Wyden: Protect low-power TV, radio stations

By US Senator Ron Wyden,

U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Roy Blunt (D-MO) announced that their bipartisan Low Power Protection Act will soon become law, after it passed the House of Representatives on a voice vote.

“The Low Power Protection Act is a bipartisan way to support diverse, locally oriented broadcasting that is so important to rural and remote communities in Oregon and across the country,” Wyden said. “I’m proud that Senator Blunt and I got this bill across the finish line to help our local broadcasters continue to deliver programming. I won’t stop fighting to help local journalists deliver the news coverage that rural folks depend on.”

“The Low Power Protection Act will help preserve local broadcasting in rural communities in Missouri and across the country,” said Blunt. “Local television stations provide a unique and valuable service, including access to local news, weather alerts, and life-saving public safety information. I’m glad to see this bill on its way to the president’s desk.”

The legislation, co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Jon Tester (D-MT), passed the Senate unanimously on Wednesday evening and now heads to the president’s desk.

LPTV stations usually provide locally-oriented or specialized service in their communities. However, LPTV is currently considered a secondary broadcast service by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). As such, LPTV licensees are not granted protections from harmful interference or displacement, and must accept harmful interference or displacement from full power television stations.

In 1999, in an effort to protect LPTV stations from harmful interference or displacement during the transition from analog to digital broadcasting, Congress passed the Community Broadcaster Protection Act (CBPA). The law created the “Class A” station status, and opened a one-time filing window for stations to apply. CBPA directed that Class A licensees be subject to the same license terms and renewal standards as full power television licensees, and that Class A licensees be accorded primary status as television broadcasters as long as they continue to meet the requirements set forth in the statute.

Wyden and Blunt’s Low Power Protection Act will require the FCC to open a new filing window during which qualifying LPTV stations could apply for and receive Class A status. Class A status will protect LPTV stations from being bumped off-air by harmful interference. That, in turn, will help ensure they are able to continue providing local coverage, and allow them to better protect existing investment and incentivize further investment in their stations and communities.

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