Oakland Local: "Local nonprofits get green light to launch community radio stations"

Oakland Local: "Local nonprofits get green light to launch community radio stations"


By: Barbara Grady 04/04/2012

Community groups that want to use the airwaves to reach local audiences suddenly have a new opportunity, thanks to some esoteric rulings by the Federal Communications Commission in late March.

The FCC voted on several rulings that effectively open up low power FM spectrum for use by local nonprofit groups to set up radio stations, according to the agency's March 19 announcement. Together, the rulings "further implement the Local Community Radio Act," it said, naming an act that was passed a decade ago, but never fully implemented because of challenges from big commercial radio stations.

Media democracy organizations are cheering the rulings and urging local community groups to consider launching radio stations.

"We now have the opportunity of a lifetime to empower our communities through radio (because) the Federal Communications Commission has just voted to clear the airwaves and expand community radio across the U.S.," Oakland-based Center for Media Justice said in an email sent by organizer Steven Renderos to local nonprofits. "This is our chance to own media that reflects our voices, culture and stories."

Renderos continued, saying his organization is offering help HERE.  

"Radio has proven to be a powerful organizing tool for decades and building this communications infrastructure into our toolbox can have long-term benefits for our communities," he said.

One community group eager to use the newly FCC-released spectrum is Alameda Community Radio - a group of six or eight residents of Alameda that have been trying to build a station that focuses on issues in their island city. They have been awaiting FCC decisions that would open up low-power airwaves.

"Alameda is 75,000 people or so, but because it is in the middle of a huge cosmopolitan area, there are a lot of interesting things that affect us that never get on the radio," Susan Susan Galleymore, one of the founders of AlamedaCommunityRadio.org, said.  

Radio stations on the dial in the San Francisco Bay Area tend to cover statewide or Bay Area-wide news, she said, and not the local controversies in Alameda over land use, schools and more.

Local radio, Galleymore said, "is really a way to re-engage people in citizenship." She added that "with the whole Occupy movement, people are encouraged that with pushback they can have some impact."

IndyBay Radio founder Mark Burnditt said local groups should consider radio because "a lot of important conversations happen on street corners and among neighbors and a lot of this could be on the airwaves. I think it is an important part of democracy for people to share news and information."

Another group offering help to community groups is the Prometheus Radio Project.