by Ansel Herz
on Mon, Jun 10, 2013 at 3:28 PM
Not to freak you out or anything amidst revelations of NSA surveillance, but here's a scary thought: Clear Channel Communications owns over 1,200 radio stations across the country. Here in Seattle, it owns six. Most of them are on corporate autopilot with generic, stale programming. I'm a hip hop fan so I sometimes listen to KUBE 93, but it is soul-crushing and enraging to hear the same shitty songs played over and over, sometimes less than thirty minutes apart.
Until the Telecommunications Act of 1996, companies were prohibited from owning more than 40 stations. Within two years, almost half of all radio stations changed hands. Many were small businesses or minority owned. The loss of these stations makes politics more homogenous and renders communities vulnerable to natural disasters. Media consolidation kills culture and people, sociologist Eric Klinenberg showed convincingly in his book-length study of the issue, Fighting for Air.
On October 15, however, a glorious window of opportunity to diversify the media will open. That's when the FCC starts accepting applications for low power FM radio licenses. As Anna reported, "Seattle could have up to eight new mini radio stations in the next few years, each broadcasting for miles on just 100 watts—the power of a lightbulb."
The application for the license to the Federal Communications Commision was rumored to be super complicated. Lucky for you, we've obtained a draft copy (PDF). It's embedded below the jump.
Lawyer Michael Couzens, who provided the draft application to us, doesn't expect there to be any significant changes to the document between now and October. He thinks the FCC did a "pretty good job" making it as accessible as possible. But in urban areas, he added, "There's going to be a lot of competition. It's important that people have a lawyer and an engineer to get through the whole thing."
Last week, a community meeting organized by Brown Paper Tickets media activist Sabrina Roach struck a more collaborative than competitive tone. UW Bothell students who just launched an Internet radio station were there. Hollow Earth Radio and 206 Zulu were represented. And a mathematics professor from Seattle University said his group is about to start an engineering study to potentially place a transmitter on the tallest building on campus.
"Jump on this now," Roach advises. "It might take a couple months to sort out the details of this application even with an engineer and lawyer helping you." But don't be intimidated. Read Anna's story (eight little KEXPs!), get in touch with Roach, or head over to the Prometheus Radio Project to learn more.