Jun 29, 2007
In light of a recent report from the Center for American Progress that says conservatives have an unfair stronghold on talk radio and that a few mega corporations control almost all of the public airwaves, coupled with hatemonger Sean Hannity making the ridiculous claim that the Fairness Doctrine is trying to silence him, some proposed federal legislation may bring radio back to the local community where it belongs.
The report stated that because of consolidation five mega media corporations own more than 95 percent of the talk radio stations there is a lack of local input or understanding of the local market, and local ownership - as well as minority ownership - is almost nonexistent. That’s one reason we have almost 100 percent of WJR’s content dominated by conservative programming despite being located in a traditional blue state in one of the most liberal cities in the country.
The answer may be The Local Community Radio Act of 2007 that will free the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to issue more broadcast licenses to Low Power FM radio stations. According to the non-profit Media Access Project, these stations are authorized for noncommercial educational broadcasting only, and the two types operate with an effective radiated power of 100 watts with a range of about 3.5 miles or a 10 watt stations which generally reach an area with a radius of between one and two miles. For a comparison, full power FM radio stations generally operate at between 6,000 and 100,000 watts.
On June 21 bipartisan legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate that would bring hundreds of local, Low Power FM (LPFM) radio stations to cities and suburbs across the country. The Local Community Radio Act (H.R. 2808 and S. 1675) was introduced by U.S. Reps. Mike Doyle, D-Penn., and Lee Terry, R-Neb., and Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.
LPFM licenses make owning a radio station possible for churches, schools, labor unions and other community groups, and local talk and genres of music that have disappeared off the airwaves in favor of heavily regimented corporate play lists will return the free airwaves back to the public where it belongs. The Media Access project said since 2000 the FCC has awarded more than 800 LPFM licenses to church groups, schools and civil rights organizations. The bills introduced in June would authorize the FCC to license hundreds -- if not thousands -- of new LPFM stations in cities, towns and suburbs across the country.
I ran across a few examples of low power stations in my life, and they had completely opposite formats. However, they were operating without a license. Hopefully, the new law will make it easier for these kinds of local stations to get a license.
When I worked on the daily newspaper in Lenawee County I got to meet the Rev. Rick Strawcutter, who operated an anti-government pirate radio station in his church in Adrian. This was at the height of the anti-government, militia movement in the mid to early-1990s that, thankfully, died away following the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. The other was here in Howell where a guy operated a pirate radio station that played jazz, but the FCC shut it down.
Let’s hope the big corporations like Clear Channel will not kill this bill.