(low) power to the people
March 12, 2018 7:56 AM   Subscribe

As Low-Power Local Radio Rises, Tiny Voices Become a Collective Shout. In 2016, Number of U.S. low-power FM radio stations has nearly doubled since 2014, and the Next Generation Of Local, Low-Power FM Stations Expands In Urban Areas. But what is Low Power FM (LPFM)? Frequently Asked Questions from the Prometheus Project, a Philadelphia, PA-area group that promotes "participatory radio as a tool for social justice organizing and a voice for community expression." Since LPFM license applications in the US opened and then closed in 2013, it's unlikely that a new application series will open. Learn More About Low Power FM, including a channel database and Wikipedia category

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posted by the man of twists and turns (10 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
My local low power station is WJZP and I am very grateful for the endless funk and jazz on my commutes.

There are some very weird things about the station, like the fact that sometimes a DJ will just start talking in the middle of a song. But it's worlds better than the local mattress and car dealership ads, all of which have a tone I would describe as "please buy something or I will have to stare into the terrible and endless darkness which is my soul".

So thanks WJZP!
posted by selfnoise at 8:22 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]

I was involved in launching a LP station with help from Prometheus, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. A great program, sad it's not continuing.
posted by Miko at 8:26 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]

There was an AskMe about a dead-air LPFM station in Erie, PA kind of being a dick last year. I don't know if it's resolved.
posted by scruss at 9:14 AM on March 12 [2 favorites]

I have this crummy clock radio that is super inconsistent. I have to fiddle with the dials every night to get something that sounds like anything at all, and half the time I wake up to just random static anyway.

But whatever configuration I have randomly settled on KKUP out of Cupertino, CA and as far as I can tell, they play whatever the given volunteer DJ feels like playing upon rolling out of bed; Bluegrass, 70s Funk, ambient noise, gregorian chant. One time I think it was a philosophy lecture? It's a complete grab bag, and the DJs keep forgetting what they played earlier and having to shuffle papers to find it and having personal conversations with callers on the air and stuff.

They have a comparatively broad reach of ~10 miles, so I'm not sure they exactly fit this FPP, but I love them to pieces. Local radio is the best.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 9:28 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]

Recent story on the FCC crackdown on pirate radio stations in Colorado, at least one of which seems to have gone without a license only because eligible open LPFM frequencies are scarce:
Soon after Monk bought his gear, though, such powerful organizations as the National Association of Broadcasters and National Public Radio successfully lobbied Congress to require LPFM stations to be at least three dial positions away from existing stations on the FM spectrum rather than two clicks away, as the FCC had originally suggested, to avoid signal interference. While the change sounded minor, it made it nearly impossible to legally operate an LPFM signal in any sizable city — including the Denver-Boulder market — because there were almost no FM signals available with three open frequencies on both sides. Nearly 80 percent of the applications that the FCC had already received for LPFM signals became obsolete.
There's a comment from Monk on the Colorado Public Radio story, helpfully informing us that we "can't be arrested for just running an FM transmitter in Colorado."

I'm a bit disappointed that this retirement community radio station isn't broadcast via FM. I'd love to listen to it sometime. Doing a search for available LPFM frequencies for that location, it looks like there aren't any available options.
posted by asperity at 10:01 AM on March 12 [1 favorite]

That three dial positions away thing is atrocious: they sure don't understand the FM capture effect, but the lobbyists do understand regulatory capture effects ...
posted by scruss at 10:17 AM on March 12 [5 favorites]

The FCC really is regulatory capture personified these days, isn't it?
posted by tobascodagama at 10:39 AM on March 12 [3 favorites]

I can't wait to get off work and try the ones in Portland tonight! I primarily listen to XRAY, which isn't low-power, but they do play a lot of awesome music.
posted by gucci mane at 3:23 PM on March 12

In principle, I love local radio. It's changed my life on several occasions. I've camped in the streets in support of locked out radio station staff. I subscribe to three public stations at the moment. I wrote letters and attended public protests when LPFM was first being discussed in the US.

But. . . it's also been well over a year since I last actually listened to radio in my home country. It's been a decade since I paid attention to when programs aired or recognized the names of any local hosts. After reading this, I'll try listening to a few of these stations - but somehow I doubt it will stick. The temptation to resort to spending 100% of the time listening to things I find interesting any time I want is hard to resist, even if it means fewer options for serendipitous discovery.

I hope I've just grown old and boring and there's actually an audience for such things.
posted by eotvos at 11:50 AM on March 13

I can't wait to get off work and try the ones in Portland tonight! I primarily listen to XRAY, which isn't low-power, but they do play a lot of awesome music.

There used to be KRRC, which was de facto low power due to antenna siting and the Reed administration liking it that way, but then they gave up the license in 2013. >:[
posted by snuffleupagus at 1:02 PM on March 14

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