Local Community Radio Act Passes: Your Help Needed to Make a Thousand New Radio Stations Bloom

The New Year ushered in a new era for community radio.  President Obama signed the Local Community Radio Act into law, allowing for the biggest expansion of community radio stations in U.S. history and allowing low-power, neighborhood based stations to broadcast in urban areas for the first time. Hundreds of groups waiting for radio stations were ecstatic at the news.

A day later, the chair of the Federal Communications Commission pledged "swift action to open up the dial for these new stations." In the coming months, the FCC will be working to develop the rules for an application window for new radio licenses, which could happen as early as November 2011.

Just in the past few weeks, Prometheus has been contacted by hundreds of groups wanting to start a station, adding to the many hundreds who have been waiting and advocating for more radio licenses for ten years.  Prometheus is planning a nationwide campaign to help groups apply for licenses and is seeking donations, volunteers, and partners from media and social justice organizations to assist with outreach. Learn how to get involved. 

Passage of the Local Community Radio Act marks the first major legislative success for the growing movement for a more democratic media system in the U.S., and represents the power when grassroots groups, media advocates, and policymakers join forces to overcome corporate opposition to media diversity.  After building political will for ten years, this team effectively mobilized thousands of people to contact key Senate offices in the final weeks before passage. Hundreds then called the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the lobby group that had been blocking the bill's progress by convincing Senators to put secret holds on it. They urged former Senator Gordon Smith, President of the NAB to stop pulling strings to kill the bill. But when radio advocates received little response, they chose to take more colorful action.

As the window of opportunity to pass the bill narrowed in the final days of the Congressional season, supporters staged a hula hoop action in front NAB headquarters calling on the broadcast association to “stop making community radio jump through hoops.” They offered President Smith a hula hoop and asked him to join them in expanding and revitalizing the radio dial. Watch the video.

The hula hoop action was followed by flurry of press including a key story in the Politico, criticizing the NAB for is uncompromising position.

The big broadcasters relented, supporting an amended version of the bill that further protects incumbent stations while preserving the bill’s intention to greatly expand low power radio licenses across the U.S.. Members of the House voiced impassioned support before unanimous passage followed by swift passage before the Senate.

Prometheus is seeking donationsvolunteers, and partners to assist with outreach. Learn how to get involved or donate now and let's help make a thousands new transmitters bloom.