Republican Slams Micro Radio Plan

Agent Smiley (
Fri, 12 Feb 1999 20:05:06 PST


Republican Slams Microradio Plan

5:05 p.m.  11.Feb.99.PST
The top Republican in the House overseeing communications policy 
Thursday blasted a plan to allow thousands of new low-powered radio 

Representative Billy Tauzin of Louisiana said the Federal Communications 
Commission plan for so-called microradio would reduce the audience and 
advertising revenue of current stations and possibly create severe 

The FCC "is an agency out of control that demands congressional action 
to straighten it out," Tauzin said at a luncheon meeting of the National 
Association of Broadcaster's group of top radio executives. 

Tauzin chairs the House Commerce Committee's communications 
subcommittee. The luncheon meeting, in a private dining room of the 
Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Arlington, Virgina, included billionaire Lowry 
Mays, co-founder of Clear Channel Communications. 

Tauzin argued that new Internet and satellite radio broadcasters were 
adding new voices to the airwaves, while current radio and television 
stations were being underutilized, possibly providing outlets for 
unheard viewpoints. 

"Are the stations we have now enough? Are they utilized properly?" 
Tauzin asked. In some television markets, the children's program Barney 
was shown on public television 15 times a day, Tauzin said. 

But FCC chairman William Kennard urged Tauzin to talk to educational, 
religious, and community groups that support the microradio plan before 
opposing the idea. 

"There is enough room for the voices of churches, schools, and 
neighborhood groups, as well as established radio companies," Kennard 
said in a statement released after Tauzin spoke. 

"I'm sure that Chairman Tauzin does not want to limit Americans' choices 
to whom or what they can hear on the radio. I hope that when he speaks 
with the church and community leaders who I have spoken with, he will 
see the benefits of low-power FM." 

 After also accusing the FCC of "coercion and extortion" when it 
reviewed industry-merger deals, Tauzin said he planned to introduce 
legislation to revamp the agency's structure and powers. 

"I will need your help, I will need your guidance and I will need you 
counsel," the lawmaker told the radio-station owners. 

Tauzin also said he would introduce a bill to repeal a provision of the 
1996 Telecommunications Act that subsidizes Internet connections for 
schools and libraries. 

The education rate, or e-rate, discount is funded from fees added to 
long-distance telephone calls. The program came under fire from some 
Republicans last year who dubbed it the "Al Gore tax." 

Before speaking, Tauzin sent a letter to FCC chairman William Kennard 
calling the microradio initiative "ill-advised." 

"I request that you take no further action on this agenda," Tauzin 

Last month, the FCC proposed creating hundreds or even thousands of new 
FM radio stations broadcasting at 1,000 watts down to as little as one 
watt. Commercial stations typically broadcast at 6,000 watts or more, 
requiring expensive equipment and massive antenna towers. The proposal 
was issued for public comment and could be revised or put on hold after 
the brief comment period. 

Supporters of the plan said they were somewhat surprised by Tauzin's 

"There's a disconnect between yesterday's rhetoric and today's," said 
Andrew Schwartzman, president of the Media Access Project, a nonprofit 
law firm backing the microradio supporters. "I would have thought that 
the FCC's use of the Communications Act to end protectionism and permit 
the entry of hundreds or thousands of new businesses into the most 
dynamic and growing part of our economy is something Billy Tauzin would 
be pushing not stopping." 

"The universe is not to be narrowed down to the limits of our 
understanding...but our understanding must be stretched and enlarged to 
take in the image of the universe as it is discovered."
- Sir Francis Bacon

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