LPFM: Airwaves For The People It’s not the thing you fling, it’s the fling itself
By J.R. Kambak
Low Powered FM radio brings together local communities at times of great need.
Remember that one-of-a kind experience listening to KBHR’s Chris (played by John Corbett) In The Morning’s radio show scripted in Northern Exposure’s imaginary town of Cicely, Alaska?
Here was the portrayal of heart and soul community radio emboldened when Chris said, “Be open to your dreams, people. Embrace that distant shore. Because our mortal journey is over all too soon.”
But where those dreams get a start, as any artist who has hit the yellow brick road of success will tell you, was on the radio.
So it goes for any aspiring writer.
In this regard, Low-Power FM, or microbroadcasting, is creating opportunities for new creative forces to be heard on the airwaves with programming responsive to local community needs and interests. And considering that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires LPFMs to operate 12-hours a day, the demand to fill the airtime with distributed programming is on the rise, content is of the essence, though the potential doesn’t stop there.
When displaced persons from hurricane Katrina gulf states were left stranded without outside communications in Houston, Texas’ Astrodome, the nonprofit LPFM advocacy group Prometheus Project, in partnership with Indymedia Pacifica’s KPFT/Houston, requested and received a special FCC license to set up a six-watt volunteer radio station, KAMP/Dome City Radio to assist victims of the hurricane ravaged areas in finding missing and lost loved ones by broadcasting their personal pleas on the airwaves.
It is an essential illustration of what is at the core of LPFM: bringing together a local community at a time of great need. The low-power FM radio grassroots broadcasting movement has been growing since 1978, when the FCC opened up frequency applications for non-profits, and state and local governments.
Since then, LPFMs have become the largest independently licensed, managed, locally responsive, community-based public radio for minorities, religious congregations, high school students, senior citizens, local governments, emergency services that taps into the heart and soul of preserving the local common welfare.
As Chris Stevens said, “It’s not the thing you fling, it’s the fling itself.” But LPFM growth hasn’t come about without aggressive legislative campaigns.
In Chris Stevens’ infinite wisdom, “You know what they say – life throws you a gutter ball, you got to slap on the old resin bag and step up to the rubber,” obstacles to our dreams can be overcome.
The congressional back-and-forth in-fighting by the full-power broadcasting conglomerates dominating America’s airwaves has only encouraged grass roots rallying for aggressive lobbying to Congressional lawmakers to protect and expand LPFM that operates from one to 100 watts – think light bulb – which cuts through all the foreboding legal and legislative challenges that the FCC has to enforce.
Currently, the Senate is going to vote on Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) Local Community Radio Act of 2005 that would increase the availability of LPFM service “by lifting restrictions on minimum distance separations that were enacted at the request of existing broadcasters.”
Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) has introduced a House Bill titled Enhance and Protect Local Community Radio Act of 2005 that fights radio broadcast ownership consolidation enacted by the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
Considering that the 3.285 LPFM applications filed in 2005, 529 were FCC fully licensed according to RecNet’s scoreboard, it's time for citizens to stand up for their rights to have community radio stations.
I couldn’t have agreed more when Chris said, “They say dreams are the windows of the soul – take a peek and you can see the inner workings, the nuts and bolts.”