North East RadioWatch: April 21, 2000

WMJQ Comes Home

by Scott Fybush

Finally this week, some heartening news from the FCC: The agency has adopted a new method for deciding among competing applicants for noncommercial radio and TV licenses. New frequencies will be awarded based on a point system, with strong preferences for local ownership, local schools, and groups with no other stations. This is bad news for the national religious chains that have been adding an increasing number of new primary-signal applications along with their hundreds upon hundreds of satellite-fed translators (and it's often hard to tell the difference, since many of the primaries are also little more than satellite-fed clones with no significant local presence. This is outstanding news for stations like Boston's WUMB, which is facing a slew of out-of-state applications for new stations at the fringes of its 91.9 signal.

It's also still something short of a real solution, since it forces the local stations to go to the trouble of filing mutually-exclusive applications for new primaries on their own fringes (like WUMB's 91.7 Stow application) in situations where the better solution would be for no new signal to go on the air at all. It's no great surprise, though, from a Commission whose unstated desire seems to be to fill every available hole on the FM dial with some sort of a signal, viable or not, by the end of the year if not sooner.

More thoughts on that matter, especially as it pertains to LPFM, in the weeks to come...

That's it for this quiet week; see you next Friday!

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