“This is a day we have dreamed of since 2003 when MAIN launched its low-power FM station for Asheville and Buncombe County, only to discover that FCC rules pushed by commercial broadcast lobbyists restricted our signal to only 2 watts, instead of the 100 watts for which we are licensed,” said Wally Bowen, MAIN’s founder and executive director. MAIN operates WPVM FM (now renamed MAIN FM), a low-power station. Bowen’s comment came this weekend after Congress passed the Local Community Radio Act.
The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature.
“Passage of this bill gives the FCC the green light to issue new rules that will allow us to broadcast at a full 100 watts. We eagerly await these new rules,” Bowen said.
Bowen applauded the efforts of media reform allies such as Prometheus Radio, Free Press, Media Access Project, and the Media &Democracy Coalition for spearheading the effort to win passage of the bill during Congress’s lame-duck session.
MAIN-FM first went on the air in October 2003, as WPVM 103.5 FM,the Progressive Voice of the Mountains. With the restrictive FCC rules limiting the station’s signal to only 2 watts, the station has never been consistently heard in downtown Asheville or in the city’s neighborhoods north of downtown and beyond. The station changed its name to MAIN-FM in 2009 to prevent confusion that the radio station and MAIN are separate entities.
With a power increase to 100 watts, Bowen estimates that MAIN-FM’s signal will be heard throughout Buncombe County, into Hendersonville, and possibly as far north as Mars Hill.
Congress first authorized the FCC to begin issuing low-power FM (LPFM) radio licenses to local nonprofits in 2000 when commercial broadcast lobbyists slipped the “Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act” into an omnibus spending bill. The “poison-pill” bill, which President Clinton reluctantly signed, limited low-power FM licenses to rural communities and smaller cities, thereby protecting commercial broadcasters from low-power community-based competition in all the major US media markets.
A Huffington Post article by Timothy Karr called the bill’s passage: “Little noticed but extremely important to progressives, on Saturday afternoon Congress also passed the Local Community Radio Act. This legislation opens up radio spectrum to hundreds, if not thousands, of local independent radio stations (also known as LPFM).”