Low Power FM Legislation Passes Hurdle

In a win for media reform activists and the public, the Local Community Radio Act of 2009 is a step closer to becoming law. The legislation would allow the creation of hundreds of new low power FM stations for use by schools, religious and civic organizations, government agencies and community groups. The bill – supported by both Democrats and Republicans – has been voted out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and now goes to the full floor. Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, a co-sponsor of the bill, and Prometheus Radio Project campaign director Cory Fischer-Hoffman talked to Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman about the bill’s importance and how it will help to diversify the public airwaves:

An enormous media market such as Los Angeles could greatly benefit from a plethora of new low power FM stations broadcasting the kind of local news, public affairs and cultural programming that might not get covered on local television news, commercial radio or in the L.A. Times. The Times and other newspapers across the country have been battered by a poor economy and declining readership, resulting in staff layoffs and shrinking coverage. Commercial broadcasters offer little more than crime stories, celebrity gossip, self-help fluff, shock jocks and shout shows. Community and civic organizations can fill in the void.

Los Angeles has some local public affairs programming on radio. But these outlets only cover so much. For example, 89.9 KCRW broadcasts Santa Monica City Council meetings every week. With new low power FM stations, every municipality in the Los Angeles area will have the opportunity to broadcast their council meetings live. Now imagine your neighborhood school setting up a student radio station. Your local church, synagogue, temple or mosque broadcasting sermons. The local shelter reporting news about and information for the homeless. Labor news 24/7. A station that plays nothing but Mexican folk music. The possibilities for a more informed and cultured public are endless.