Want better radio? Pick up your (micro)phones

Sometimes passing good public policy is about telling compelling stories. In the case of our quest to pass the Local Community Radio Act, which could put new LPFM stations on the air across the country, there are numerous stories to tell.

Some are stories that we at Free Press have been sharing with legislators for years. They’re stories about stations that have stayed on the air during hurricanes and saved lives or stations that have been putting the sounds of their local music scene back on the dial. They’re stories that open our eyes to the promise of what community-controlled media can do.

Sometimes, though, passing good public policy is about numbers. It’s about showing strength and uniting with allies – even those who don’t agree on other issues. It’s about forcing your elected officials to pay attention to the issues that matter to you -- by sending petitions to their offices, showing up on their doorstep, flooding their inboxes and lighting up their phone lines.

As much as I’d love to believe that compelling stories are enough to change the world, I know that passing good public policy usually takes a combination of both stories and numbers.

With this in mind, I present to you the following story – about some numbers:

  • 2: The number of times Congress has failed to enact legislation that would allow the FCC to begin licensing more LPFM radio stations.
  • 3: The number of times local radio champions like Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) have kept trying to pass this important bill.
  • 72: The number of representatives in Congress who currently support the expansion of local radio across the country.
  • 435: The total number of legislators in the House of Representatives.
  • 100: The minimum number of co-sponsors we need on this bill by September.
  • 800: The approximate number of LPFM stations currently on the air in America.
  • X000: The thousands of new local radio stations that could go on the air if the Local Community Radio Act passes.
  • 5000: The number of phone calls we need to make to Congress on Monday, July 20.
  • 88.1 – 107.9: A mostly barren wasteland on the radio dial where broadcasters typically play the same songs on every station, ignore diverse voices and prioritize rambling punditry over local journalism and cultural programs.
  • (202) 224-3121: The phone number for the Capitol Switchboard – which will connect you to your member of Congress so you can ask her or him to co-sponsor the bill. (Or click here to quickly find your representative's digits).
  • 07/20/09: Monday. The day you need to call your elected officials.

On Monday, July 20, hundreds of people from across the country will pick up their phones to show their support for local radio by telling their representatives to co-sponsor the Local Community Radio Act. And guess what? You’re going to do it, too.

You’ll do it because it’s not hard. You’ll do it because every single phone call will make a difference. You’ll do it because if you have to hear that Lady GaGa “Pokerface” song again, you just might rip the antennae off your car stereo.

And if that doesn’t convince you, try doing it because it feels really good to tell those folks in Washington – the ones who work for you, by the way – what to do.

And that’s my story.