Turn Up The Radio: Fostering Community Media Collaboration With Low Power FM Radio – Davis’ KDRT Radio Leads the Way
Edited from an article by Colin Rhinesmith: http://mediapolicy.newamerica.net/blogposts/2011/turn_up_the_radio_fostering_community_media_collaboration-55931
The importance of community engagement was also a major theme for others at the workshop, which was presented at last week’s Alliance for Community Media Conferencein Tucson, Ariz. Titled “Turn Up the Radio: Exploring Collaborative Opportunities for PEG and LPFM,” it featured a variety of lessons for how LPFM advocates and Public, Educational, and Government (PEG) Access TV providers could benefit from working together more closely.
The Fight for More LPFM
With a new public licensing period opening as early as June 2012, a small window exists for the FCC to make more than 1,300 channels available to the public. Prometheus and other LPFM advocates, however, are concerned that commercial broadcasters will snatch up the LPFM frequencies and use them for translators–which simply repeat the radio signal from distant channels rather than providing locally-produced content.
The FCC decision will have profound implications for channel allotment for LPFM in urban areas, which host many PEG access TV stations. A low-power radio station that broadcasts even three miles into a city could potentially reach hundreds of thousands of people.
Why Did Davis Community TV Apply for an LPFM License?
As part of its efforts to serve Davis, Calif., the local community media center incorporated Davis Community TV in 1988 and added educational access television a decade later. But the center also launched KDRT, a community radio station, in 2004, when the FCC had its first licensing window. KDRT thus represents one of the first LPFM stations to originate from a public access TV station.
One reason the center pushed for a community radio station was because it fit with its mission to build infrastructure independent of the cable systems and corporate gatekeepers, in order to free communities from media systems that are solely dependent on profit-making, said Shaw, who works with KDRT and other Davis community media efforts.
How LPFM Benefits the PEG Access Community
Upon launching KDRT, overall participation at Davis Media Access doubled, Shaw said. There was a lot more energy at the center, and board and committee participation went up, as did training programs and mediamaking for the center’s cable channels. Networking and affiliations increased, including with the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, which became a strong ally in the community media movement.
In addition, county officials used the radio station and engaged more with station staff and managers. Davis Media Access was able to apply for grants they previously had been out of reach, an increased audience helped boost its donor base, and the initial radio launch party grew into an annual fundraiser.
PEG access stations interested in finding out more about their local community radio landscape can visit the Community Media Database, a pilot project led by Rob McCausland being completed in partnership the New America Foundation’s Media Policy Initiative and Prometheus with funding from the Benton Foundation.