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The Local Community Radio Act
Media justice advocates and community groups fought for over ten years to win passage of the Local Community Radio Act, that was finally passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in January 2011.
This legislation mandates the government, specifically the Federal Communications Commission (F.C.C.), to issue brand new noncommercial FM radio licenses all across the country to nonprofits and their partnering community groups, including for the first time in major cities! These non-commercial stations could broadcast local news, independent music and arts, and other diverse programming not heard on commercial radio.
The new licensing opportunity for community radio presents a radical departure from the status quo in our media system, valuing localism over consolidation. Media ownership in the United States is highly concentrated in the hands of a few giant corporations. Clear Channel alone owns thousands of radio stations, more than anyone else, as well as billboards and entertainment venues across the country. How many local artists and community voices do you hear on the Clear Channel owned stations in your town? Probably very few or none. When media outlets function primarily to earn profits, as the big mainstream media companies like Clear Channel do, it leads to concentration of ownership and cheap dumbed-down programming. Consolidation has all but destroyed diversity of voices, investigative reporting, and local programming on the air.
Community groups, radio pirates, and media activists struggled for years against media consolidation that marginalized many and served as a megaphone for corporate power. We pushed instead for local access to the airwaves. Radio, like other forms of media, can be a powerful organizing tool when it's controlled by people using it to address issues affecting their communities. Democracy comes to life when groups produce media and tell their own stories. That's why this issue is so important to so many. After years of community organizing coupled with legislative action, a powerful grassroots campaign successfully pushed the Local Community Radio Act through congress, winning the opportunity for local groups to control a piece of the broadcast airwaves!
Around the fall of 2013 the Federal Communications Commission (F.C.C.) is expected to open a short window (probably about a week long though exact dates and details are still undetermined) when groups can submit applications for radio station licenses. This is our one-time golden opportunity to seize the airwaves! It's a chance to build a national communications infrastructure in the hands of the people.
In places where several groups apply for a single station the process may be very competitive. Groups who are well organized in advance and have prepared their applications early for submission will have a huge competitive advantage in this process. Prometheus and its allies are committed to providing support to social justice and community groups throughout the application process. Our main mission now is to help groups win licenses and get them on the air!
We are building a national outreach coalition to spread the word far and wide to social justice groups, independent media advocates, and marginalized communities across the country so they know the opportunity exists, and are supported in taking steps to win a license and start a station.
We are training and coordinating with volunteers all across the country to host events, speak at meetings, go on tour, and spread the word about community radio through their local, regional, and national networks. Since our staff and resources are limited compared to the task at hand, we depend on volunteers to successfully spread the word about this chance through every street corner of the country. Get involved and empower communities with the torch of locally produced media!
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