New Neighborhood Radio Stations Popping Up in Puget Sound

Raising the 35'  mast with FM antenna attached

Raising the 35′ mast with FM antenna attached

Neighborhoods in Seattle and the Puget Sound have strong individual identities, defined and protected by their denizens. Now some neighborhoods will even have their own radio stations. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently approved 5 new Puget Sound neighborhood radio stations, and one of them, Voice of Vashon, may be on the air as early as October. In addition, 10 more moved toward obtaining FCC approval earlier this month, with the announcement of a 90-day “settlement period” for finalizing their application.

Neighborhood radio stations serving Seattle’s First Hill, Capitol Hill, Central District, International District and Downtown, as well as the communities of Vashon Island, Bothell, SeaTac and Bellingham were approved for construction. FCC permits are in process for stations serving Northwest Seattle, the University District, the Central District, Magnuson Park, Rainier Valley, Bainbridge Island, Skyway, Mercer Island, Duvall and Tacoma.

These FCC approvals constitute the creation of a new kind of “neighborhood radio” station —  broadcasting for the first time in geographically-defined communities in the nation’s largest cities. Although low-power FM radio stations (LPFM) reaching 2 to 10 miles have been around for more than a decade, licenses were awarded almost exclusively in sparsely-populated rural areas. This exponential growth in audience size and influence with a particular neighborhood, island, small town or suburb redefines the potential for these tiny-but-powerful media outlets.

In addition to a terrestrial broadcast, neighborhood stations can expand their reach by live streaming and hosting on-demand content. They will incubate local talent and have the potential to re-imagine public media. Many will be participatory and volunteer-powered, addressing the widening digital divide with low barriers to access tools and training. Ultimately, they will form a neighborhood layer of infrastructure for the public media ecosystem and emergency response.

Meet Sabrina Roach, our public media “Doer”

LPFMMap_v2_web-01_puget-sound-radio-stationsCreating and replicating this kind of community service juggernaut in large cities across the nation is what  Not-Just-For-Profit ticketing company Brown Paper Tickets had in mind when hiring public media professional Sabrina Roach as a Doer (a community change-maker) with a goal of filling every available low-power radio frequency with a qualified applicant, getting their stations built and sustainably on-air. Roach directed National Make Radio Challenge and created a Puget Sound Neighborhood Radio Cohort (PSNRC), the nation’s first support network for regional LPFM radio applicants to pool resources and foster a learning community to support these tiny-but-fierce stations.

“This group is ahead of the curve,” said Sally Kane, CEO of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. “Although we see collaborations between community broadcasters, they often happen after those stations have already formed a culture of being very independent, and by that time they can find it much harder to share resources. Puget Sound Neighborhood Radio Cohort is setting a tone from the very beginning that will make every radio station in their group stronger and more sustainable.”

Roach supports the PSNRC with free counsel and guidance to public and private resources, panels on fundraising and education on best practices in the industry. She develops relationships and shares resources offered by public agencies, private corporations and leaders in public media, community media and commercial media that could provide assistance or support to the applicants, and shares industry news, best practices and connections with PSNRC applicants.

“We’ve created a virtual neighborhood radio station incubator for cooperation, in addition to operation,” Roach said. “My work is part of where the rubber hits the road in the implementation of Brown Paper Tickets’ social mission to build stronger, healthier communities,” said Roach.

KVSH 101.9 on Vashon Island has moved quickly since getting an FCC construction permit and hopes to go on the air as early as October.  Their format will be, “All Vashon all the time,” and their motto is “Island-powered media.” With 93% of their $50,000 funding goal met, volunteers have been building as the funds came in and they are already “Raising the Tower” for their new community FM radio station. Just last week a team of volunteers climbed to the top of a giant water tank to erect the station’s mast and antenna. You can view the video on the Voice of Vashon donation page:  VoiceOfVashon.org/RaiseTheTower.

If you’d like to volunteer to help a new radio station coming to your neighborhood, email Sabrina, or access the links below to learn more.

