Executives at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the lobby group representing large commercial broadcast stations across the United States, were surprised to look out their windows on Monday to see a veritable circus of community radio supporters. Dozens of people hula-hooped, juggled, and asked NAB chief Gordon Smith, former Senator from Oregon, to stop blocking a bill that would expand access to 100-watt low power FM (LPFM) noncommercial community radio stations across the US – the Local Community Radio Act, HR 1147 and SB 592.
They cheered at the NAB, “Stop making us jump through hoops! Support low power FM radio and the Local Community Radio Act!” They also asked their Congressional leaders to pass this widely loved and bipartisan bill before the end of the 111th Congress.
“Low power FM radio stations not only put local music, news, and political debates on the FM dial, they saved lives after Hurricane Katrina because they put up-to-the-minute local information on the air – and they are small and flexible enough to keep running with a car battery when the power goes out,” said Pete Tridish, an organizer with the Prometheus Radio Project, a nonprofit that supports low power FM radio stations nationwide and friend of CHIRP. “By passing this bill today, Congress will be supporting thousands of constituent organizations instead of bowing to one big broadcast lobby’s wishes. Gordon Smith is silencing voices across the country by opposing the expansion of community radio. So we’re here to say: Gordon Smith, don’t make a circus of our democracy – stop making us jump through hoops; work with Congress to pass this bill.”
There are about 800 stations on the air across the US, but thousands of other groups were unable to get licenses when LPFM was established in 2000. The Local Community Radio Act, which would expand LPFM, sailed through the House in 2009, and has broad bipartisan support in the Senate. Unfortunately, new reports showed that NAB CEO and former Senator Gordon Smith is organizing secret Senate holds on the bill to kill it. The NAB claimed that they were working to compromise or negotiate on expanding low power FM radio, but as of Monday the 13th, they had rejected every offer that Senate sponsors and LPFM advocates have brought before them.
Hundreds of diverse groups, including CHIRP, support expanding low power FM radio nationwide, including emergency responders, national civil rights and faith-based organizations, and many others. They have waited years for the opportunity to serve their communities, but the FCC has been unable to give out licenses to them because Congress restricted LPFM.
Now is the time to act! Watch the hula hoopers below, and then send an email to Senator Durbin asking him to help bring the Local Community Radio Act to the floor for a vote.
Chicago Independent Radio Project is completely volunteer run. No one is making money from this endeavor. A bunch of music lovers just thought, “Hey, we should start an independent radio station.” Well, that was a couple years ago now, but soon it will be up and running. Beginning in January, you’ll be able to tune in online and hear disks jockeyed by real live people, and hopefully within the next few years you’ll be able to tune in on the old fashioned radio to the same station and rock out during your commute.
What CHIRP has accomplished so far is no small feat, and I’m not sure people truly realize how much an independent radio station could mean to Chicago (the FCC certainly doesn’t.) As the media forever falls into the abyss of corporatization, our country basks in capitalism, and new technologies usurp the old, the independent world finds its spaces endlessly fluctuating – up and down, more and less, something akin to the Emperor tightening its grip on the galaxy: the more it tries to hold onto, the more will slip through its fingers.
For a big metropolitan area, Chicago has a lot of “small scale” potential. Small art stores, galleries, and indie venues dot the map, but few things beyond the streets themselves tie them together, they lie in the ether waiting for those “in the know” to go and check them out. Of course that is part of the draw, being one of the few-ish to know, and these places can’t always handle a large crowd, for a multitude of reasons. CHIRP, however, can handle all of these people, and then some.
CHIRP has a virtually limitless threshold for the independently minded media and arts consumer, many of whom are the same people that venture out into the city to discover the independent stores, galleries, and venues. In the independent’s world competition is not number one. Cooperation is. Originality must always be the Independent’s weapon of choice and it must work through the conduit of community. CHIRP has the potential to be that conduit; a “physical” entity around which community can be built.
This is what CHIRP should, in part, be (aside from a radio station.) CHIRP can reach out to those underground and independent groups and shine some light on them, exposing their alternative offerings to those who are interested in being a part of a scene, a community, or even a movement. Hopefully, if you have come to this website, and if you are reading this, you know what I’m talking about and are one of the many in this city and country who are tired of being spoon fed the same superficial and sensationalist media. If that’s the case you’ve come to the right place.
Nobody ever asks me that question. I tend to get more “Do you have a quarter?” and “What are you looking at, man?” Maybe the reason for that is purely geographical. I hail from the southwest corner region of Logan Square. Although maybe it’s more of a corridor than a corner. That’s not important. What is important is the present state of community radio in the neighborhood. Right now it’s fairly limited to the enormous Harley Davidson that likes to swing by blasting AC/DC’s “Back in Black” and MGMT’s “Electric Feel” which rises through my apartment’s floorboards on a regular basis thanks to my downstairs neighbor’s egomaniacal stereo. Don’t get me wrong. I love both those songs and could listen to them all the time. And do. But I yearn for more. Sometimes I get it when the neighbors two doors down pump up their tejano music to set their Friday night garage party in motion. Plus there’s the not-so-faint sounds of electric guitar thrash and reverb that escape the walls of Ronny’s four nights a week. Still, the sound quality is poor. I get better static tuning in an AM station from St. Louis. And so for these reasons and many more, I look forward to the day CHIRP launches and changes what community radio means to me, which is more often than not the neighborhood ice cream truck’s twenty minute rendition of “Pop Goes the Weasel” on calliope