Sunday, May 25, 2008

Broadcasting Live From Our Block Party

Ran across the Chicago Independent Radio Project (CHIRP), a collective of spirited WLUW castaways looking to nudge Congress into acting on some bottle necked legislation that would hopefully open the FM band to support a more localized, not-for profit form of community radio.

The Bill, the Local Community Radio Act of 2007 or H.R. 2802 for those keeping score, recognizes that the FM spectrum should be opened up to include low-power, community based radio services and programming. And by low power we're talking roughly 10-100 watts. The hope is that with the passage of this legislation schools, churches and other community-based organizations could, if they so desired, launch their own radio programming. Sure, the signal wouldn't reach very far, but I like the idea of having a radio station that only broadcasts out for a few blocks, and besides, what's the harm?

Big Radio is harmed, that's who! All those big, steaming slices of the FM spectrum under their carefully manicured control are going to get messed with by these ruthless upstarts. In fact, all these volunteer based, low-power FM signals coming out of churches, retirement homes and elementary schools are going to cause some serious "interference" on the FM band. Or so the broadcasters and their lobbyist have claimed. A two-year Congressional study concluded in 2000 (see Finding 14), however, that
"the broadcasters' concerns were demonstrated to be unsubstantiated."

The Local Community Radio Act of 2007 is currently languishing in subcommittee limbo amongst 73 other Bills. The
Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, itself encompassed by the Committee On Energy and Commerce (where they, no doubt, feel your pain at the pump), was referred this bill in June of 2007. Jan Schakowky, my own representative in the House, was one of this bills original sponsors, so it seems like a no brainer to contact her office and see what she can tell me about its current state. Even better to contact members of the Subcommittee itself. Two Representatives from Illinois, Bobby Rush and John Shimkus, are on it. Couldn't hurt to write them and see what the hold up is.

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