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There is a bill currently floating around congress that might interest those of us who want to build strong communities and a stronger base for nationwide progressive change. I haven't heard much talk about it here, so I thought it was time to post. It is the Local Community Radio Act (HR 1147/S. 592), which currently has only 38 cosponsors in the House and 5 in the Senate, and could be fated to languish in the Commerce committee if we don't put pressure on our representatives.

A short history of Low Power FM (LPFM):
In response to the media consolidation of the 90s, The FCC introduced the LPFM service in 2000 to grant free radio licenses to non-profit community groups, limited to have a reach of 5-10 miles. In the short window for applications, about 3000 groups applied, and to date 800 have been approved. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) fought hard to keep LPFMs out of densely populated areas, charging that they would cause interference. Thus, all approved LPFMs today are in rural and suburban areas. The MITRE study conducted in 2003 determined that it was highly unlikely that LPFMs would interfere with major broadcast stations, even in highly saturated markets. The FCC then recommended that the restrictions keeping LPFMs out of cities be lifted by Congress. The NAB continues to argue that LPFMs cause interference and is currently suing the FCC in an effort to push LPFMs off the air.

Essentially, the Local Community Radio Act will carry out the recommendations of the FCC and open up urban areas for LPFM licenses by changing a couple technical limitations. Imagine if your city could have even just one low power station. It could be a place where diverse groups of people share stories, build community, and work together for positive change. All those mushy things that, in fact, any hard-nosed organizer will tell you is our only hope. In Nashville we're lucky enough to have one such station, Radio Free Nashville, which draws on the diverse talents of the region and gives grassroots leaders a voice. It has been a place where people of all walks of life have shared a common space and found common ground. It has partnered with youth programs to teach youth to be active knowledge-producers and take ownership of the airwaves. In the short time it's been on the air, it has become a vital community resource. There are too few LPFMs like this, and the passage of this act will give us the opportunity to do this in more communities across the States.

Though it has its perks, internet radio isn't going to cut it. Low power stations do more than get out important and accurate information, they are an impetus for building inclusive communities. Within three miles of my home there are African Americans, Somali-Americans, White Americans, Yuppie transplants, indigenous southerners, working class people, low-income people, middle-class people, small businesspeople, artists, bicyclists, environmentalists, transvestites, GLBTQs, pro-gun advocates, students, musicians, vigilant neighborhood watchers, community volunteers, and more. Not all of these people would have access to internet radio, but if all of them have the opportunity to speak and be heard through a Low power station, we'll be taking one more step in realizing common goals. It's no secret to the progressive community that those in power have historically manipulated differences in race, class, and culture to divide and conquer. We know that to sustain a movement we must take the time to build trust and understanding across those divides, in whatever we do. Expanding Low Power Radio is one opportunity to do this directly.

This isn't just a pie in the sky, the time is ripe to pass this bill:
- The NAB continues to try to delay the process by crying "interference" but their charges are groundless. They have yet to specifically mount an attack on the Local Community Radio Act, and in a press teleconference in February  LPFM advocates sounded optimistic that NAB won't put up much of a fight. They indicated that LPFM is down on NAB's list of concerns today, and as radio is in a fight as a format some may feel that anything that brings people back to FM radio is good for radio.
- Chairman Waxman has publicly come out in support of the bill, and indicated that he will help push it through the Commerce committee.
- And personally, I think this could be a feather in the cap of the Obama administration. LPFMs aren't really a tangible threat to large broadcasters, and if he ever has the urge to give a nod to his youth working as an organizer and those who worked so hard to elect him, this would be a good, relatively noncontroversial way to do it.

To help, you can:
Sign the petition  to Expand LPFM

Fill out the form  to email your representative

IDEALLY!!: Directly call or write your representatives  and ask them to cosponsor/support the Low Power Community Radio Act (even if they are a Republican!)

Some quotes that helped me realize the importance of cross-class/race/gender/generation/etc. alliance building:

"For the real radical, doing "his thing" is to do the social thing, for and with people. In a world where everything is so interrelated that one feels helpless to know where or how to grab hold and act, defeat sets in; for years there have been people who've found society too overwhelming and have withdrawn, concentrated on "doing their own thing."... Lacking communication I am in reality silent; throughout history silence has been regarded as assent -- in this case assent to the system. " Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals

"Without friendship among all the different kinds of people who are unhappy with the current system... progressive organizing is impossible and progressive prinipals are empty. Social justice grows out of your social circle..." Billy Wimsatt, No More Prisons

