A thousand new radio stations for the Left?
By Steven J. Allen
During a 15-day period in October, activists will take steps to affect broadcasting in the United States for decades to come. The Left is well aware of this, and is prepared to take advantage of an unprecedented opportunity—the chance to create as many as 1,000 radio stations that operate on frequencies made available by new technology.
Between October 15 and October 29, the Federal Communications Commission (the agency in charge of regulating the broadcast spectrum in the U.S.) will accept applications for the new stations. As the left-wing program “Democracy Now!” exulted:
This means nonprofits, labor unions and community groups have a one-time-only chance this year to own a bit of the broadcast airwaves. It is being heralded as the largest expansion of community radio in United States history.
The licenses are for LPFM (Low Power FM) stations that will each cover a radius of perhaps three or four miles. But many of these licenses will be in major cities, which means that a single station might reach 100,000 listeners, not counting its audience online.
“This is a one-shot opportunity,” said Jeff Rousset, national organizer of the Prometheus Radio Project, which is leading the effort to obtain radio licenses for left-wingers. Rousset, who served as a spokesman for Occupy Philadelphia, emphasized the importance of the application process between now and October 29: “The work that we do over the next four months will really help shape the course of this country’s media landscape for the next 40 years.”
To that end, Rousset said, his organization will “help groups not only to navigate the FCC process, but also to develop the kinds of skills and trainings, and connect people and resources so that groups can actually get on the air and be successful and build these successful radio stations.”
Prometheus sponsors a special website, Radio Spark <http://radiospark.org>, where people can find out what locations and frequencies are available for the new stations. The website for the Prometheus Radio Project is here <http://www.prometheusradio.org> and its Wikipedia profile is here <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prometheus_Radio_Project>. For the “Democracy Now!” interview with Rousset, go here <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_gFYKGMO5Y>
“Controlling your own media outlet is awesome”
In 2006, Prometheus helped get a radio station for PCUN, which calls itself the largest Latino organization in Oregon. “Democracy Now!” host Amy Goodman noted that PCUN has “used the station to inform farmworkers about labor rights, as well as the larger Latino community about immigration reform efforts, health issues and other community-related topics.”
PCUN president Ramon Ramirez said that “we’ve been able to use it [the radio station] as an organizing tool, not only to organize farmworkers—we are the farmworker union of Oregon—but also to provide information and give people that never had a voice—for example, we’re broadcasting in four indigenous languages from Mexico and Central America, and we’re giving those folks a voice in the community that they never had.
“So, the idea that we could expand this radio or this medium to hundreds of community organizations and unions and immigrant rights groups throughout the country is just a wonderful victory for us. And we want to be part of that. We want to share our experiences and our victories and also our successes to help other groups. . . .
“Controlling your own media outlet is awesome. It’s a powerful tool. It’s not only about putting information out and using it as an organizing tool, but it’s also about building leadership capacity in your community, because these folks learn how to program. They know how to put together—they research. They’re not only programmers, but they’re also getting their communities involved, and they’re providing information, valuable information, on a number of topics of that particular community.” He called the station a “mobilizing tool” and said its influence helped bring about the reinstatement of drivers’ licenses for “undocumented workers” in Oregon.
Advantage: the Left
For decades, radio—specifically, political Talk Radio—has been one of the rare segments of the communications media in which the Left is not dominant. To fix this problem, the so-called “Rush Limbaugh problem,” self-styled Progressives have used a variety of weapons ranging from consumer/advertiser boycotts to an attempt to restore the censorious “Fairness Doctrine.” Now the FCC has given them the opportunity to create new stations that will allow them to use radio for propaganda, organizing, and training future generations of broadcasters.
Of course, qualified nonprofit groups led by conservatives, libertarians, Tea Partiers, taxpayer advocates, centrists and others will have the opportunity to file applications for the licenses. But the process is highly complicated, and the Left has been preparing for this opportunity for at least 15 years, setting up training programs for prospective applicants. The Left has extensive experience in fields such as public-access TV/radio, pirate radio, the creation of nonprofit groups, and the grantmaking process—experience that gives it an additional advantage in this process. The FCC’s rules for deciding which groups get the licenses seem written to favor left-wing organizations over others. And many FCC bureaucrats, like Homeland Security and IRS bureaucrats, hold pro-taxpayer community organizations in contempt and will likely send their applications to the “circular file” even while providing helpful guidance to left-wing organizations.
The Left already dominates the news media and the entertainment media, the academic and political elites, and almost every medium through which political and cultural debate is conducted. Radio is a rare exception.
Keeping the future of radio out of the hands of the Left will take a massive organizational effort between now and October. If mainstream organizations do nothing—if they let political fringe groups dominate the application process—the American people will pay the price for decades to come.