Knight Center
Knight Center


New U.S. law to permit hundreds more community radio stations

The Local Community Radio Act, signed into law by President Obama last week, will allow hundreds and perhaps thousands of communities throughout the United States, especially those outside urban areas, to seek permits to operate Low-power FM (LPFM) non-commercial radio stations that reach entire towns. After a decade-long battle between advocates for local radio and commercial broadcasters concerned with the increased competition, the new law eases barriers for applying for licenses, and many new possibilities for local journalism now exist.

Some 800 locally owned, non-commercial LPFM stations are already on the air in the United States, often functioning as rare or singular sources of news and information in the communities they serve. WQRZ-LP, “Katrina Radio,” provided vital information to residents of Hancock County, Miss., before, during and after the Gulf Coast hurricane in 2005. In Bend, Ore., the citizen journalism team of KPOV-LP created this handbook for conducting local journalism.

Most of the existing LPFMs are operated by schools, and civic and religious organizations. Religious broadcasters are especially interested in applying for more of the permits, and many communities will inevitably experience tugs of war when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announces a new application period.

For people worried about the state of U.S. journalism, now is the perfect opportunity to consider and experiment with new forms of non-profit, community-based journalism, on the time-tested medium of radio. Meanwhile, the coalition of national movements and local groups that lobbied for the legislation—some listed in these statements by the Prometheus Radio Project and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights—can now shift their attention to helping local communities organize stations and apply for licenses.


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