Churches and community groups across the country are hailing a decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that permits up to 1,000 new low-power FM (LPFM) radio stations.

"Christian LPFM stations will make the gospel and other Christian ministries available to many who do not now listen to religious radio," says Ken Bowles, who formerly managed several Christian radio stations in Missouri and now helps groups apply for the new licenses.

The FCC created two power classes for the small stations. One is authorized at 50 to 100 watts and will reach a radius of up to 3.5 miles. The second class will operate at up to 10 watts with a radius of one to two miles. Full-power FM stations normally range from 6,000 to 100,000 watts and can cover a radius of up to 100 miles.

"With a low-power station we can do more to serve our community," says Ricardo Reyes, pastor of the predominately Spanish-speaking Unidos Para Cristo church in Queens, New York. "If I had a full-power station, I would be working with a wider community. But if I have a low-power station, I am more tied to my community. The audience will be smaller and we can do a better job and send people personally to help people."

Unidos Para Cristo has trained members in broadcasting, communication, and counseling skills for five years, and is already at work on its license application.

Creating Interference?

But many religious broadcasters are not happy about the new service. "We opposed it on technical grounds," says Brandt Gustavson, president of National Religious Broadcasters.

Gustavson expresses concern that many of the more than 1,700 stations in the country that carry Christian programming will find their coverage reduced by interference from the new stations.

"We ...

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