"The truth that we progressives of all classes have avoided facing for the last century is that we need each other. To fundamentally transform our society to be a fairer and more sustainable one, the movement we build will have to include people of ever race, every age, every geographic area -- and every class."  Besty Leondar-Wright, Class Matters

"... when people get to know one another as human beings instead of as symbols or statistics, a human relationship--carying with it a full constellation of human attitudes--will inevitably result... We know our friend suffers pain just as we do; in essence, our knowing him as a human being serves as a strong bond of identification... As [local leaders] get to know one another as human beings, prejudices are broken down and human attitudes are generated in this new relationship. These changes are reflected among their followers, so that the understanding or education begins to affect the attitudes of thousands of people." Saul Alinsky, Reveille for Radicals

A thanks to the Prometheus Radio Project, the National Federation for Community Broadcasters, and Freepress, and thankless individuals out there for the work they continue to do to lobby for this legislation.

Originally posted to ainglis on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 03:03 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I think people are a bit overoptimistic of the... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eloise, wondering if

    ...potential reach of low power FM radio.  The radius is incredibly small, less than five miles...  And the idea that we could "network" or chain a bunch of low power stations to create a greater reach is folly.  The FCC would never approve the number of licenses we need...

    Quite frankly, low power AM would have a better effect and longer range, but the licensing options for those are even more limited...

    Comments that say "GM workers should get retraining" without SPECIFIC DETAILS about those "new jobs" that never come are trollworthy

    by LordMike on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 03:17:54 PM PDT

    •  Speak for yourself! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mataliandy, alizard

      WRFN goes at least in a 20 miles radius and more when the wind is blowing just right.

      And we are powered down because of legal technical difficulties. When we are powered up we have had a 40 mile radius.

      "Blue Dog Dems - putting the ick back in the Democrat(ic) Party."

      by ZenTrainer on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 04:02:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You're probalby violating the range limits... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ....set by the low power FM license...  There usually is a power limit and an effective signal limit from a certain range...

        Low power FM is not supposed to go that far AFAIK....

        Comments that say "GM workers should get retraining" without SPECIFIC DETAILS about those "new jobs" that never come are trollworthy

        by LordMike on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 04:32:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Gasp! (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mataliandy, LordMike

          I will admit that one of my goals for the New Year was to break an FCC rule each time I am on the air. ;-)

          I don't control our antenna though, but I am pretty sure we are WAY powered down, well within legal limits.

          The folks who run the station are a dedicated lot who worked years to get their station and they work hard to keep it and improve it.

          (If they happen to be reading this I want to clearly state I am only kidding about breaking any FCC rules.)

          Reception really does depend on the wind and the weather, the season, and the trees.

          And of course it makes a difference if you're wearing braces.

          "Blue Dog Dems - putting the ick back in the Democrat(ic) Party."

          by ZenTrainer on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 04:48:23 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes, I know.. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            ...and I have to look up the effective power limits for this license, but terrain and weather do make a great difference.

            40 miles is very good range!  That would be enough to make an useful radio station.

            Comments that say "GM workers should get retraining" without SPECIFIC DETAILS about those "new jobs" that never come are trollworthy

            by LordMike on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 04:50:06 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  2nd the range restriction (0+ / 0-)

        FCC sez

        These stations are authorized for noncommercial educational broadcasting only (no commercial operation) and operate with an effective radiated power (ERP) of 100 watts (0.1 kilowatts) or less, with maximum facilities of 100 watts ERP at 30 meters (100 feet) antenna height above average terrain (HAAT). The approximate service range of a 100 watt LPFM station is 5.6 kilometers (3.5 miles radius).

        If the expected service range is under 6 km, 20 miles sounds like someone is violating the ERP requirement.

        •  We are 100 watts. (0+ / 0-)

          But right now are operating at less. I pick the station up from 20 miles away.

          I don't know how far as the crow flies but that's on the highway in the car.

          Now average terrain for TN might be different from other places.

          Hills, that is...

          "Blue Dog Dems - putting the ick back in the Democrat(ic) Party."

          by ZenTrainer on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 05:00:15 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  And my show is very educational. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ainglis, rossl

          It's The Politics of Dogs

          I teach how to tell what political party your dog belongs to and how to help your cat become a successful lobbyist, among other things.

          I help our community understand that everything is political and everything political has to do with dogs, including, but not limited to, the quality of air they breathe and the water they drink.

          Today I helped my listening audience pick radio stations for their pets to listen to so they can feel calm while their owners are away from home.

          Right wing talk radio won't do - too much shouting.

          Evangelical religious stations won't do it, again too much shouting.

          Jazz can get on a pets nerves because they hear those pitches that we don't.

