Obama Signs into Law the Local Community Radio Act: FCC Chairman Pledges “Swift Action to Open the Dial”

WASHINGTON, DC – This week President Obama signed the Local Community Radio Act, the most recent victory in a ten-year grassroots effort to open up the airwaves to new community radio stations. At the Federal Communications Commission, Chairman Genachowski promised swift action to open the dial to these new stations.

“The Local Community Radio Act signed by President Obama is a big win for radio listeners. Low-power FM stations are small, but they make a giant contribution to local community programming,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

The news is hailed by community radio hopefuls who are ready to start new stations, as well as a coalition of national advocates led by the Prometheus Radio Project. The new law paves the way for what could be the biggest expansion of community radio in US history.

“In this day of way-too-much media consolidation, stifling program homogenization and the decimation of local news, new voices are critically important to sustaining America’s civic dialogue and citizen engagement,” said FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps.

Low power stations are small, 100 watt stations that fit between larger stations on the dial. These locally owned stations are run by non-profits, schools, emergency responders, and other non-commercial groups. The new law repeals earlier restrictions that kept low power radio out of urban areas.

Now all eyes are on the FCC, which must design rules for the expanded service.

“This law gives the FCC a new mandate to expand low power radio,” said Brandy Doyle, Policy Director for the Prometheus Radio Project. “To finish the job, the FCC must ensure that these vital stations are available in the urban areas which have never had access to community radio.”

While open channels exist in every major city, the FCC must take action to keep those channels free for the new low power service and those groups awaiting this opportunity.

“Civil rights groups and community organizations have wanted low power FM radio for years, and now the chance is here,” said Betty Yu, coordinator of the Media Action Grassroots Network, a national media justice network with members in many cities impacted by the law. “From Seattle, Oakland, and Albuquerque to Minneapolis, San Antonio, Kentucky and Philadelphia, thousands of communities know that having access to our own slice of the dial means a tool to build our movements for justice.”

"Once the FCC starts accepting applications, which could happen as early as the end of this year, many groups will need support to navigate the process," said Vanessa Maria Graber, Community Radio Director at the Prometheus Radio Project. “Prometheus is dedicated to helping local groups get a slice of the airwaves to improve their communities."