Congress has sharply cut back churches' ambitious plans to establish low-power FM radio stations. It set new standards that mean that only a few stations in sparsely populated parts of the country may be started, according to news reports. The idea of low-power radio was to allow community groups such as churches to run stations that reached small areas, using weak signals between 50 and 100 watts that broadcast just a few miles.
But a coalition of public and commercial radio officials fought the idea, arguing that the weak signals, wedged between big stations on the crowded FM dial, would interfere with their strong broadcasts. A pared-down list of 225 low-power applicants, including churches, religious organizations, arts and community groups, schools, government agencies, and ethnic organizations in 20 states was announced.