Will LPFMs go mostly to evangelical christian broadcasters?

Looks like legislation opening up the FM band to more LPFM (low power FM) stations is moving through Congress. While Prometheus Radio celebrates, I gotta wonder if Calvary Chapel of Everywhere isn’t going to gobble a lot of those new licenses up. Since I can’t link directly to results (they’re from a database search, and are linkproof), go to FCCinfo.com, go to Search By / Licensee, and write Calvary Chapel in the Search Parameters box. Then click on Licensee_Search and see what happens.

Most of the results are for translators: low-power repeater stations. The ones with real call letters that end in -LP are for LPFM stations. These are legitimate stations, which, as the FCC describes here, “are available to noncommercial educational entities and public safety and transportation organizations, but are not available to individuals or for commercial operations”. That includes religious broadcasters, of which there are many.

Here’s Wikipedia’s list. (Man, there are so many good wikipedian obsessives on radio. I thought I could help with lot of this stuff, but these other folks are way past me at getting the details out there.)

There are some great LPFM stations. WCOM in Carrboro and KRUU in Fairfield, for example. But a lot of LPFMs are evangelical Christian stations, run by very resourceful outfits, which in the past have run rings around public and other community broadcasters.

We’ll see how it goes.

10 comments

  1. Rob Szarka’s avatar

    …all of which would be fine if those church-affiliated stations broadcast locally-originated content. Sadly, the two LPFM stations in my area both mostly rebroadcast nationally-syndicated content. :(

  2. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Yep, that’s how it goes. I’m sure the majority of LPFMs and translators are operated by religious broadcasting organizations that do little or no local origination, beyond, perhaps, a local church service on Sunday morning. Meanwhile they eat up space on the dials. The broadcast equivalent of packing material.

  3. Doc Searls’s avatar

    I tried to post this comment to this pinged-back post at Peoriq Pundit, but the system there said my comment looked spammy, and rejected it. Too many links, ai guess.

    Thanks, Mahkno.

    Billy is right that I have no problem with religious radio. I like more diversity, more opportunity, and the rest of it. In fact, I admire the skill and resourcefulness of religious broadcasters.

    Religious broadcasters are a decade ahead of everybody else on this thing. See http://www.diymedia.net/feature/lpfm/f021300.htm and http://www.frn.net/vines/Forum2/HTML/001807.htm

    For what it’s worth, if I’m not mistaken, the original idea behind LPFM was to exclude religious broadcasters as well. Obviously that didn’t fly.

    Battles by community broadcasting advocates against dial-packing by religious broadcasters were fought and lost years ago. DIYmedia.net, for example, hasn’t kept up with the LPFM cause since 2005: http://www.diymedia.net/feature/lpfm/

    A lot of the LPFM openings, thanks to the separation requirements you mention, can’t be in urban or even suburban areas. So they tend to be in small towns. Churches are among the most organized, or easily-organized, institutions in small towns. Evangelical ones especially. And outfits like Calvary Chapel have their routine down so cold that local grass roots organizations can’t compete. Nor are they as well organized nationally. Every community is different. Not so every religious radio station, alas.

    What’s sad is that the hard lobbying work was done by community broadcasters, while religious broadcasters soak up the benefits.

  4. Mike Warot’s avatar

    I wonder if the “white spaces” networking technology could make the open-source networked equivalent of a local FM station work?

    Community wireless networking appears to be within reach thanks to this new spectrum being opened up. We could theoretically route local programming via this new medium, around the ISP duopoly, and amongst ourselves.

  5. Don McArthur’s avatar

    For me christian RF spamming ruined the once-enjoyable hobby of shortwave radio listening. I expect the same to happen at other frequencies. The virus continues its spread.

  6. Doc Searls’s avatar

    RF spamming! Great term, and so true. Of course they don’t see it that way. The problem with short wave — at least the last time I bothered to listen — is that the bands have largely been abandoned by all but the Christian broadcasters. I’m sure it’s better in some other parts of the world, but here in North America shortwave is pretty much useless. And superfluous with the Net around.

    That said, I’m tempted to get back into ham radio again after 50 years. :-)

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