Low Power Public Spheres: Localism, Advocacy and Political Economies in LPFM Radio Stations



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Low-power FM radio stations allow organizations broadcast at interval frequencies between those occupied by commercial radio stations. In 2000, the FCC ruled to grant licenses to select community radio stations across the country to broadcast on these airwaves. Given current crises of media conglomeration and a history of political activism from these low-wattage stations, it is imperative to continually understand how these stations function in an ever-changing media landscape. This case-study contains interviews with eight individuals who volunteer as programmers at a single LPFM station aimed at better understanding how contemporary community radio functions. The findings suggest that though participants pride themselves on their independence from the broader radio field, innovations in streaming and volunteer-based political economies in some ways limit LPFM’s ability to distinguish itself from commercial constraints. However, despite the changes occurring for programmers, audience engagement and advocacy-based programming are still highly prioritized in unique ways.



journalism, low power fm