Meeting explores possible low-power, non-commercial radio in Savannah--Savannah Morning News

Posted: December 17, 2012 - 11:53pm | Updated: December 18, 2012 - 1:02am
By Bill Dawers

Signed into law in January 2011, the Local Community Radio Act mandates that the Federal Communications Commission issue licenses for hundreds of new noncommercial radio stations across the U.S.

These will be low-power FM stations operated by nonprofit entities – including 501(c)3 groups, schools and religious organizations. Applications are due in October 2013.

A diverse group of about 20 Savannah area residents gathered on Sunday evening at Trinity United Methodist Church to hear Jeff Rousset of the Prometheus Radio Project talk about the possibility for new local stations.

The audience included a fascinating mix of community activists, writers, musicians and some folks with significant experience in radio generally and noncommercial radio specifically.

The Prometheus Radio Project ( primarily supports the work of social justice organizations and groups that work within marginalized communities, but the application process will no doubt attract groups of varying political and religious orientations.

We’re talking here about small stations primarily staffed by volunteers.

But radio? Really? Aren’t we in a visual and digital age?

As Rousset and others at the meeting noted, radio still has a huge reach, can bring communities together and is relatively inexpensive to establish and operate. A new station could be launched for as little as $10,000 and operated for as little as $3,000 per year, according to Rousset.

We’re talking here about stations of modest reach, with signals of less than 10 miles in radius. So a station with an antenna in downtown Savannah might barely reach Pooler, Georgetown or Wilmington Island.

Given the limited coverage area and the fact we potentially have 13 available frequencies on the local FM dial, we could see the FCC approve several new stations.

Those who gathered Sunday identified a number of needs that nonprofit community radio could meet, including in-depth discussion of neighborhood issues, music programming that highlights local performers and touring acts and the dispersal of information about community resources.

As intriguing as all this sounds, any serious efforts will face some hurdles.

Some costs are associated with the initial application, primarily due to the need for engineering work.

It’s possible that multiple worthy organizations might apply for the same frequency.

Older organizations with good track records will be given precedence over newer ones. It might seem most sensible for several groups to band together to launch a station, but the licenses will go to individual, pre-existing entities.

Still, those gathered on Sunday evening seemed energized by the discussion and by the possibilities. The atmosphere in the room revealed the passion that’s out there to improve our hometown.

Sunday’s meeting was primarily organized by local musician Dare Dukes, who also works with the Global Action Project. He can be reached via

Bill Dawers can be reached via and Send mail to 10 E. 32nd St., Savannah, GA 31401.