Media watchdog group Free Press’s recent infographic reveals how media corporations are using shell companies to evade the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) ownership rules and gobble up local TV stations across the US. It’s another sobering reminder that we are facing some of the biggest threats to media democracy and free speech in our country’s history. Theacceleration of media consolidation and unfair restrictions on community radio and TV have narrowed already limited access to the airwaves for local voices, especially women and communities of color. People of color make up over 36 percent of the US population, but own just over seven percent of radio licenses and three percent of TV licenses.
In an environment in which corporations and the government increasingly control the airwaves, where can social justice movements and marginalized communities go to have their voices heard? Enter low power FM radio (LPFM). Two years ago, President Obama signed the Local Community Radio Act after a 15-year organizing campaign led byPrometheus Radio Project and Common Frequency, two grassroots groups supporting community radio. The law marks the largest expansion of community radio in US history. It was a tremendous victory for social change and media justice movements. Local communities now have the power to transform the corporate-driven media landscape.
This expansion of LPFM stations means that hundreds of nonprofit organizations, schools, unions and other community groups have a unique and low-cost opportunity to develop programming to meet their local and issue-based needs. “With new community radio stations preparing to claim a spot on the airwaves, we’re looking forward to hearing truly local news, neighbors speaking to each other about the topics that concern them, and local culture and music programming,” says Julia Wierski of Prometheus Radio Project.