U.S. senator proposes bill that would protect educational radio frequencies

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A U.S. senator has introduced legislation that would upgrade the classification status of certain educational radio stations, protecting them from commercial stations that might want to take over their radio frequencies.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., introduced the “Educational Radio Protection Act” after visiting KMIH, a radio station at Mercer Island High School in Mercer Island, Wash., that has been fighting to remain on the air after a commercial station appealed to the Federal Communications Commission for the same frequency.

“Educational radio provides a homegrown voice for local communities and a valuable hands-on experience for students,” Cantwell said. “The FCC should not be in the business of choosing big business over education.”

The legislation would apply to 10 stations that are licensed to educational institutions but have for various reasons been operating outside of 88.1 to 91.0 — the frequencies reserved by the FCC for noncommercial stations.

On May 26 the FCC released a ruling that a Mid-Columbia Broadcasting station could relocate from Oregon into Covington, and that KMIH would have to “suspend operations if interference to the new primary station occurs.”

Less than two weeks later, the FCC released an order that suspended the May 26 ruling, to the surprise of lawyers for both sides.

Dom Monahan, an attorney for Mid-Columbia Broadcasting, said he suspected the FCC had set aside the order while it performs a study to determine whether there is an alternative frequency available for KMIH.

“Having made a possible error, I would think they would be quick to review it,” he said.

KMIH, which serves an audience of more than 40,000 listeners with music, local news and sports and entertainment shows, had previously requested the FCC change their status from a superpower Class D to a more protected Class A, but commissioners denied the request.

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