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NAB Attacks Low-Powered FM Radio
by Ted Coopman & John Anderson (ted [at]
Friday Sep 22nd, 2000 5:11 PM
Eddie Fritts and the NAB have failed to take steps to expand reading Services for the blind. Their apparent concern for protecting this service from alledged interference from LPFM seems to be more calculated to use the blind as a bludgeon to stifle the addition of new voices to the airwaves.
Commercial Broadcasters are quick to point fingers, but slow to help America’s Blind

Speaking at the NAB Radio Convention in San Francisco, Eddie Fritts, CEO and President of the Nation Association of Broadcasters (NAB) boasted that his organization’s opposition to the FCC’s new low power FM (LPFM) service was justified, in part, to protect access to Reading Services for the Blind.

Reading services for the Blind utilizes FM ‘subcarrier’ signals; these are ‘piggybacked’ onto the extra bandwidth every FM station enjoys. You can not pick up a subcarrier with a normal radio, and extra transmitting equipment is necessary to utilize a station’s subcarrier resource. But once a subcarrier system is installed at an FM station, volunteers for a Reading Service are able to read books, magazines and other print materials to its visually-impaired clients, who only need a special receiver to listen.

Fritts told NAB Radio Convention delegates that any low power radio service would interfere with subcarriers – and Reading Services for the Blind. He said one million visually impaired Americans rely on these services, and that the FCC did not consider the impact to them when it approved an LPFM plan.

However, as with most of the NAB’s allegations about potential interference, Fritts’ claims have little or no basis in fact. According to Ben Martin, President of the International Association of Audio Information Services (who help organize many Reading Services for the Blind), a "vast majority" of such subcarriers used by the visually impaired are located on stations that broadcast in the educational portion of the FM spectrum (88-92 MHz). There is already little or no space on that part of the dial for new LPFM stations; therefore, these Reading Services will not be impacted.

And while Fritts is quick to claim moral authority on behalf of the nation’s visually impaired, commercial broadcasters are themselves loath to give up any of their valuable subcarrier space for Reading Services. Commercial broadcasters receive large amounts of revenue leasing their own subcarrier space to pager, cell phone, and other data distribution businesses.

Martin expressed support for low power FM, but was concerned about LPFM restricting the growth the Reading Services for the Blind. He further stated that many large cities lack this crucial service. FCC Commissioner William Kennard has stated repeatedly that this service would be protected at all costs as LPFM stations are rolled out across the nation.

Considering that Eddie Fritts and the NAB have failed to take steps to expand this service on their own, their concern seems to be more calculated to use the blind as a bludgeon to stifle the addition of new voices to the airwaves.
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assorted comments about thisIshmael AlfredssonMonday Sep 25th, 2000 7:43 PM
assorted comments about thisBenSaturday Sep 23rd, 2000 9:05 PM
assorted comments about thisjohn kawakamiSaturday Sep 23rd, 2000 4:31 PM
assorted comments about thisKellia RamaresSaturday Sep 23rd, 2000 12:12 PM

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