Jamming the Giants

For around $2,500 you too can be a DJ in the micro-radio revolution. That’s the hope following the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to license low-power FM (LPFM) radio stations, prompting cheers from community media advocates who for years have operated illegally as a diverse band of "pirate" stations.

Despite complaints from the corporate-backed National Association of Broadcasters about compromising "the integrity of the FM band," FCC chairman William Kennard declared that "this will bring many new voices to the airwaves."

The new rules mandate that all LPFM stations must be noncommercial, and current broadcasters or owners of other media interests will not be eligible for LPFM licenses.

"The corporate fat cats got used to thinking of the airwaves as their own private fiefdom, but the commissioners today reaffirmed that the airwaves belong to everyone," said Joan Dark, of the Prometheus Radio Project, a Philadelphia-based media activist group that helps create LPFM stations (www.prometheus.tao.ca).

As corporate media continue to consolidate, and Internet technologies remain out of reach for many, LPFM remains accessible, low-tech, and—with a maximum broadcast range of about seven miles—intrinsically rooted in community.

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