NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

FCC Goes After Low-Power Radio Stations

January 5, 1999

Hundreds of small, low-power radio stations are on the air today -- and the Federal Communications Commission is determined to shut them down.

  • Until 1980, the FCC allowed small broadcasters to acquire Class D licenses which permitted them to broadcast at 10 watts.
  • But the Corporation for Public Broadcasting convinced the commission that the stations were cluttering the lower end of the radio spectrum that might otherwise carry National Public Radio.
  • So the FCC stopped issuing Class D licenses and many small stations were squeezed off the air.
  • But as many as 1,000 of the so-called "pirate" stations are still on the air, and the FCC initiated more than 100 actions against some of them last year.

Experts contend the explosion of new communications technologies in the past 30 years has disproved the argument that there is a scarcity of broadcast frequencies. They argue the federal government should set up rules for micro-radio broadcasters that would bar them from interfering with existing stations. Rather than requiring licenses, the FCC should be forced to show that an unlicensed station was creating interference -- and only then take action.

Source: Scott G. Bullock (Institute for Justice), "Free the Airwaves," Investor's Business Daily, January 5, 1999.


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