09 novembre 2007

FCC: poche locali potenti e tante microstazioni?

Mentre (vedi post precedente) ferve il dibattito sulla opportunità di allentare ulteriormente le norme che regolano la proprietà delle emittenti radiofoniche negli Stati Uniti, un altro articolo apparso sulla stampa di Seattle (dove oggi la FCC incontra i rappresentanti delle associazioni di categoria e della pubblica opinione) rivela che il presidente della Commissione Kevin Martin, potrebbe avere un piano B. Da un lato consentire ai grandi gruppi proprietari di stazioni regolari il possesso di un numero addirittura superiore di emittenti. Dall'altro però favorire anche lo sviluppo di stazioni FM a bassa potenza LPFM, una cateogoria fissata nel 2000 che prevede una potenza massima di 100 Watt in antenna.
Mi sembra un atteggiamento un po' schizofrenico, si toglie un po' spazio alle stazioni locali con buona copertura e in cambio si dà il contentino di tante micro-stazioni a carattere non commerciale, magari confidando che queste nuove stazioni non vengano aperte da nessuno. Ma se questo passa il convento forse ci si può accontentare. Come riferisce anche il sito del Prometheus Radio Project, la Commissione Commercio del Senato americano si è espressa a fine ottobre in favore di una proposta di legge che porterebbe a migliaia di nuove stazioni comunitarie LPFM:

The United States Senate Commerce Committee voted this afternoon to substantially expand the number of community media outlets in the United States. In a consensus vote, the Committee moved to report Senate Bill 1675, the Local Community Radio Act of 2007, to the full Senate -- and opened the door for thousands of new community radio stations to be built in America's largest cities, and smaller communities across the nation.
Senate Bill 1675, the bill designed to 'implement the recommendations of the Federal Communications Commission regarding Low Power FM', was introduced by Senators John McCain (R-AZ), and Maria Cantwell (D-WA). This bill is designed to allow thousands more Low Power FM community radio stations to reach Americans in cities, and all across the country.
The Senate Commerce Committee had moved twice in the past to expand low power FM radio opportunities to community groups in America's cities. This year, the bill is accompanied by a strong House of Representatives companion (House Bill 2802, sponsored by Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Lee Terry (R-NE)) with 55 cosponsors, and diverse bipartisan support from Georgia to Guam.

La storia che segue, invece, è stata pubblicata sul Seattle Post Intelligencer.

On Radio: FCC turns up volume on local radio

November 7, 2007 7:44 p.m. PT

While there's likely to be an abundance of verbal posturing and sniping at Friday's Federal Communications Commission hearing Friday in Seattle on media ownership, there's one issue on which many of the parties are actually in agreement: putting more local content into local radio.
To that end, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has in recent weeks talked about reviving a concept that at one time generated considerable excitement but in recent months has been largely dormant: low-power FM stations.
In testimony last month to the House Committee on Small Business, Martin said that "low-power FM provides a lower-cost opportunity for more new voices to get into the local radio market. The commission currently is considering an order that would ensure that LPFM stations have reasonable access to limited radio spectrum."
There's been other action on the LPFM front. Earlier this week, reports Radio-Info newsletter, the Senate Commerce Committee voted in favor of a change in spectrum licensing that could effectively open up more room on the FM dial for more stations. The Senate version of the Local Community Radio Act of 2007 was co-introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.
Low-power FM stations are non-commercial outlets that operate over a limited area with up to 100 watts of power (KUOW-FM/94.9, by contrast, operates at 100,000 watts of power). The FCC created the category in 2000, took in hundreds of applications and approved some to go on the air.
The theory behind LPFM was that the stations could be put on the air relatively easily and cheaply by governmental, community, educational, religious, cultural and other non-profit groups to provide local coverage and programming abandoned by many larger, commercial broadcasters.
In reality, the concept collided with competition from established broadcasters who argued the proliferation of LPFM stations would generate interference with their existing signals.
There's also the matter of competition for limited spectrum. As Radio-Info recently noted, LPFM stations will, in metropolitan markets such as Seattle, be going up against broadcasters trying to shoehorn new stations onto the FM band, and AM stations looking for FM translators for their signal. Radio-Info predicts a lobbying collision between activist groups such as the Prometheus Project, which is pushing for LPFM's expansion, and the National Association of Broadcasters.
One example of the competition for spectrum is KCFL-LP, a low-power station that operated in the Fall City area. That station's allocation has been caught up in the effort to move an Oregon station to this region, and then to move its transmitter closer to Seattle. The uncertainty over the station's future "made it impossible to raise money," says Sandi Woodruff, a broadcast consultant who has worked with LPFM stations in the region. Consequently, KCFL isn't operating.
Even if those issues get resolved, LPFM faces one other major challenge: sustaining and paying for stations once they're on the air.
Many of the LPFM stations operate with volunteer help, but they still need some sort of financial support to get by.
Woodruff says one station she has worked with in Aberdeen shifted in May from an oldies format to talk with a left-leaning perspective.
Studio and transmitter space is donated, with community contributions funding operating expenses.
What that station learned, Woodruff says by e-mail, is that "people need an emotional attachment to a program in order for them to donate." They won't contribute just to keep a station on the air, but they will for a specific program. "People have to fear a show's loss enough to make a contribution or the station doesn't make it." A unique music format, she says, "will fail to generate much income."

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