During its’ April 7th meeting, the Minneapolis City Council’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee added support of H.R. 1147, the “Local Community Radio Act,” to the city’s legislative agenda.
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Minneapolis has a national reputation as a strong supporter of community media, owing to organizations such as KFAI, KMOJ, MTN, the Twin Cities Media Alliance, and a strong neighborhood press. The Minneapolis City Council, by supporting H.R. 1147, continued this heritage, and showed that the council supports the idea of a more engaged and informed citizenry. They recognized, as many others are now starting to, that now is the time to pass the Local Community Radio Act.
While the debate on how to revive the national economy has become increasingly partisan, Congress has been given the chance to pass a bipartisan bill that would revitalize local media across the country. The Local Community Radio Act, introduced in the House as H.R. 1147 by Representatives Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Lee Terry (R-NE) and in the Senate as S. 592, would give numerous community groups the chance to broadcast local music, news, and essential emergency information. Low-power FM (LPFM) radio stations are non-commercial stations run by people invested in their local communities. They broadcast approximately 3-5 miles using 100 watt transmitters. Today about 800 low-power stations broadcast alternatives to the ‘piped-in content’ of the major radio conglomerates. These stations, run by real people instead of computers, value community needs—not the bottom line. Due to restrictions placed on the licensing process, these stations only exist in rural, and a limited number of suburban areas; the Local Community Radio Act would repeal unfair restrictions that Congress placed on the service back in 2000 and allow up to 3,000 new stations. As an example here in the Twin Cities, Thirty-two groups (including the Center for Hmong Arts and Talent, the We Win Institute, The Minnesota Literacy Council, the Lyndale Neighborhood Association, the American Indian Center, the Alliance of Peacemakers, and many more) applied for licenses that were later rejected do to these congressional restrictions. Under the Local Community Radio Act, two to three community radio stations, operated by community groups such as these could be established in the Twin Cities.
Representatives Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Lee Terry (R-NE) reintroduced this legislation in February; the bill already has overwhelming bipartisan support with over 38 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle. Other supporters of expanding LPFM include Senators McCain (R-AZ) and Cantwell (D-WA), all five FCC Commissioners, and President Obama, who also signed on to support this legislation when he was Senator of Illinois.
This bill is long overdue. In the 8 years of limited LPFM service, low-power radio stations have revitalized local news, promoted local music, aided local businesses, and provided important public safety information. As the economy continues to slide, now is the time to build off this proven track record of success and expand community access to low-power stations across the country. With newspapers going under and job losses mounting, it’s clear we’re facing hard times. Giving local communities access to the airwaves to inform, entertain, and protect makes us all more capable to face the difficulties ahead.