We talk often about the oversights of corporate-driven media, how it underrepresents communities of color or misrepresents them entirely. But after a long 15-year battle at the Federal Communications Commission, non-profit organizations and community groups may be on the verge of putting a dent in that corporate agenda.
Two years ago, President Obama signed the Local Community Radio Act into law. The legislation effectively opened the airwaves to hundreds of new low power FM radio stations. But in order to be among those hundreds of new radio station hosts, you need a license. Applications can only be submitted October 15-29, but prospective applicants can begin preparing for the process by looking at the website on the FCC’s website, which you can access here.
The possibilities that this new opportunity represents isn’t lost on the activists who helped make it happen. Jeff Rousset, an organizer with Philadelphia-based Prometheus Radio Project, explained the significance on Democracy Now.
"This is a historic opportunity for communities all over the country to have a voice over their airwaves," Rousset said. "The airwaves are supposed to belong to the public. And now this is a chance for groups to actually own and control their own media outlets all over the country."
Perhaps most importantly, this opening up of the airwaves provides an opportunity for local grassroots groups to take power of the news that’s heard in their communities.
Ramón Ramírez, president of Oregon’s largest Latino organization, Pineros Y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, told Democracy Now that his group started their own station with the help of the Prometheus Radio Project and the results have been a crucial part of their organizing work.
"We’ve been able to use it as an organizing tool, not only to organize farmworkers–we are the farmworker union of Oregon–but also to provide information and give people that never had a voice," Ramirez said. "For example, we’re broadcasting in four indigenous languages from Mexico and Central America, and we’re giving those folks a voice in the community that they never had."
ColorofChange.org has also been waging a campaign to spread the word about Low Power FM radio stations, and you can get some good background by reading up on their efforts.
If you’d like to start your own station, Prometheus is holding a free online training this week. You can visit their website and register for free.