A Slice of the Pie: Examining the State of the Low Power FM Radio Service in 2009
33 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2012
Date Written: August 15, 2009
This paper reports the first results of a year-long investigation into the state of the LPFM movement as it approaches its milestone tenth anniversary and questions whether indeed, as envisioned, LPFM stations “give voice to the previously voiceless” or whether, as some research has indicated they especially benefit fundamentalist and other religious communities’ efforts to expand their cultural reach. Using a mixed-methodology approach, investigators mapped the LPFM industry using FCC data and public information provided by LPFM stations and their owners and operators over the Internet and then conducted interviews with dozens of LPFM operators across the United States. The study was guided by a central research question: does current LPFM policy truly serve the communities in which they are located, as envisioned by the FCC? The following sub-research questions helped reaching that distinction: How do LPFM operators define the communities that they serve? What do LPFM operators characterize as the benefits to the community in having an LPFM station? What role does LPFM play in the lives of LPFM operators themselves? Results indicate that local programming constitutes only a portion of the LPFM offerings, and that large interests, in particular religious organizations, have indeed taken a “sponsorship” role in the LPFM radio service, creating a number of de facto networks that rely on larger entities for the majority of their programming. Rather than giving local interests a piece of the pie, the current regulations may have created a means for larger groups to gobble up the LPFM spectrum, one tiny bite at a time.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation