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 CNS Story:

LOW POWER Jul-14-2009 (570 words) xxxn

Call-in day to support low-power radio set for July 20

By Mark Pattison
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops' Committee on Communications is backing a July 20 call-in day to support the licensing of more low-power FM stations across the country.

The call-ins aren't to radio stations, but to members of the Senate.

The Local Community Radio Act of 2009, co-sponsored by Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and John McCain, R-Ariz., would authorize the Federal Communications Commission to license hundreds of new low-power FM stations.

A committee hearing was held in June on the House version of the bill, which has 72 co-sponsors.

Archbishop George H. Niederauer of San Francisco, chairman of the bishops' communications committee, sent a letter April 6 to senators asking them to co-sponsor the bill. A similar letter was sent the same day by Karen Ristau, president of the National Catholic Educational Association, and Patrick Bassett, president of the National Association of Independent Schools.

Low-power stations "help increase the diversity of voices on our airwaves, sorely needed in today's radio marketplace," Archbishop Niederauer said in his letter.

"Catholic dioceses and other Catholic institutions have experienced firsthand the neglect of service to the local community by full-power radio stations; short public service announcements and other noncommercial religious programming produced by them face an uphill struggle for airtime," he said.

"Schools are uniquely positioned to take advantage of low-power radio; students can learn broadcasting skills as they work with community members to put local programs on the air," said the Ristau-Bassett letter. "However, unless more channels are made available for these small, local radio stations, Catholic, independent and public schools will be denied the opportunity to harness this valuable educational tool which can serve local communities."

An effort in 2000 to allow more low-power stations was stymied when the National Association of Broadcasters, the broadcast industry's lobby, complained that interference from low-power stations' signals would interfere with their full-power stations' signals. Studies showed this would not be the case.

Low-power FM stations are community-based, noncommercial radio stations that operate at 100 watts or less, broadcasting within a three- to five-mile radius. These stations were created to enable churches, schools, community groups and civic organizations to reach nearby listeners with local news, information, emergency services and entertainment.

There is no organized opposition to the Local Community Radio Act, but plenty of would-be Catholic low-power licensees had their bids to start a station rejected.

Among the Catholic entities whose applications were dismissed over the past year were Northern Valley Catholic Social Services, Redding, Calif.; the Norwich (Conn.) Roman Catholic Diocesan Corp.; the Catholic dioceses of Savannah, Ga., and Rockford, Ill.; Right to Life of Indianapolis; All That Is Catholic Ministries, Augusta, Maine; the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis; St. John's University, Collegeville, Minn.; All Saints Catholic Church, Bristow, Va.; and Trinity Catholic High School, Ocala, Fla.

Several Catholic churches and Catholic groups in Texas are also among those whose applications were dismissed: St. Elizabeth Parish, Alice; Our Lady's Maronite Catholic Church, Austin; St. Joseph Catholic Church, Commerce; St. Peter Catholic Parish, Dumas; St. Joseph Parish, Edinburg; St. Mary's Parish, Gainesville; St. Mary Church, Graham; St. Anthony's Parish Educational Association, Hereford; Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Mineral Wells; St. Brendan Catholic Parish, Stephenville; and Crossroads Catholic Radio, Victoria.

In Florida, out of 229 low-power FM license applications, 63 received licenses, or less than 27 percent. In Texas, 188 applications were received and 52 made it to air -- less than 28 percent.


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