The FCC started issuing low-power station authorizations last week. This week, after a day off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday and a snowday on Tuesday, the FCC got busy issuing more LPFM construction permits on Wednesday. As of this afternoon more than 200 applications have been granted.
Any way you look at it, that’s a lot of stations. And the FCC still has around 900 singleton applications–those with no competitors–to process.
Sustaining an LPFM Movement
As I first mentioned a couple of weeks ago, with all of these new community stations coming on line I’ve been thining about what it will take to help them survive and thrive. I caught up with veteran community radio consultant Donna DiBianco to discuss this.
DiBianco has been helping stations get on the air for nearly 20 years, leading on-the-ground “boot camps” in all aspects of station operation an governance. Most recently she helped KRFP-FM Radio Free Moscow in Moscow, ID make the transition from LPFM to being a full-power NCE station. She also worked on the launch of Radio Vieques in Puerto Rico.
She says there are three aspects to a successful community station: 1. A strong team; 2. Strong and competent policies; 3. A board with a vision and a direction. While this appears obvious on the surface, I’ve seen too many stations that lack one or two of these components. While I won’t dig into these points any more deeply with this post, I think every new station should give them thorough consideration.
My fellow Radio Survivor Jennifer Waits reminded me that the Grassroots Radio Coalition is a supportive community for new LPFMs to link up with. DiBianco agreed with that, adding that the allied Radio For People Coalition has been active with station launches, including both Radio Free Moscow and Radio Vieques.
There have been annual GRC conferences most years since 1996. Unfortunately one was not held last year; the last one happened in 2012. But it sure seems like it would be important for there to be one this year. Like so many community stations, the GRC runs on volunteer power, and it relies on individual stations to host and sponsor conferences. Hosting such an event can be a pretty heavy load, on top of the already significant workload of just keeping a station going.
As DiBianco and I talked about the difficulty of supporting all these stations, I gave my take that it seems to be more than any one existing group is ready to take on. She suggested that it would be great to have something like an “LPFM support desk that can handle the traffic from inquiring stations.”
It should be noted that DiBianco is available for stations who would like to hire her to assist with their launch.
I certainly don’t have any easy answers, but it’s something that community radio supporters ought to think about. Not every station needs hand-holding for every step. And the self-help resources compiled by groups like Prometheus and the National Association of Community Broadcasters should be sufficient for a lot of stations that have good core team.
In a lot of ways I’m less concerned about stations getting built than sustainability. People get excited and eager to pitch in when starting a new station. It’s months or years in when the questions like recruitment, fundraising and simple survival become more manifest.