H.R. 1147: Local Community Radio Act of 2009

H.R. 1147

Local Community Radio Act of 2009

Sponsor
Rep. Michael F. Doyle

Date
December 15, 2009 (111th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

H.R. 1147 is being considered on the floor under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. This legislation was introduced by Rep. Michael Doyle (D-PA) on February 24, 2009. The Committee on Energy and Commerce approved the bill by voice vote on October 15, 2009.

Bill Summary

H.R. 1147 would amend rules that limit the number of low-power radio stations that may be licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The bill would repeal some engineering requirements that now limit the number of low-power radio stations that can operate in certain areas and would direct the FCC to ensure the availability of radio spectrum for both low-power FM stations and stations that translate FM signals initially transmitted by other stations.

Background

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created low-power FM-frequency radio stations in 2000 as a way of promoting local programming.  Low-power stations are operated by non-commercial entities and broadcast weak signals (100 watts or less) that reach a limited geographic area.  Due to concerns over frequency interference, Congress enacted restrictions on how closely those low-power stations could operate to their full-power counterparts. These restrictions resulted in fewer low-power stations than expected, and this bill is an effort to increase the number of low-power, local stations.

Backdoor Fairness Doctrine:  Some Members may be concerned that this bill could allow the FCC to replace an existing and operating translator radio station with a new low-power FM station when the translator's license is up for renewal or even during the term of an existing license.  The bill allows the FCC to take into account "needs of the local community" when determining licenses and this may displace translator stations if the FCC presumes that low-power FM stations are preferable for local communities.  Translator radio stations rebroadcast and extend the signal of noncommercial full-power stations to communities which might not otherwise receive the service.

 

Cost

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing H.R. 1147 would have no significant effect on the federal budget, but the bill contains intergovernmental and private sector mandates. CBO expects that several thousand entities would have to comply with the mandate. Because a small number of those entities are publicly owned, CBO estimates that the aggregate cost to public entities would be small and would fall below the annual threshold established for intergovernmental mandates. CBO also estimates that the aggregate cost to private entities would total at least tens of millions of dollars, but would probably fall below the annual threshold established for private-sector mandates.