For immediate release
May 1, 2000

NPR Says FCC's Hastened LPFM Implementation Process Does Not Serve The Public Interest

Washington, DC - Today, National Public Radio® (NPR®) expressed its disappointment that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will proceed with opening the Low Power FM (LPFM) application filing window on May 30th without having resolved interference issues. The FCC decision was announced late Friday evening, April 28th. NPR filed a Petition for Reconsideration and Motion for Stay in mid-March, asking the FCC to modify, and delay implementation of, its LPFM plan pending further testing and the adoption of protections against interference.

"The haste with which the FCC is acting does not serve the public interest because existing FM broadcasters do not know whether their signals will be protected and new LPFM applicants do not know whether they will be licensed," says NPR President and CEO Kevin Klose. "First, in its rush to create this new radio service, the FCC dropped long-standing technical safeguards designed to protect America's existing community-based, public radio stations. Now, despite our pending Petition for Reconsideration, the FCC is forging ahead in implementing its LPFM plan without resolving interference issues involving full service stations, translators and radio reading services for the blind. Unless the FCC addresses these issues prior to accepting LPFM applications, any subsequent remedial measures regarding basic interference questions threaten to disrupt individual LPFM stations and the service generally."

"We believe that it is possible for public radio and LPFM to co-exist as compatible, complementary radio services in the future," continued Klose. "NPR itself began thirty years ago, when visionaries organized a new, non-profit, national radio service. Our member stations include stations licensed to community licensees, local school boards and other local institutions, and private and public colleges and universities. Specifically, 78 of NPR's member licensees are local communities (including several Native American tribes), 8 are school boards, 11 are state entities, 27 are private universities, and 146 are state universities."

Public radio stations are uniquely vulnerable to potential interference from low-power FM stations. First, the very programming that sets public radio stations apart - jazz, classical music, talk -- makes them especially susceptible to interference from nearby stations. Unlike the steady volume provided by commercial Top 40 radio, music typically heard on public radio, such as Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo" or a Mozart concerto, contains both soft and loud passages. Second, because most public radio stations operate on the narrow "reserved band" of the FM dial (where approximately 90 percent of public radio stations are located) they are already tightly crowded together, making them more susceptible to potential interference from LPFM.

The FCC's new rules on low-power FM also threaten the transmission of radio reading services for the blind and print-impaired. More than a third of NPR's members provide these services on their subcarrier channels. They provide their audiences with a full menu of indispensable, daily information such as bus schedules, grocery store sale items and election district addresses. While the FCC has proceeded with the LPFM implementation process, it has not announced specific measures to protect radio reading services.

Renowned for its journalistic excellence and standard-setting news, information, and cultural programming, NPR serves a growing audience of nearly 15 million Americans each week via more than 644 public radio stations. NPR Online is available at NPR also distributes programming to listeners in Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa via NPR WorldwideSM, to military installations overseas via American Forces Network and throughout Japan via cable.