Jun 29, 2007

Low Power FM radio stations combat talk radio consolidation

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.


Johnny C said...


I might be going around the subject but I think there something about this post.. 1310 the only progressive station in Detroit has a crappy signal at night it's not even worth listening to it because you either hear static or other station shows mixing in with the show you're trying to listen to on 1310. I remember when Malloy was on the 1310 line up so I had to stop listening either late in the second hour or the start of the last hour you either hear crap drifting in from right wing news talk 1400 or church music.

Speaking of 1400, I stay in Detroit why do we have two right wing stations WJR, Right Wing News talk 1400 and a the Michigan Republican mouth piece the Detroit News? When Detroit isn' exactly friendly to Republican party.

Communications guru said...

It’s all relevant, Johnny. I can only hear 1310 when I am down in Monroe where I grew up. When I’m home in Howell I listen to WLBY in Ann Arbor, and the signal is crappy even in the daytime. It gets better as I go west, but not much. I think that’s kind of the point: liberal talk is new, is on stations with less power and it’s not given a real chance to succeed. We have stations flipping liberal talk with good ratings that are slowing getting better to formats where the ratings will never be much better. This happened a lot right after the successful election that allowed Democrats to take both the House and Senate. In the battleground state of Ohio three is no liberal talk at all, and is deliberate.

WJR is a perfect example of why we need enforcement of the Fairness Doctrine. It makes zero sense when the majority of the people are not conservatives, and that’s all they have programming for. I grew up listening to the Great Voice of the Great Lakes, but now it’s the not-so-great conservative voice of the Great Lakes.

togo said...

Strawcutter has switched from an ultra-rightist to a leftist? Has he , for example, become pro-gay?

Communications guru said...

Where did you get that from? The militia movement has never been progressive. I have not heard about the good reverend for some 11 years, so I have no idea what his political leanings are now.