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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
"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."
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