Senate bill for third-adjacent protection relief for LPFMs mimics House version

Late last month we reported on a bill introduced in the House that would eliminate the third-adjacent channel protections which full power FMs have enjoyed vis-à-vis LPFM stations since 2000.  The House bill (H.R. 1147) now has a little friend over on the Senate side: on March 12, 2009, Senators Cantwell, McCain, Leahy, Durbin, Feingold, and Schumer introduced their own bill (S. 592) that would do the very same thing. 

It wouldn’t be a stretch to call these two bills “companion pieces” . . . or even identical twins. Other than minor changes in the “Findings” portion of the Senate bill, there is no difference in the way both bills would implement the changes in the interference protection standards. Just like the House version – indeed, using the same language as the House – the Senate bill would repeal the 2000 law imposing the third-adjacent channel protection (except when radio reading services are involved) and would require the Commission to consider the needs of the local community in determining whether to license LPFM or FM translator stations. 

Interestingly, the Senate’s version of the bill eliminates a pejorative reference to the consolidation of the media industry which the House had thrown in. The House alluded to testimony that there had been “too much consolidation” in some local radio markets and that consolidation had created pernicious “strong financial incentives for companies to reduce local programming”. The Senate bill retains the reference to “too much consolidation”, but drops the suggestion that consolidation is to blame for any reduction in local programming. The Senate version also corrects the House’s math with respect to the number of LPFM stations that were processed with the third-adjacent channel protections in place (the House said the number was 800; the Senate says 500).

With essentially identical measures pending before both Houses, the skids may now be greased for prompt Congressional action. Whether that will actually happen depends on the political process, and who knows how, or when, that will happen? Still, it is clear that, given the right push, Congress could move swiftly to lift the third-adjacent channel protections. Stay tuned.