Free Speech Radio News: "FCC opens up more space for low-power FM stations"

Free Speech Radio News: "FCC opens up more space for low-power FM stations"


The Federal Communications Commission approved a rule this week that will boost the number of low-power radio stations around the country.  The decision implements a key provision of the Local Community Radio Act, a law Congress approved in 2010 that removed restrictions on creating more low-power local stations. It took about 10 years of community advocacy to pass the bill, which the corporate broadcast lobby opposed. Monday’s decision affects thousands of applications for “translators”-- which repeat programming from large stations usually outside of the community, sometimes far away. Some media corporations apply for dozens of translators to rebroadcast their material, decreasing the diversity of voices on the airwaves. Brandy Doyle is with the Prometheus Radio Project, a group that pushed for passage of the Local Community Radio act. She said this vote shifts the balance of who dominates the national airwaves.

DOYLE: If the FCC hadn’t dismissed all of these applications, then translators would have filled up all the available frequencies. So they dismissed them in order to make room for new low-power FM stations for local groups who want to play local news and information, who want to have local music and artists on, and use their own airwaves for news that’s relevant to their communities.

Following this week’s announcement, locally-based non-profit organizations can apply starting this fall to create radio stations that will broadcast three to five miles in any direction. Doyle says this will especially help outreach and education in marginalized communities.

DOYLE: Consolidation in commercial media ownership has really left most communities with fewer and fewer options for news of any kind, much less a diversity of viewpoints in the news. And it certainly doesn’t meet the needs of people who speak languages other than English, for working people, for women. So the chance for us to tell our own stories and be able to use local airwaves for local needs is really important—not just in getting informed but in developing solutions on the ground.

Many immigrant rights groups have expressed interest in creating radio stations to spread information and better mobilize their urban communities—including Puente in Arizona, which has been organizing against the anti-immigrant law SB1070, and the Somali-American Community in Minneapolis.