Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

WGTB Petitions FCC in Support Of Low-Level Radio Transmitting

WGTB Petitions FCC in Support Of Low-Level Radio Transmitting

By Nikhil Patel Hoya Staff Writer

Correction (11/17/98): There is a factual error in this article.  WGTB has not actually filed any petitions or comments with the FCC.  Instead, WGTB has requested that the university support low-power FM broadcasting.

Georgetown’s student-run radio station, WGTB, has filed two petitions with the Federal Communications Commission in support of low-power FM broadcasting. WGTB also said it would urge the university to come out in support of the loosening federal restrictions on low-power broadcasting, a crucial step in any future plans on the part of WGTB to go to a radio broadcast format.

WGTB currently broadcasts over TV cables, making it accessible on only some parts of the campus.

Comparing low-power FM broadcasting to full-scale FM stations, WGTB general manager Adrian Kohn (COL ’00) said, “With this low-power FM, the whole idea is that . the power of the signal is much smaller, so it reaches fewer people. The idea behind that is to take the idea of profit and big business out of radio, because that’s what dominates so much of radio today.”

A second difference, Kohn said, is that low-power broadcasting could be placed in the buffer zones that have been enforced between full-scale FM frequencies since the 1960s. “Right now there’s a prohibition on full-scale FM stations broadcasting close to each other on the radio band. If 100.1 were a big station, you definitely couldn’t [broadcast] on 100.3, and laws left over from the ’60s prohibit broadcasting another full-scale FM station on 100.5 and 100.7, so the next big FM station you could have would be 100.9. One of the main ideas behind this is that with the precision of today’s digital transmitters, [these prohibitions] should be eliminated. Instead of a buffer zone of nothing, you could have a buffer zone of low-power FM stations.” Kohn noted that recent experiments suggest that low-power FM stations might easily broadcast within what is now the buffer zone without bleeding into other frequencies.

There are currently two petitions, RM-9208 and RM-9242, that have been filed with the FCC.

According to informational materials released by WGTB, the petition RM-9208 filed by Nickolaus Leggett and Donald Schellhardt “is a more generalized call for LPFM.” RM-9242, filed by J. Rodger Skinner of TRA Communications Consultants, Inc., includes many more specifics on “the proposed operation of an LPFM broadcast station.” The release continues, “Though Leggett and Schellhardt, the RM-9208 petitioners, disagree with a few important specifics proposed by Skinner in RM-9242, both petitions call for the establishment of LPFM throughout the nation.”

The movement to jumpstart low-power FM broadcasting has generated some opposition, notably from the National Association of Broadcasters. In a March 4, 1998 statement to the FCC, NAB President and CEO Edward O. Fritts commented on the petitions to license low-power radio stations, “At a time when [the] spectrum used for radio stations is overly congested, it would be folly to authorize hundreds of additional low-power stations that would surely cause additional interference.”

According to an April 27, 1998 press release, the NAB contends that “any change to the current FCC allocation rules would be detrimental to the evolution to in-band, on-channel (“IBOC”) digital radio by existing analog stations.”

The release also said, “The Commission has already licensed over 12,000 commercial and noncommercial radio stations, with each of the full-power stations providing a unique service to the community,” and that “low power stations would not be able to serve communities as well as a full power station. Low power stations, for all practical purposes, would be unavailable to mobile audiences and incapable of providing consistent and reliable service.”

A press release by proponents of licensing low-power FM broadcasting states that, “The NAB is an extremely powerful group of communications conglomerates that each own hundreds of stations throughout the United States, and often own several stations in every large and medium market in the country. CBS Corporation is one of the most active members of the NAB, particularly against LPFM, illustrating how wealthy and powerful the corporations comprising the NAB are.”

“The reason why the National Association of Broadcasters is vehemently against low-power FM is because it will take listeners away,” Kohn said. “If you’re living in Georgetown, and you finally have the option to listen to a news program, a sports program or some radically different music that is centered around this university – a station that exists for your community – obviously you might change the dial from some of the larger stations in D.C. So it is increased competition, which is one of the reasons why the NAB doesn’t want it.”

Kohn added, “The thing that it can’t do is interfere with the signal. The listener has to be able to still make the choice. But [the increased competition] is obviously good for the listener.”

The FCC has already completed both the initial comment and reply-comment periods on Aug. 21, 1998, is expected to issue in November one of two notices on the petitions to license low-power FM broadcasting. The first possibility is a Notice of Inquiry, which instates another comment period and reply-comment period to gather information and additional points of view from the public on the original petitions.

The second possibility is a Notice of Proposed Rule-Making, which according to information provide by WGTB “includes another brief comment and reply-comment period after which the FCC would have to pass new legislation or strike down the proposal.”

It continues, “the upcoming comment and reply-comment periods . would be ideal opportunities for Washington, D.C. residents, students and businesses to stand up for their rights and go on record with the FCC in support of low-power FM broadcasting. Every community deserves to reap the benefits of local, community-oriented programming.”

It is during this time that WGTB would urge members of the Georgetown community to actively show their support for low-power FM broadcasting. “Contact your congressmen,” advises Kohn. “This is like any other kind of activism.you have to contact your congressmen, inform them of the issue and tell them where you stand. Get them involved, because it affects you.”

He also stated that “since WGTB supports low-power FM and feels that it would be a tremendous benefit for university students, faculty, staff and local area residents and businesses, we are going to try to get Georgetown University to go on the FCC’s official record in support of low-power FM broadcasting.”

In regard to possible low-power FM broadcasting at Georgetown, Kohn added, “We’re really trying to get the community involved in this. This hypothetical Georgetown low-power FM station would not just be by students, for students. We would really want students to try to embrace the community. The whole idea behind this is community-oriented programming – embracing Georgetown the community and not just Georgetown the students.”

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