On Thursday, January 5th, The Federal Communications Commission released a report confirming that the presence of low power FM stations (LPFM) do not impact the advertising or audience of full power FM radio stations.
Currently there are 838 LPFM stations in the country operating at 100 watts or less and reaching a radius of three to ten miles. In 2007, bipartisan legislation was introduced to increase the number of available LPFMs. It was then that the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) came out strongly against the introduction of what they called “thousands of micro-radio stations to the FM band”. It is possible that several hundred nonprofits will apply for new LPFM licenses when the application window opens in fall 2012 and the NAB has been concerned that they will interfere with full power stations.
This finding wasn’t new to those of us who follow LPFM, but the FCC had to issue the report as a provision of the Local Community Radio Act that President Obama signed in 2011.
The strength of LPFM stations is their potential to be community hubs. To foster relationship building at the local level, neighborhood groups need both physical and digital space. Nonprofits applying for LPFMs have the opportunity to broadcast terrestrially and on multiple digital platforms to extend their reach. Groups can get going now by starting online radio stations to build a volunteer base and an identity.
This application window for LPFM licenses opens up an unprecedented opportunity to address historic inequities in communities. The numbers on media ownership by people of color are dismal.
That’s why I’m excited about the upcoming discussion “Civil Rights on the Airwaves: Building Community Radio in Communities of Color”, which is being webcast this Monday at 1 pm PST. The webcast will include grassroots leaders talking about lessons learned in building LPFMs as community institutions and strategizing how to build more.
“We’re hopeful the discussion will inspire other communities of color to plug into this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Danielle Mkali, facilitator of the Twin Cities Low-Power FM Collaboration and Media Justice Organizer for the Main Street Project. A great outline of their project can be found here.
The discussion will be webcast on the New America Foundation site. Online viewers can Tweet questions with the hashtag #civilrightsonair.
Prometheus Radio Project has more information on LPFM and starting a station.
Watch a community radio barnraising for an LPFM: KCPN-FM Woodburn, Oregon.