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LPFM Slowly Taking To The Air

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Low-Power Fm Slo-O-O-Wly Taking To The Air
BILL VIRGIN P-I reporter. Seattle Post - Intelligencer. Seattle, Wash.: Sep 23, 2004. pg. C.2

Abstract (Document Summary)

Low-power FM stations are what the name suggests - limited- range, non-commercial broadcasters. LPFM was opposed by established broadcasters who said the dial was too crowded to accommodate new stations that likely would interfere with their own signals. LPFM advocates say the existing broadcasters simply didn't want the competition and that they'll provide the local content most radio stations have given up.

Full Text (889 words)
Copyright Hearst Communications Inc., Hearst Newspapers Division Sep 23, 2004

RADIO BEAT

Remember low-power FM radio?

You are forgiven for not recalling; deployment of the service has moved at a glacial speed.

Low-power FM stations are what the name suggests - limited- range, non-commercial broadcasters. LPFM was opposed by established broadcasters who said the dial was too crowded to accommodate new stations that likely would interfere with their own signals. LPFM advocates say the existing broadcasters simply didn't want the competition and that they'll provide the local content most radio stations have given up.

The Federal Communications Commission Web site lists just two applications granted in Washington state for low-power FM stations, in Spokane and Kettle Falls. Another 18 construction permits have been approved, for locales such as Coupeville, Olympia, Morton and Aberdeen. Still more are pending.

Slowly but surely, though, more LPFM operations are making it to the air. One that hopes to do so in the first two months of 2005 is KMRE-LP (102.3), to be operated by Bellingham's American Museum of Radio and Electricity.

Jonathan Winter, the museum's president and curator, believes the station could cover as much as six to 10 miles of radius, depending on the terrain. "This station is really going to be an extension of the museum, re-creating radio as it was in the 1930s and '40s," Winter says. That means not only radio from the era but original programming. Until the station makes it to the air, the museum is Webcasting at ww.americanradiomuseum.org.

One group that had high hopes for LPFM but has been thwarted in its attempts to get on the air is Voice of Vashon. Jeff Hoyt, the organization's president, said Voice of Vashon's application was bounced for running afoul of the rule that requires three channels (think of each point where you can tune on the FM dial as a channel) separation from other stations.

In the meantime, Voice of Vashon has developed its own Web stream (www.voiceofvashon.org) of programming ranging from a local morning show to music programs, even syndicated material ("Democracy Now").

Hoyt says Voice of Vashon has looked at a host of alternatives to getting on the air from micro-transmitters that don't require a license to wireless Internet. At one point someone even channeled Voice of Vashon's Web stream (without the station's knowledge) to a pirate broadcasting operation. What Hoyt is hoping for now is that the FCC will open space for a non-commercial FM operation, although the dial position he has in mind would require a waiver on the separation issue.

Voice of Vashon has "money in the bank and we're paying our bills" with extensive community support, Hoyt says. "The challenge for us all along has been to keep internal morale high."

P-I reporter Bill Virgin can be reached at 206-448-8319 or billvirgin@seattlepi.com.

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