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Thursday, December 30, 2010

The future of community radio stations

Woodburn, Ore-- On December 18th, Congress passed the Local Community Radio Act which expands opportunities for local community radio to people in urban areas of the U.S. who have previously been excluded. Low Power FM – or LPFM -- stations are community-based, nonprofit radio stations that broadcast at the local level.

The bill repeals earlier legislation that big broadcasters supported. The Radio Broadcast Preservation Act of 2000 limited LPFM radio to primarily rural areas. The broadcast lobby groups claimed that the new small stations could create interference with their own stations; in 2003, a congressionally mandated study disproved this claim.

LPFMs are essential to democracy and civic engagement because they give a voice to local groups and individuals who otherwise lack access to the media. They also provide news, information, and viewpoints often ignored by mainstream media. Radio Movimiento 95.9FM,  located next to the Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United) headquarters in Woodburn, is an example of an LPFM.

The Local Community Radio Act will allow for more Low Power FM radio stations to exist in cities like Portland, Oregon. We anticipate that this bill will affect us in two ways. First, we will likely have people come to Radio Movimiento and ask how we got our station established (hint: with huge help from the Prometheus Radio Project). Second, the new law fortifies Radio Movimiento’s position on the FM band, i.e., the move from 96.3 FM to 95.9 FM. In 2007, when a commercial radio station sought to “encroach” or invade Radio Movimiento’s frequency, our movement fought back at the administrative level. The new law contains language that reaffirms our legal stand.

To learn more about Low Power FM radio stations and the Local Community Radio Act, visit Prometheus Radio Project at


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