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Low-power broadcasting refers to a broadcast station operating at a low electrical power to a smaller service area than "full power" stations within the same region, but often distinguished from "micropower broadcasting" (more commonly "microbroadcasting") and broadcast translators. LPFM, LPAM and LPTV are in various levels of use across the world, varying widely based on the laws and their enforcement.

New ZealandEdit

In New Zealand residents are allowed to broadcast licence free-of-charge at a maximum of 1 watt EIRP in the FM guardbands from 87.6 to 88.3 and from 106.7 to 107.7 MHz under a General User Radio License (GURL), which is issued by Radio Spectrum Management, managed by the Ministry of Economic Development. Prior to June 2010, the lower band was located between 88.1 and 88.8 and a maximum of 500 mW EIRP allowed. Broadcasters on these frequencies are required to cease operations if they interfere with other, licensed broadcasters and have no protection from interference from other licensed or unlicensed broadcasters. Contact details must also be broadcast every hour.[1]

There exists a 25 km broadcast translator rule: one licensee may operate two transmitters anywhere (close together), but a third transmitter must be at least 25 km away from at least one of the first two transmitters.[1]

There are efforts on self-regulation of the broadcasters themselves. The NZRSM Radio Inspectors do however, regularly monitor and make random unannounced visits to broadcasters, and will impose fines for violations of the regulations. New broadcasters are also subject to an initial compulsory inspection.


Arguments for LPFMEdit

  • Free Press, a non-partisan advocacy organization pushing for media reform, specifically in promoting "diversity and independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal access to communications,"[2] voiced its support of LPFM for a variety of reasons:
    • It strengthens community identity.
    • It creates an outlet for amateur musicians to get their music heard.
    • It creates diversity on the air because women and racial minorities are represented.
    • It creates an opportunity for young people, especially college students, who are interested in radio to learn about the business.
    • It provides farmers with up to date agricultural information.
  • Prometheus Radio Project, a non-profit organization that "builds, supports, and advocates for community radio stations which empower participatory community voices and movements for social change,"[3] also supported LPFM, citing these reasons:
    • The media should not limit democratic participation but should provide a way for communities and movements to express themselves
    • Public airwaves shouldn't be concentrated in private/corporate hands
    • Low Power FM gives a voice to communities
    • Low Power FM needs to be protected from big broadcasters

A New York Times article[4] focusing on a LPFM station called KOCZ highlights a number of key arguments for LPFM:

  • "In Louisiana, a large African-American community appreciate how LPFM plays a genre of music called zydeco, a potent blend of Cajun, rhythm and blues and, among a younger generation, hip-hop, often features accordion and washboard.“
  • LPFM influences commercial radio to offer listeners a wider range of music. “Commercial stations had started playing more zydeco since KOCZ started broadcasting in 2002. 'They know that we make them better,' an advocate said.”
  • Because LPFM is non-commercial, schools and organizations are able to promote many community service-related projects that help better the local neighborhood. "KOCZ is licensed to the Southern Development Foundation, a civil rights group that grants scholarships and runs a business incubator but has fallen on hard times. The foundation treats the station as a 24-hour form of community outreach. "
  • LPFM promotes a very close community. "A woman walked into the station ... asked for an announcement to be broadcast about her lost dog... 'She was able to get her dog back the next day’”
  • LPFM is crucial for small communities in times of emergencies. “A low power FM radio station can stay on the air even if the power goes out. Low power FM saved lives during Katrina.”

Former President Bill Clinton is a known advocate of LPFM saying it is "giving voice to the voiceless", including schools, community groups, churches, and ethnic groups.[5]

Brown Paper Tickets CEO Steve Butcher supports LPFM, stating in a letter to the FCC, "We hear from event producers frequently who can't afford radio ad buys on commercial stations. These local entrepreneurs can afford underwriting on smaller stations that can help build awareness about their events."[6]

LPFM stations are considered to be affordable compared to an average FM station, whose operating costs can run up to a million dollars, and could only afforded by businesses and the very wealthy. An antenna and transmitter can cost between $2,000 and $5,000.[7]

Arguments against LPFMEdit

  • Signal Interference on FM Station – High-power FM stations express concern that LPFM stations may cause interference with their signals if third adjacent channel interference protections are not observed. While the Mitre Report suggests that the likelihood for interference is not as threatening as previously thought, high-power FM stations question the methodology, scope and validity of the study and its results.[8]
  • FM translators – These devices allow a radio station to rebroadcast its signal to reach a greater area. FM translators could benefit religious broadcasters wishing to reach a larger audience, as well as many AM radio stations who, due to ionospheric refraction, are required to emit weaker signals during the night.[9] FM translators are low-power, so compete with LPFM for limited space on the airwaves.
  • In some states, the local Department of Transportation operates large networks of LPFM stations that act as highway advisory radio stations – a service traditionally operated at the fringes of the AM band – restricting the number of available channelsTemplate:Citation needed (these systems can be licensed to the entire AM band, but the LPFM service provides considerably greater coverage at 100 watts than the 10-watt limit on AM – hence the considerable appeal for government agencies).
  • Some investors in radio believe LPFM services prevent the development of digital radio.[10]
  • NPR is a major opponent to low-power FM. Their stance is that allowing more flexible rules for LPFM would burden other stations by forcing them to deal with interference problems and because of the fact that full-power broadcasters reach a broader audience and provide a greater service, they should be favored regarding spectrum availability.[11][12]
  • The National Association of Broadcasters is the other major source of opposition. Its stance is that full-power FM broadcasters “enhance localism” by providing community responsive information such as emergency information. Allowing low-power FM stations to have equal spectrum rights could be detrimental to these necessary programs.[13]

See also Edit

References Edit

External links Edit

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