          But WRFN has poetry, and storytelling and thoughtful discussions and cajun music (and a ton of other stuff).

          The perfect way for a pet to spend a lonely rainy afternoon.

          "Blue Dog Dems - putting the ick back in the Democrat(ic) Party."

          by ZenTrainer on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 05:15:54 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  That may be true... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus, ZenTrainer, SomeStones, rossl

      ... but I'm looking at it from a perspective of what happens when you work closely with people at the local level and engage them. I'm not disputing the benefits of a wider reach, but I see the potential of LPFM in an approach that gets people to work together to create media and knowledge, rather than just be passive consumers. I think this is highly valuable at any level.

    •  Don't be too sure (3+ / 0-)

      Geeks can do amazing things when they put their mind to it. In fact, just sitting here in my chair ignoring the Perl code I'm supposed to be writing, I can envision a network of these stations connected in a dedicated two-channel Internet connection, one channel for VoIP carrying program content and the other for communication such as IRC, Twitter, IM or what have you, for interaction with each other and the outside world.

      And your reach would depend on where the transmitter is situated and the kind of antenna used as much as much as how much power it has. I can envision one of these babies in my home town of Seattle, for instance, looking down on the town either from someplace like the top of Queen Anne Hill or on one of the mountains to the east of town. Radio hams have put up similar installations that cover all of King County and into the surrounding counties. I don't see why LPFM couldn't do the same, since the frequency bands and power limits are similar.

      They only call it class warfare when we fight back.

      by Omir the Storyteller on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 04:20:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  in places like VT (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      G2geek, ZenTrainer, wondering if, rossl

      where radio signals dont go far in the hills, LPFM that covers a town in a valley would be just the ticket.

  •  You should post a tip jar (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Randolph06, ZenTrainer, bamabikeguy

    And the link to the petition isn't the right one.

    Here's the petition:

    Good luck!

  •  This isn't a republican/democrat thing (7+ / 0-)

    I'm in the broadasting staff (erm, that means I have a show) on a community-based LPFM station that's been on the air since late '07, got our CP like 18 months earlier.  There are a number of workshops and stuff that the Prometheus Project people (who are simply the best!!!) have put on, and you can certainly see it there in the membership and I believe they were even quoting statistics: well over half--at one point something like 80%--of LPFM permits are being either applied for or received by (I forget) evangelical stations with church allegiance.  That's why the LPFM initiative didn't lose any of its steam and importance during the Bush administration years--the FCC quickly determined a good number of applicants were GWB's "base".  

    This also has a lot to do with the fact that the easiest way to get an uncontested LPFM license was to be in remote rural territory (avoiding issues of second-degree proximity to existing FM stations that basically doomed LPFM in anything remotely urban), and it turns out there's a lot more folks in these regions who want to hear religious programming than indie rock or Amy Goodman (we gladly serve up the latter two on our station).

    And damned if some of those folks haven't been extremely helpful to us on the boards and so forth (I don't know what it is about Southern rural Nazarene church affiliation that makes one so adept and inventive at dealing with RF issues), so I'm not putting them down at all.  Not on this topic, anyways. :)

    •  This needs to be on the Rec list. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      And you need to keep writing diaries on this until it gets there.  

      Best thing to start out with is a headline such as "How to break Rush's monopoly on the air!"

      And then first paragraph ought to be about the fact that low power broadcasting is exactly what's needed to bring back diversity to the airwaves and overcome the rightie-winger broadcast monopoly.

      Then discuss the community organizing potential, and then last of all talk about the technology and the bill that has to be passed.

      If you do it that way, and post it at about 8:00AM East Coast time, you'll get enough comments and enough Recs to get on the list and stay there for a day or two.  

      This issue is as important as the issue of black-box voting machines and paper ballots.   Community radio is an absolutely vital link in overcoming the media monopoly and giving We, the People, a voice on the air.   When folks here understand it that way, they will get behind it bigtime.  

      •  You can do that too! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        G2geek, ZenTrainer

        And anyone else who wants to spin a fresh perspective on this and emphasize what's important to them. I agree it's an important issue and we should do whatever we can to push it to the forefront. (and thanks, btw :)

        •  i'm not an expert on this subject... (0+ / 0-)

          But you are.

          And it takes that kind of expertise to get the topic onto the rec list and keep up with comments.  

          In any case I've been pulling allnighters to keep up with my workload and I don't have time to do much more than drop in and comment while waiting for call-backs and other stuff to happen here.  

  •  My college radio station was LPFM (5+ / 0-)

    "WIKD-LP, Daytona Beach.  Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Univeristy's campus radio!"

