Community radio station advocates have fought for 10 years to free up unused spaces on the FM dial for new, local and independent radio stations. Today, Congress is on the cusp of sending the Local Community Radio Act to the president. If signed, this bill would clear the way for hundreds, if not thousands, of new FM (known as LPFM) stations in cities and towns nationwide.
But one of the most powerful lobbying forces in Washington, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), is standing in the way.
The NAB represents the interests of powerful broadcast conglomerates, the sort of companies that have drowned the airwaves in cookie-cutter playlists and talk personalities while downsizing local content. This consolidation of ownership of radio licenses helped ushered in an era of nationally syndicated radio voices including Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.
In a last-ditch effort to keep their stranglehold on the public airwaves, these corporate lobbyists have strong-armed a few Senators to place holds on the bill and keep local voices off the air. They claimed that a station at 3 clicks away on the dial or closer to a bigger station would cause interference, despite years of engineering study and practice proving that this was not true.
We need more voices and choices on the air. Without LPFM stations local music and culture may disappear from the dial completely. Coverage of local politics or crises has dwindled to a point of near irrelevance. LPFM stations could create a new forum for civic discourse.
The NAB must stop blocking access to the public airwaves and make local radio a reality for millions of people.