New radio stations

Seattle University Radio / KSUB / 102.1 FM (First Hill/Capitol Hill/Central District)

 

Voice of Vashon / KVSH / 101.9 FM (Vashon Island)

 

UWave Radio at UW Bothell / no call letters yet / 104.9 FM (Bothell)

 

OneAmerica / no call letters yet / 106.5 FM (SeaTac)

 

Make.Shift / no call letters yet / 94.9 FM (Bellingham)

 

Earth On-the-Air Independent Media (University District)

 

Fulcrum Community Communications (NW Seattle)

Hollow Earth Radio (Central District)

 

Sand Point Arts & Cultural Exchange (Magnuson Park)

 

SouthEast E­ffective Development’s Rainier Valley Radio (Rainier Valley)

 

Sustainable Bainbridge (Bainbridge Island)

 

South Seattle Emerald (Skyway)

 

KMIH Booster Club (Mercer Island)

 

Fab-5 (Tacoma)

 

Radio Duvall (Duvall)

 

 

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Community Radio Brainstorm: We Are Not Alone

Brainstorm1Post by Sabrina Roach, Brown Paper Tickets Public Media Doer

As director of Brown Paper Tickets’ National Make Radio Challenge, I helped as many nonprofit organizations as possible learn about the opportunity to apply for a free low-power FM radio license in 2013. This year, I’m assisting applicants in building capacity so they can successfully get on the air and start broadcasting to local communities.

I’m co-facilitating a public community brainstorm tonight, April 17, 2014, at Historic Takoma in Takoma Park, MD. We’ll talk about what’s going on nationally with low-power FM radio and Historic Takoma’s local effort to create low-power FM community radio. Even if they don’t get the radio frequency, they will have a great foundation for any kind of community media project. At the very least, they will have more of a focus on telling their own stories by making their own media.

If your organization was one of the 2,780 nonprofits, colleges and faith organizations that applied for a low-power FM (LPFM) frequency through the Federal Communications Commission last November—and especially if you are one of the 1,137 who’ve already had your application accepted by the FCC—there are many community radio stations already on the air that are happy to share their knowledge and experience with you. One of the best ways to find roughly 250 of them is to join the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. They have a listserve where people trade technical assistance and thoughts on community radio. All questions get answered either by peers or Federation staff. They also have group buys on music royalties and equipment.
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Five Ways Low Power FM Will Power Up Public Radio

ds106-world-radio-dayWorld Radio Day is this Thursday, February 13. It’s the perfect time to talk about how Low Power FM Radio could change the public and community radio landscape in the United States. For the past three years, I’ve been putting a shoulder into low power FM (LPFM) infrastructure development. I have helped to get the word out about the opportunity nationally, assisted nonprofits with their applications, fostered relationships between applicants and identified resources to help them build. I’ve never seen so much enthusiasm for community radio, and my little public radio nerd heart is gleeful about the potential. Maybe some of the ideas are a stretch. I’m certainly showing my enthusiastic idealist colors, but World Radio Day encourages expansive thinking and big ideas. One thing’s for sure, LPFM will have an impact.

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) created World Radio Day in 2011 to annually prompt us to think about the transformative power of radio. This year their focus is gender equality. People from around the world are contributing audio and video clips in which they further the discussion about gender in radio and other ongoing structural issues like race and class.

We know we have structural issues in public media. We talk about them at our conferences and participate in trainings at our stations, but the conversation doesn’t get much past working on individual racism and an introduction to white privilege. These inequities require multipronged solutions. One small way to chip away at them is the current LPFM radio infrastructure build out.

Some numbers that illustrate how we’re doing:

Women hold less than 7% of all TV and radio station licenses.
People of color hold just over 7% of radio licenses and 3% of TV licenses.
[source: Free Press]

92.7% of journalists at commercial radio stations are white.
81.5% of journalists at non-commercial radio stations are white.
91.3% of radio news directors (commercial & non) are white.
67.3% of the work force in local radio news are male.
[source: Radio Television Digital News Association 2012 survey]

For reference, the US population is 51% female and 49% male / 72.4% white and 27.6% people of color [source: US 2010 census]
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Radio Doer Sabrina Says “Defend Public Media!”

Hey everyone! It’s Sabrina. As the Radio Doer here at Brown Paper Tickets, it’s essential that I advocate for public media. Therefore, in response to the recent threats on public media funding, I sent this letter to the editor of the Seattle Times expressing my concerns:

In my job and in my social life, I work to support public broadcasting and community media.

In our region, we’re fortunate to have several public media institutions. The House Appropriations Committee is proposing to wean NPR off federal funding by 2014. How will this impact KUOW and KPLU?

The attacks on public media funding have inspired many to get out in front of this issue and take action. I encourage you to do so as well.
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