Wednesday, March 11, 2009

IBS Recap Part 3 - Community Radio and Low Power FM

View from the back of the room during community radio panel

I was excited to see that an entire panel at the IBS college radio conference last week was devoted to community radio and low power FM. I'm a fan of community stations like East Village Radio and WFMU and throughout the conference was growing more intrigued about New York station WBAI (a Pacifica station with a number of DJs in attendance).

Andalusia Knoll of Prometheus Radio Project talked about her work helping groups set up stations. Her colleague Andy Gunn added that their mission at Prometheus is "to make radio that's participatory" and "help facilitate small community groups" to get on the air. One of their recent projects was helping the Chicago Independent Radio Project in their quest for a radio license for a new community station after changes at Loyola University station WLUW made it more inhospitable for non-student DJs as the station was rumored to become more student-oriented. (Side note: Has this happened? The current WLUW schedule seems to have a lot of community programming and eclectic music shows. Has the station noticeably changed since last year?)

Emmanuel Goldstein (of WBAI and WUSB) pointed out that when he began in radio, every college had a station. He said he was saddened that increasingly college radio stations have been taken over by their universities, become public radio affiliates, or have been sold off to religious groups. An audience member reflected on this situation, recounting the tale of a college station whose programming has been increasingly taken over by NPR programming, leaving little room for student involvement. Emmanuel added that he's a fan of the local flavor of non-commercial stations and said that he hopes that the death of commercial radio "will lead to the rebirth" of non-commercial stations.

DJ Delphine Blue (WBAI and East Village Radio) compared her experiences on commercial and community stations, saying, "community radio has so much more of a connection...with the listener." She added, "I have also worked in commercial doesn't have a heart...I would never stop doing...non-commercial..." She also said that "young people today did not experience radio" before it changed into a more homogenized medium.

Not mentioned in the panel, but now on my radar is the Common Frequency Radio Project, another group working to get more people involved with non-commercial, community and low power radio. Jenn de la Vega of Mushpot Records (and formerly of college station KDVS) just sent me a note telling me about the plight of Todd Urick (KDVS alum), a major contributor to college, community and low power radio projects with Common Frequency. He's having some big health issues and I wanted to just pass along information on how to help.

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