please note, however, the careful phrasing in Amherst's rhetoric. We call for reducing the relative influence of "media MEGA corporations" and we criticize the hoarding of translator licenses by a few "evangelical broadcasting CHAINS". Commercial radio stations that are small, local and independent are on Amherst's "list of heroes" -- and we have not opposed independent religious stations that grow out of local communities, as opposed to a 24/7 menu of standardized religious programming that is spread over hundreds or thousands of satellite-fed translators.

 

(2) I know Amherst, and just about every other advocacy group in the Low Power Radio movemdent, has been criticized on the LPAM and LPACB ListServs for being "too negative" in our rhetoric about those "media MEGAcorporations" and "evangelical broadcasting CHAINS". It has even been suggested that the NAB might have opposed LPFM because harsh rhetoric by advocates of LPFM made The Big Guys angry.

 

Well, let me say this:

 

(a) SOME advocates of LPFM were indeed close-minded about dialogues with the NAB from the very start. Indeed, at one point, attendees at a Prometheus rally in Washington literally stole the NAB's flag as it fluttered outside NAB Headquarters. To the best of my knowledge, they never gave it back.

 

However, Amherst and others ASKED to meet with NAB officials, for an exchange of views and possible negotiations, on several different occasions. We never even received the courtesy of a response from them. I think they thought that even acknowledging our existence would increase our political power, or at least our public visibility.

 

(b) If you read the Petition For Rulemaking, filed by NICK AND JUDITH LEGGETT of Virginia (leggett3@gmail.com) and myself, that triggered the FCC's first deliberations on Low Power Radio (in Docket RM-9208), you will see that its overall tone is positive and constructive. We even noted that Low Power Radio stations could serve as "farm teams" from which larger media institutions could select the best talent after it had "cut its teeth". We added that Low Power Radio stations could "test market" risky new ideas which, if proven successful, could then be reproduced on a national or international scale.

 

Around the same time, similar "positive" arguments for Low Power Radio were being made, directly to the NAB (and also to NPR), by CHRISTOPHER "MAX" MAXWELL of Virginia (fm2dmax@gmail.com). "Max" went on to become a prominent Member of Amherst and later founded WRIR-LP I(Richmond Independent Radio) -- which is now the nation's second largest LPFM station, in terms of the number of people who can be reached by its signals.

 

All of this politeness and "positiveness" brought us nothing. LPFM was attacked as harshly as it would have been had the Leggetts, Christopher Maxwell and myself been antagonistic from the start.

 

C.S. Lewis had a comment about the kind of reaction that the NAB/NPR "stonewalling" elicited from "LPFM moderates". Said Professor Lewis: "If you're going to be hung for being a lamb, you might as well be hung for being a lion."

 

(3) Getting back to commercial versus non-commercial Low Power Radio stations, I should add that Amherst has an informal understanding with Prometheus regarding LPFM and LPAM. To wit: Prometheus has indicated it will not oppose allowing LPAM stations to be commercial if Amherst (and/or other LPAM supporters) do not attempt to re-open the totally non-commercial status of LPFM.

 

The Bad News here is that Amherst has recognized that commercial LPFM is, at this point, A Lost Cause. The Good News here is that Prometheus -- the primary "sparkplug" for the ANTI-commercial school of Low Power Radio -- is willing to accept commercial activity in Low Power Radio so long as it is confined to the AM side of the fence.

 

(4) "The Rest of the Story" is a little more complicated.

 

The Bad News is that, even though commercial LPAM stations may be POLITICALLY viable, they may not be LEGALLY viable unless the Telecommunications Act of 1996 is first amended by Congress. The FCC, looking at that statute's mandate for awarding commercial licenses by auction (aka "competitive bidding"), appears to believe that Low Power Radio licenses must be auctioned to the highest bidder when and if those stations become commercial. The FCC's legal interpretation of this point can be debated, but there is little indication that the FCC may be willing to change its hand.

 

Since awarding LPAM licenses to the highest bidder would more or less defeat the purpose of LPAM, we may HAVE to swallow a ban on LPAM stations airing commercial -- UNLESS we want to take on the challenging task of persuading Congress to exempt LPAM stations from mandatory auctions.

 

The Good News is that a ban on commercials may not be that big a deal. This should really be the subject of a separate E-Mail Message, but I will note briefly that there are ways to be in "technical compliance" with a ban on commercials while getting businesses a level of exposure that approximates advertising. Ironically, NPR, which tried to kill LPFM "behind the scenes", has pioneered the art of turning "donor acknowledgements" into commercials that aren't "officially" commercials. Many LPFM stations have learned these tricks -- and future LPAM stations can learn them, too.

 

Personally, I think the REAL "make or break" issue for LPAM is not whether LPAM stations are "officially" allowed to air commercials, but rather whether LPAM licenses will be free of the FCC's current preferences for:

 

(a) LARGE "community groups" (which practice "collective management" of a station) over SMALL groups of individuals (which tend to be more individualistic and/or entrepreneurial);

and (b) Applicants who are "historically established" in a community over newer groups which may have newer ideas.

 

THOSE are the battles we've got to win, IMO, if we want LPAM to be truly different from LPFM.

 

Well ...

 

That's enough "food for thought" for one Message.

 

Y'all take care!

 

Yours,

 

Don Schellhardt

Attorney for The Amherst Alliance

Co-Founder and President, The Amherst Alliance

pioneerpath@hotmail.com

(804) 433-7268

1520 Porter Street

Richmond, Virginia 23224

 

Don makes some excellent comments here. We hope that we can make some head way with the FCC in regards to allowing commercial content. The FCC should ponder the applications that LPAM can provide and direct some comments to Congress in regards to some new law making for LPAM's behalf.

 

When I first read the Amherst Alliance Petition I was struck by the views of that petition against Mega corporation ownership of LPAM licenses, which is one of the original concerns of LPAM advocates going way back. So these portions of the petition seemed to me to reflect the consensus I am aware of. And background the historical views of which I reflect allot of herein this site.

 

And as I said elsewhere in this site, I the majority consensus is for lack of corporation influence and ownership, with allowing commercial content, and allowing small business enterprises to exist in LPAM who are not corporations.

 

Daniel Jackson

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