Prometheus Takes on NPR

NPR has recieved hundreds of calls, letters, and emails with people telling them that they are furious about their role in killing LPFM. Good job everyone! The NPR ombudsman recently wrote a reply to all this which you can see at this site. Keep the mail coming, especially to your local NPR station. National NPR claims that it's policy is driven by the affiliates, so make sure that your affiliate isn't your local NPR affilate that is behind NPR's despicable stand!

NPR has persuaded key Democratic legislators to co-sponsor legislation that would gut the FCC's proposed low power FM service. These Senators and Representatives would have supported low-power FM but for a multi-million dollar intensive lobbying campaign by NPR and the National Association of Broadcasters.

The NPR UnPledge Campaign

Prometheus Radio Project, the Media Alliance, the National Lawyers Guild CDC, and Americans for Radio Diversity have initiated an Un-Pledge Campaign against NPR in response to their scurrilous position on low power radio.

We encourage you to call your local NPR station, ask for the director, and ask their position on low power radio. If they give you some lame answer like "we support the goals of low power radio, but there are important technical questions blah blah blah," tell them you are withholding your pledge and will encourage your friends to do the same till they stop beating up on community radio.

If you want to take it a step further, hold an Un-Pledge drive in front of their main office like the one we just held outside their board meeting in San Francisco. We gave out nifty buttons and tote-bags to people who promised to not send in a check to NPR until they learned to play nice with their little sister stations of the airwaves. Tell us how many Un-Pledges you get. You can also call their volunteers at the pledge phones and let them know what their favorite station is doing. Or volunteer yourself and educate their listeners! Prometheus Radio Project Challenges National Public Radio to End its Opposition to Low-Power FM

You'll find more details about the campaign by visiting radiodiversity's web site.

September 2000 Letter to NPR Board Members

With heavy hearts, we regret to inform you that there will be a demonstration and press conference outside your board meeting this Saturday to tell the public about NPR's campaign to defeat low power radio. Throughout the movement to create a low power service, there has been great reluctance to confront NPR on this issue: many of us are loyal NPR listeners and subscribers. NPR support for the Grams bill was the final straw for us- it can no longer be claimed that NPR's opposition to LPFM is any different from the National Association of Broadcasters and corporate media ownersí attempts to quash free speech and choice on the airwaves.

These tiny radio stations will feel less of the economic pressures that force NPR and other large organizations to make tough choices about formatting, content, underwriting and administration. The LPFMs can afford to be experimental, provocative incubators for our cultural and political life. As I'm sure you recall, much of NPR's early innovation and talent came from the lively community radio movement of the seventies.

NPR has maintained that it is not opposed to the policy goals of the LPFM service, but opposes the new stations solely on technical grounds. We wish that we were not forced to doubt NPR's sincerity in this statement. The low power radio rules that were passed by the Commission were extremely conservative from an engineering standpoint. The LPFM rules are more restrictive than the already existing translator rules, and translator transmitters are technically identical to LPFM transmitters. In fact, far more research than was necessary has already been done on the abundantly understood topic of second and third adjacent interference. The LPFM stations will clearly create far less interference than technically similar grandfathered short spaced stations, whose engineering rules were recently made more flexible.

Perhaps most absurd is the suggestion that low power FM could interfere with reading services to the blind, or the lightly processed signals of public stations. There are less than 200 of these reading services in the United States on subcarriers. Of these, the majority of these are on subcarriers within the non-commercial band. As a result of the frankly overcautious interference protection of the new LPFM rules, there will be barely any low power FMs allocated on non-commercial channels. There are no LPFMS at all allocated in the non-commercial band within 140 kilometers of operating channel 6 TV stations, which leaves a relatively small slice of the populated United States that could see any LPFM in 88-92 MHz. Among that handful of stations, few LPFMs will be allocable on a third adjacent channel from the station carrying the reading service. In the few cases (probably less than ten) where there could be such a conflict, the FCC has repeatedly assured all parties that there will be no impact on these reading services- the final rules will fully protect reading services fully.

Calls for more studies can be interpreted as little more than the stalling tactics of incumbent broadcasters determined to outspend and outlobby lpfm advocates. The demands for more studies on this issue are a transparent attempt to delay until a change of administration would derail the low power plan altogether. NPR should be ashamed to be an accomplice in this anti-competitive endeavor, and the time has come that NPR's­ listeners and contributors must know about it. In light of this sorry state of affairs, our organizations see no choice but to inform the public of NPR'­s scurrilous position. We will be asking that listeners withhold their donations to NPR affiliates that oppose low power radio. As non-commercial radio advocates, the last thing we would want is to damage the fragile relationship between a station and its subscribers.

The arrogance of power and incumbency must be challenged wherever it manifests itself. We can'­t stand politely by and allow your fears of competition and your desires to continue to expand your coverage- already at 94% of the nation- to frustrate the rebirth of community radio in the United States. We will start in front of your board meeting, and go on to affiliates across the country as necessitated by their positions on low power radio. We know that none of you got involved in public radio because you wanted to stifle the voices and creativity of the American people- but that is exactly what you are doing. We'­re asking you to withdraw your support for the Grams Bill, and any congressional solution. LPFM is a secondary service. You know full well that if any real interference problem emerges from LPFM stations, NPR and its affiliates will easily prevail at the Commission with their relatively massive engineering and legal resources. Members of our organizations will be present in San Francisco during the NAB convention.

We will be happy to discuss our position and our actions with members of the NPR board. We hope that NPR can reconnect with its mission of public service and cast aside its competitive, corporate, and condescending attitude towards the public that it is entrusted with serving. We hope that we will be able to call off our campaign as soon as NPR chooses to exhibit good faith towards the emerging community radio movement. We are sorry that it had to come to this.


Pete Tridish
For Prometheus Radio Project

Andrea Buffa
For Media Alliance

Peter Franck
For National Lawyers Guild Committee on Democratic Communications

Glenn Austin
For Americans for Radio Diversity