The Return of Low-Power FM

In recent years, consolidation of the airwaves (think Clear
Channel, which owns and operates more than 1,200 stations) has
proved a sizable threat to community radio. Locally run stations
are shut down when larger broadcasters cry ‘interference,’ and to
cut costs, corporate-owned ‘local stations’ are often run hundreds
of miles away from the communities they serve. That means citizens
hear less local news and less about local happenings — ultimately
cutting people off from ways to get involved in their
communities.

Jim Ridley, writing for Nashville Scene,

documents a hard-won victory for community radio
— the launch
of Radio Free Nashville. Now one month old, it is
Nashville’s only
community-owned and -operated radio station
. Much of its
programming is decidedly liberal (the ‘Democracy Now’ broadcaster
is the state’s only Pacifica Radio affiliate). But its programs
range from the political to the musical (‘pulp country’ on
Wednesdays, funk on Thursdays, hoedown on Fridays) to the entirely
apolitical (including Will Reynolds’ weekly NASCAR report and fire
department lieutenant Walter Bell’s Monday morning multicharacter
radio plays about fire safety).

The success of Radio Free Nashville, a low-power FM station
(LPFM) broadcasting on a 100-watt signal, may soon be echoed by
others. While current Federal Communications Commission regulations
make it difficult to acquire LPFM licenses — largely because of
bullying by the National Association of Broadcasters — several
pro-independent media organizations are drawing attention to LPFM’s
potential. Prometheus
Radio Project
, a Philadelphia-based organization whose
volunteers helped get Radio Free Nashville up and running, provides
detailed information about LPFM, including how to apply for a
license and how to wrangle with the FCC.

There’s hope on the legislative front as well. In February,
Senators

John McCain
(R-Ariz.),

Patrick Leahy
(D-Vt.) and

Maria Cantwell
(D-Wash.) introduced the

Local Community Radio Act of 2005
. The bill would expand LPFM
service nationwide, easing the burden on would-be LPFM stations to
prove noninterference with commercial broadcasters.

Radio Free Nashville’s slogan, ‘Low power for the people,’ may
indeed hail the future of community radio.

Go there >>

Low Power to the People

Go there too >>
Radio Free
Nashville

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