Local Radio Goes to Washington

Last Thursday, Washington got a visit -- not from the usual suspects of the telecommunications giants or the commercial broadcasting lobby – but from individuals and organizations working to improve the information and culture in their communities and striving for social justice. And each of them was looking to their representatives in Congress to do one thing: put more local radio back on the dial.

I was fortunate enough to join this crew of enthusiastic radio supporters for a three-day whirlwind of organizing and advocating for and celebrating the spirit of community radio. More than 40 representatives from community radio stations and groups hoping to obtain broadcast licenses visited Washington, D.C., to tell their stories to Congress. In a series of visits to congressional offices, the Federal Communications Commission, and the White House, they urged support of the Local Community Radio Act – a bill that will put more Low Power FM, or LPFM, radio stations on the air.

In essence, the bill would give LPFM stations to community organizations, non-profit groups, and people traditionally left out of commercial media.

Some came from existing LPFM stations to explain the wide array of benefits that local radio can bring. They included KPCN-LP, an LPFM station in Woodburn, Ore., that broadcasts in four indigenous languages that make up the local farmworker community. Also there was WRFN-LP, Radio Free Nashville, with nearly 100 local programmers broadcasting community news and local music and providing an antidote to the five Clear Channel stations dominating the local airwaves.

Others came to D.C. seeking radio stations, their communities hamstrung until the legislation passes. The Chicago Independent Radio Project, or CHIRP, is pulling together everything needed to get their station on the air – right down to the drywall for its studio walls. And Detroit Summer, which organizes youth-led media arts projects, came to speak about the particular needs that cities face and how LPFMs can help them achieve their mission.

Democratic Representative Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, who introduced the legislation in the House with Republican Representative Lee Terry of Nebraska, gave the group promising news. He said that Rick Boucher, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee, seemed "inclined" to move toward a hearing on the legislation soon – the crucial next step toward putting more LPFM stations on the air.

Let’s make sure that these efforts don’t get drowned out by the corporate radio lobby. Tell your representatives and senators to take action by co-sponsoring the Local Community Radio Act today: https://freepress.actionkit.com/cms/view_by_page_id/21/

To learn more about the Local Community Radio Act, visit www.prometheusradio.org.