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by Guy Giuliano

Las Vegas, NV - About 10 years ago the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), began a trend of deregulation that changed the face of radio broadcasting in the United States. Medium, and small market broadcast owners were being purchased left, and right by larger broadcasters, at prices they couldn't refuse! Not to mention, many of these owners had tremendous debt loads, and endless overhead. Deregulation also allowed larger owners to purchase other large media companies to form massive broadcast conglomerates... which put more little guys out of business. Today, the radio industry has a new face, and you will find the same radio group owners in every town U.S.A. such as; Clear Channel, Infinity, ABC, and Emmis to name a few... of course there are ONLY a few!

Community groups from around the country rose to show their anger at the FCC for such changes, which eventually silenced many voices in cities across America. So the government looked into the concept of Low-Power broadcasting (LP), which includes television, and radio outlets. There was various criteria for being eligible, mainly for non-profit, and public service groups. Once again, many small commercial broadcasters felt left out in the cold. Many applicants must be screened, and chosen for assigned frequencies which are available in their area, and must broadcast via low-power coverage. Once thousands of applicants flooded the FCC for LP outlets, many were assigned, and then the freeze began. The Feds began to suspend applications in order to catch up with all of the paperwork, and massive flux of diverse community interest. Low-power FM radio would be almost as hard as purchasing an existing FM, which at today's inflated prices would be a long shot for minority broadcasters with small budgets.

However, the FCC had a little known broadcast rule known as  Part 15 (Code of Federal Regulations; Title 47, Volume 1, Sec. 15.219) which allows anyone to broadcast a radio station on the AM band from 510-1700 kHz legally! These stations are known as LPAM (Low-Power AM), and are spreading over the U.S. at alarming rates since late 2002. Hundreds have signed on, with commercial, and non-commercial formats serving small, and isolated communities. Recently a handful have become successful commercially, even making profits for themselves.

There are limitations however, you are regulated by the FCC to not exceed 100 milliwatts, or .1 watt. Also, large cities such as New York, or Chicago are not real targets for LPAM, since much AM bandwidth is in use, and high density. Successful outlets are coming from small isolated towns, and remote areas; mountain, desert, and island communities. However, many neighborhood stations are cropping up in many cities, as well as customized suburban outlets. Many LPAMs have become toys for hobbyists with a few bucks, and or  community groups wishing to target their public service agendas.

Now for the small broadcaster who was squeezed out of business by the big boys, or wanna-be owners who couldn't afford a broadcast property, Part 15 has become a godsend! Quietly many commercial formats are being exposed over these LPAM outlets, which are competing for ad dollars on their own terms. In addition, many national radio networks are accepting affiliation over these stations, in terms of expanding their national reach for niche programming.

In recent years with the explosion of FM radio, and now satellite radio services such as Sirius Radio, the medium has changed due to the digital revolution. The AM band, once a dominant medium in the early 20th century, is now being cast away as a broadcast wasteland in the 21st century. Now the radio industry is seeing new blood pumped into AM, and that entity is Part 15 LPAM broadcasting.

There are many advocates of the LPAM and Part 15 movement today, most respected names in the industry include Keith Hamilton (creator of the Rangemaster transmitter), and Part 15 pioneer William C. Walker.

Learn more on LPAM, I recommend you visit: Part 15.us, which shares valuable information on Part 15, and lists stations across the U.S. In addition, I've received e-mail from many asking about tech, and start-up advice for their own operation. Another more technical resource is REC's LPAM.ws, which has listings of Part 15 stations across the U.S, and or you can add your LPAM station to the list. You can ONLY broadcast with a FCC Certified transmitter, with one reliable unit available commercially. The Hamilton Rangemaster is the unit, and is the best on the market today. I strongly recommend the consultation of a veteran radio engineer, who is also well educated on Part 15 matters. Lou Burke is one of the tops in this field, (40 years AM/FM broadcast experience), and can answer or help you get started in this area, visit him online via: Low Power-AM, and or e-mail him: Lou Burke

G-Ster is a veteran TV/Radio Producer & Personality.

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