    Or..."Wicked Radio" for short.  I'm proud, I actually picked those letters when we were filing with the FCC.

    Anywho - it took our radio station from barely covering our campus, to covering all of Daytona Beach.  It was amazing.

    I'm a big fan of low power FM.  All our sponsors (I was the Business Director) were local, and it's a great way to get information out to your community.

  •  An audiophile friend once said that an apartment (3+ / 0-)

    buildings electrical wiring could someway/how be used as an cheap amplification booster.  I remember him saying a college dormitory in N.C. was putting out a 5 mile signal using that simple system.

    New Album of 49 Motorized Bikes that took me 5 hours to upload!! Please drop in !

    by bamabikeguy on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 03:28:22 PM PDT

  •  Progressives need to rule this Tech.or the (6+ / 0-)

    Republicans will.

  •  It's funny you bring this up today. (5+ / 0-)

    I was all over the FCC's website today.  I am so frustrated because I cannot get ONE radio station in my area (Completely Blue Massachusetts) with any mention of support for Barack Obama, Deval Patrick, John Kerry or Ted Kennedy.

    I want to pull my hair out most days.  If I am in my car, my only option seems to be Hannity, Rush or NPR, which is the best of the other choices.  

    I thought there was a law that would not allow all the radio to be right wing.  I guess not anymore.  If I have to listen to Rush talk about how great private health insurance is one more time, I know I will lose it.

    The future is what we decide it is going to be.

    by Ann T Bush on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 03:48:54 PM PDT

  •  Pick Clear Channel's bones. (6+ / 0-)

    The bonds they sold to finance acquisitions are coming due, revenues are flat. They'll have to auction off some of their Stations soon. Organize in your community to buy.

    "extremist civil libertarian ben masel" - IHateBush, 3/27/09

    by ben masel on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 04:16:17 PM PDT

  •  The AM stations here (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Omir the Storyteller

    are empty. Just blank. Nothing on the dial. My dial goes from anout 88 to I don't know, 107 or something and there are about 4 AM stations.

    So either no one wants them for a reason or the FCC is sitting on the license requests. Which IS a political thing.

    "Blue Dog Dems - putting the ick back in the Democrat(ic) Party."

    by ZenTrainer on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 04:16:48 PM PDT

    •  That's FM (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ZenTrainer, wondering if

      AM is the one that goes from 6 to 16, or 530 to 1700, or something like that. But same point.

      Here in Seattle there's a station on pretty much every frequency that's allowed to have one and it's sometimes still hard to find anything worth listening to.

      They only call it class warfare when we fight back.

      by Omir the Storyteller on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 04:28:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You are right. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Omir the Storyteller

        It is 500 to 1700 (I'm dyslexic, looking at the top band of numbers.)

        Neither our AM or FM are very full. AM really does have maybe 4 stations.

        FM has more but there are huge gaps. Not like in other cities as you mention where many frequencies are used. (Like 103.1, 103.3, 103.5, 103.7, 103.9, 104 etc.) We got no radio here!

        "Blue Dog Dems - putting the ick back in the Democrat(ic) Party."

        by ZenTrainer on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 04:35:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  huh? (0+ / 0-)

      Broadcast AM is from about 540Khz to 1.5MHz... Broadcast FM is from about 88-108Mhz.

      Which frequency band is blank?

      Are you sure your receiver is working correctly?

      And where are you?

      Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

      by alizard on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 04:29:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, see my above comment. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I had my numbers wrong.

        My receiver is working there is just nothing to receive.

        And no more dials, just a scan button. Seems like I got more stations back when I could hand tune them in. (But maybe there were more stations.)

        Where am I? Get ready for this...
        I am in Nashville, TN otherwise known as Music City USA, where there is sadly a shortage of music on the radio.

        "Blue Dog Dems - putting the ick back in the Democrat(ic) Party."

        by ZenTrainer on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 04:39:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  KRUU-LP FM - Fairfield, Iowa (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ZenTrainer, rossl

    Check out the home page for our freeform, open-source, community station in rural Iowa:

    Dulce bellum inexpertis [War is sweet only to those who have no experience of it].

    by Fatherflot on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 04:41:32 PM PDT

    •  Here's another one: KSER, Everett, WA (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ZenTrainer, rossl

      Their stream is available on the Web, and they're one of the few stations to stream using the free-as-in-beer-and-speech Ogg codec, which I really like.

      They're local to Snohomish County, though, which is fine, but it means I have to jump through hoops to be able to hear them over the air here in King County (one county to the south).

      They only call it class warfare when we fight back.

      by Omir the Storyteller on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 04:45:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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