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Public radio pioneer seeks broadband stimulus money

I’m happy to see at least one stimulus application for community radio. As telecom nerds everywhere know, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes a big chunk of economic stimulus money for broadband development projects—about $7.2 billion all told. That dough is earmarked for projects to roll out broadband to “un-” and “underserved” areas, and the first round of applications is being evaluated by the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture.

The Saturday Daylight BrigadeIt’s terrific that the government is doing this. There are a slew of applications being considered for the first round of projects, and you can see what people are asking for on the Broadband USA application database. I don’t have a vote in who wins grants, but if I did: the Original Urban Radio (OURadio) initiative, being developed over at SLB Radio Productions in Pittsburgh, PA, would get its funding.

“SLB” stands for The Saturday Light Brigade, one of the oldest public radio shows in the United States. SLB is famous for its family emphasis: participatory puzzles and games, call-ins from kids—it broadcasts on Saturday mornings live from the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

OURadio wants a grant to create a bunch of community radio stations for public housing systems in that city. The project will work with the city’s public housing agency, and, in the application’s own words:

” . . . will use broadband services to create localized radio stations in existing youth centers at Bedford Dwellings (on Pittsburgh’s North Side) and Northview Heights (in Pittsburgh’s Hill District). Broadcasts will propagate through broadband Internet, and be heard on computers, telephones and – most importantly — Internet radios. Each station will broadcast poetry, music, essays, reflections, interviews, public affairs and other similar content created by and for youth and others who live in the community. The operation would include a studio and production/editing equipment; field equipment for youth to use in the neighborhood; computer-based audio servers for creation of the programming stream and staff to provide oversight and training. In addition to broadcast and production skills, training will emphasize core life skills including verbal literacy, listening skills, writing, ethics and general communications.”

Sounds good to me. SLB is asking for $275,000. I wish that there were more applicants like this. There could be. The Department of Commerce’s Broadband Technologies Opportunity Program (BTOP) has a “Sustainable Broadband Adoption” category that is giving out money for projects that stimulate broadband use in areas where it hasn’t been that brisk. It’s not the biggest funding category—the serious loot is going to “middle mile” projects that hard wire communities to the major networks. But hopefully the grantors will take projects like OURadio seriously.

The first round of stimulus money awards should be announced in early November. Two more rounds to go after that. Here’s the link for applications. Community radio builders . . . go get that cash!

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