- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 27, 2000

Twenty nonprofit organizations in Maryland and Virginia will get their own low-power FM radio stations because the Federal Communications Commission accepted their applications last week.

"They're like local community radio stations," said Rosemary Kimball, an FCC spokeswoman.

The FCC granted the applications despite opposition in Congress and objections from full-power FM stations that the low-power broadcasts would interfere with their transmissions. The new stations will operate on 50 to 100 watts, which covers an area of about 3 miles. The Maryland and Virginia applications were among 255 granted in 20 states.

Many of the winning applicants were churches, educational foundations or community activist organizations. Others included the South Arundel Citizens for Responsible Development Inc. in Sherwood, Md.; the Maryland Mass Transit Administration; and Clark Communications in Warrenton, Va.

Typical among the winning applicants was Glen Allen Community Church in a suburb of Richmond. Senior pastor Rick McDaniel said he plans to use his radio broadcasts for "motivational, inspirational messages that deal with contemporary living."

Broadcasts from the interdenominational church will include contemporary Christian music, children's programs and educational shows, Mr. McDaniel said.

"We have within our area a unique situation in which there are about 5,000 homes within a 3-mile area," he said. "We're looking to provide some of the information that you would find within a town environment."

Another winning applicant was Victory Worship Center, a nondenominational church in Staunton, Va. John Elfers, vice president of Victory Productions Inc., the church's broadcast production company, cited two main goals for the radio station.

"One is to do some live broadcasts from the church of some services," Mr. Elfers said. "The other main thing would be to play some Christian music that appeals to area youth. That's really the main thrust of it right there."

Victory Worship Center's radio license application was unusual only because it did not compete with many other applicants.

"We were the only persons who applied for it in this area," Mr. Elfers said. "We're real pleased about it."

When the FCC announced last January that it would grant the licenses, more than 1,000 were planned. The agency's plan was stymied by congressional legislation signed by President Clinton last week that severely limited the allowable licenses.

Congress was responding to warnings from full-power radio stations that said broadcasts from the low-power FM stations would overlap with their own radio signals, causing distortion for listeners. The legislators inserted language into the appropriations bill for the Commerce, Justice and State departments that prohibited the FCC from encroaching on buffer zones around commercial stations.

The FCC tried to respond to concerns about overlapping signals in announcing the grants of the new licenses.

FCC Chairman William Kennard said: "I predict that as these first stations go on the air, we will see more and more applications from schools, churches and community-based organizations. And these new [low-power] FM stations will not create any harmful interference problem for existing radio service."

The FCC still can grant additional licenses to stations that do not create congestion on the air waves. Congress also authorized the FCC to experiment with removing buffer zones that protect commercial radio station broadcasts in nine test markets. If the experiment shows no interference with the commercial stations, Congress could then authorize the FCC to grant more low-power station licenses.

The 255 winning applicants in the first round of licenses can receive construction permits for their stations after a 30-day comment period, the FCC said.

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