Community Radio Hopefuls Hula Hoop in Front of National Association of Broadcasters To Ask CEO Gordon Smith: Stop Making Low Power FM Radio Jump Through Hoops!

Community Radio Station Hopefuls Hula Hoop in Front of
the National Association of Broadcasters, asking CEO Gordon Smith: 
Stop Making Low Power FM Radio Jump Through Hoops

From Washington State to the Chesapeake Bay,
Teachers, Pastors, and Citizens Push Congress to Expand Low Power FM

WASHINGTON, DC – Executives at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the lobby group representing large commercial broadcast stations across the United States, were surprised to look out their windows today to see a veritable circus of community radio supporters.

Dozens of people hula-hooped, juggled, and asked NAB chief Gordon Smith, former Senator from Oregon, to stop blocking a bill that would expand access to 100-watt low power FM (LPFM) noncommercial community radio stations across the US – the Local Community Radio Act, HR 1147 and SB 592.

They cheered at the NAB, “Stop making us jump through hoops!  Support low power FM radio and the Local Community Radio Act!”  They also asked their Congressional leaders to pass this widely loved and bipartisan bill before the end of the 111thCongress.
“Low power FM radio stations not only put local music, news, and political debates on the FM dial, they saved lives after Hurricane Katrina because they put up-to-the-minute local information on the air – and they are small and flexible enough to keep running with a car battery when the power goes out,” said Pete Tridish, an organizer with the Prometheus Radio Project, a nonprofit that supports low power FM radio stations nationwide. “By passing this bill today, Congress will be supporting thousands of constituent organizations instead of bowing to one big broadcast lobby’s wishes. Gordon Smith is silencing voices across the country by opposing the expansion of community radio. So we’re here to say: Gordon Smith, don’t make a circus of our democracy – stop making us jump through hoops; work with Congress to pass this bill.”
There are about 800 stations on the air across the US, but thousands of other groups were unable to get licenses when LPFM was established in 2000. The Local Community Radio Act, which would expand LPFM, sailed through the House in 2009, and has broad bipartisan support in the Senate.  But news reports showed that NAB CEO and former Senator Gordon Smith is organizing secret Senate holds on the bill to kill it.  The NAB claimed that they were working to compromise or negotiate on expanding low power FM radio, but as of Monday the 13th, they had rejected every offer that Senate sponsors and LPFM advocates have brought before them.
“Over the 111th Congress, community radio advocates worked with Congress to add 9 changes to the Local Community Radio Act, all suggested by LPFM critics,” continued Tridish.  “But the NAB insists that every demand they’ve made be met before they stop asking Senators to block passage of the bill.  They want to force the FCC to use an old, archaic way of finding spots for LPFM stations that no other radio broadcasters are required to use anymore for licensing.  If the FCC were forced to use this method of licensing LPFM, there’d be no room for more LPFMs anywhere but unpopulated areas and America’s smallest towns.”
“Our station provides some of the only local service to Gillette when big storms come through, and it puts great content on the air.  That's why so many in our town think it is such a vital resource.  When I heard Senator Barrasso (R-WY) was holding up a bill to expand community radio, I called him up and explained to his office the work we do on our low power FM,” said Pastor Joel Wright of the First Presbyterian Church of Gillette, WY, licensee of KCOV-LP 95.7 FM. “Senator Barrasso dropped his hold when he learned how stations like ours serve seniors, faith communities, and local leaders everywhere.  If the NAB stops this hoop-la and tells the Senate to stop blocking the bill, thousands of groups in cities and other communities can get low power FM radio stations like we have here in Gillette.”

Hundreds of diverse groups support expanding low power FM radio nationwide, including emergency responders, national civil rights and faith-based organizations, and many others.  They have waited years for the opportunity to serve their communities, but the FCC has been unable to give out licenses to them because Congress restricted LPFM.  The National Association of Broadcasters has informed Senators that there are thousands of license slots available across the US – without noting that most of those slots are in unpopulated areas like deserts, news reports have shown.

“I work with poor people and workers in Baltimore.  In this economy, it is hard to get the word out about how to find better jobs and to make the places we work dignified for everybody,” said Veronica Dorsey, of the United Workers, a human rights organization in Baltimore.  “We make radio pieces with lots of people, but can only distribute them online, and more folks have access to the radio than the internet.  Many folks work 2-3 jobs and don’t have time to come together with us or hear our stories online – and a radio station would change that.  We could speak to everyone and help make Baltimore a better place.  That’s why we’re asking Congress to pass the Local Community Radio Act, and why we’re asking the National Association of Broadcasters to stop making low power FM radio jump through hoops.  Let’s pass this bill!”

“Civil rights groups and community organizations have wanted low power FM radio for years, and now the chance is almost here,” said Betty Yu, coordinator of the Media Action Grassroots Network, a national media justice network with members in many cities that lost their chance to get low power FM radio stations. “This circus is a celebration of what the future of the radio dial can be.  Our communities invite Gordon Smith and NAB to stop making us jump through hoops, and to help communities serve their neighbors with their own slice of the FM airwaves.”

LPFMs have saved lives in powerful storms when big broadcasts lose power or can’t serve local communities in the eye of the storm.  WQRZ-LP in Bay St. Louis, MS received awards from President Bush and other organizations post Katrina in 2005, when one of the station operators swam across floodwaters with fuel strapped to his back to keep his station on the air.  The station proved so important that the Emergency Operations Center of Hancock County set up shop with the LPFM to serve the community after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  Bipartisan Senators and House members have expressed support for the Local Community Radio Act as a vital way to expand emergency service media across our nation.

“I’m Frank Bluestein from Germantown, Tennessee, one of the several large suburban cities located just outside of Memphis.  We have been fighting for the past 10 years to persuade Congress to give communities like ours the opportunity to establish a low power FM radio station.  Our city wants to provide community and civic groups, students of all ages, local artists and others the power to communicate over their own LPFM channel,” said Frank Bluestein, a media teacher and Executive Producer of Germantown Community TV.

"Equally important for Germantown, we need a dedicated communication outlet that will serve the needs of our citizens in the event another tornado rips through town or if any kind of natural disaster hits,” continued Bluestein.  “In this day and age, emergency management is a must for a city of our size and LPFM perfectly fits our needs.  A low power FM radio station can stay on the air even if the power goes out.  Low power FM saved lives during Katrina but strangely, the federal government is banning it from this part of Tennessee. That is not fair or wise. We have the right to be as safe as any other community in the US.  Congress should stand up for the people and get this bill done, and Gordon Smith and the powers that be at the NAB should stand aside and help us and other communities like ours get Low Power FM radio. After 10 years, it is time!”

“I’m a founder of WRYR-LP, 97.5 FM in Sherwood, Maryland,” said Mike Shay of WRYR-LP, 97.5 FM in Sherwood, Maryland, on the Cheseapeake Bay.  “We got one of the rare low power FM frequencies in 2000 and we’ve been on-air for 8 years. Our town loves us because we put music, youth, political and cultural leaders that would never be heard on the dial – and we’ve taught dozens to become producers and makers of community media nationwide.  Now is the time to expand LPFM!  NAB, end this hoop-la, and Congress, bring community radio to every city and town by passing Senate Bill 592.”

To learn more about low power FM community radio, visit:

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