Do We Need the Distinction Between Reserved and Non-Reserved Bands?

Does anybody really make a distinction between commercial and non-commercial bands these days? I don’t mean musical “bands”, I’m referring to the fact that certain FM frequencies have been “reserved” for non-commercial licenses and certain frequencies designated “commercial”. The reality is, non-commercial stations can operate in the commercial band while commercial stations can not operate in the non-commercial band.   In fact, if you take a look at the total FM spectrum, you’re going to see a growing trend toward non-commercial activity in the commercial spectrum and that includes main station transmissions as well as translators. Now, we are on the verge of a LPFM explosion in the commercial band and those stations will be designated for non-commercial uses only. Get the picture? Somebody in Washington is out to get the commercial spectrum.We recently visited the website of the Prometheus Project, generally credited as the primary proponent for LPFM and non-commercial, community licensing. We clicked on the icon for “Want to Start a Radio Station?” and was re-directed to an information input page with a survey asking the purpose for this new station. The options were as follows:

Anti-Imperialist/Global Justice (really)
Arts & Culture
Cultural Expression
Economic Justice
Immigrant Rights
Multi-Use Community Organizing
Native Rights
Police Accountability/Prison Issues
Racial Justice
Youth Empowerment

Unfortunately, we didn’t see any category for Defending the Constitution, Personal Responsibility, Protecting our Borders, or Rightwing Conspiracies, so we didn’t sign up. But I digress…back to the subject we started with.

Here’s a thought…why not simply break down the barrier between the “reserved” band and the “commercial band”? Why not make it a level playing field? The FCC has now learned how to control access to the airwaves via auction. They are trying to figure out how to give out preference points. They already give bidding credits to new entrants (even if the applicant is not really a new entrant), so why do we have to maintain the distinction? This seems to me to be just another border fence to be scaled.

While we’re at it, why bother maintaining the distinction between commercial and non-commercial at all? Why not leave that up to the licensee? If a station owner wants to run non-commercial, great. If they want to sell commercials, OK. If they want their own brand of “hybrid”, why not? Works for me.

For those of you who toil in the non-commercial sector (and I was one of those for several years, and I salute your efforts), wouldn’t you like to at least have the option of turning those “underwriting messages” into real commercials? Give your “underwriters” a better bang for the buck! No? Commercials = Bad? That’s OK, you don’t have to run commercials…it’s your choice, isn’t that cool?

But here’s the quid pro quo: I’d agree to full commercialization of the “reserved band”…at the option of the licensee, IF you’ll stop subsidization by tax payer dollars. If non-commercial programming is so wonderful and meaningful to the U.S. public, they’ll continue to support it with donations and you can make up the difference with advertising. That works for me. Works for a whole lot of Christian broadcasters, non-commercial and/or commercial.

That’s 30 for now…for what it’s worth.