Photo of Bill Moyers Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers Journal
Watch & Listen The Blog Archive Transcripts Buy DVDs

« PBS Ombudsman Responds to "My Fellow Texan" | Main | Alberto Gonzales Resigns; Why Now? »

Low-Power FM Radio

'Share it with each other. It's what you do.'

By Rick Karr

Imagine climbing a hundred-foot radio tower in the howling headwinds of a Category 3 hurricane so that you can stay on the air and keep your neighbors informed as catastrophe bears down. Or remaining at your post, on the mic and on the air, as floodwaters engulf the radio studio. Or pouring every cent of your income into the station to say on the air the aftermath, even though you're living in a FEMA-issue trailer because you've lost your home and everything in it.

I can't. But Brice Phillips has done every one of those things. And that's why he's one of the most remarkable people I've ever met, and an inspiration to those of us who believe that community radio has the power to change lives -- and save lives.

Brice is the brains, heart, and brawn behind WQRZ-LP, a low-power, community FM radio station on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. His station was the only one in the region that stayed on the air throughout both Katrina and Rita. I met him last year when Bill Moyers sent me and producer Peter Bull out to report on the state of the media in the U.S.

When BILL MOYERS JOURNAL rebroadcast our report, I had a chance to catch up with Brice earlier this week -- and to think about why we need more stations like his.

WQRZ-LP is one of about 800 "LPFM" (Low Power FM) stations that have come on the air since 2000. Back in the late 1990s, the FCC proposed licensing thousands of the stations as an antidote to Big Media's takeover of radio. "Deregulation" had nearly killed local broadcasting: Conglomerates bought up hundreds of mom-and-pop stations, then replaced local shows and community-service programs with more-profitable, one-size-fits-all fare. The radio dial turned into the aural equivalent of McDonalds: You'd find the same choices everywhere, but none of it had local flavor. Stations stopped serving their communities’ needs.

LPFM was supposed to be the solution: thousands of stations run by volunteers who knew what their neighbors wanted and needed to hear. An LPFM station wouldn't broadcast to a whole county or even a city -- it'd serve a single neighborhood. It would represent the essence of local broadcasting.

In Brice Phillips' case, that meant serving Hancock County, MS in emergencies. From the day WQRZ-LP went on the air, its motto was: "Come rain, shine, or God forbid another Hurricane Camille". There were no full-time stations in the county, and broadcasters in New Orleans and Biloxi were miles away.

Hancock County officials say Brice saved lives by staying on the air as the storms battered the area. After the skies cleared, he aired constant updates on where his neighbors could find aid, Q&A sessions with relief workers and government officials, and music by local artists that reminded the community of better times.

He’s been doing that for two years now, but he can’t keep up the pace much longer. WQRZ-LP is broke.

"I'll be out of money in 30 days if things don't change," he told me. Then he laughed, and the laugh was genuine. That's how Brice is.

Radio's a powerful medium in part because it's cheap. But it isn't free. Brice has been using his own money to pay for transmitters, towers, cables, CD players, computers, microphones, and everything else the station needs to stay on the air. He won a $16,000 award for his service, then sunk all of it into WQRZ.

Yet despite the fact that he’s rewritten the book on broadcasting during catastrophes -- government agencies in the U.S. and Japan now use WQRZ as an example -- the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Mississippi state agencies have denied his grant applications. He says Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) couldn’t help. Nor could his neighbors, because the area's economy is still reeling. Meanwhile, WQRZ still doesn't have a permanent home because Hancock County officials have yet to break ground on a new Emergency Operations Center.

“There are still 4,000 families living in FEMA campers around here,” he said. “I don’t have a lease for the station, and I’m down to my last $15,000.” His house, which was badly damaged by the storms, has been demolished, and he’s living in what he jokingly calls a “FEMA Castle” himself.

“The new problem around here is formaldehyde poisoning,” he said, “because so many people are living in these trailers, and the plastic and so on in the trailers emits a lot of toxins.”

One more thing: Brice is disabled -- he suffers from a chronic neurochemical disorder, which has kept him dependent on Social Security checks.

The station’s still on the air, though, and Brice spends most of his time in his makeshift studio. Sometimes he records interviews in his trailer.

The one bright spot has been the FCC, which has allowed Brice to increase the station’s power and range. Officials there are encouraging him to apply for an upgraded license that would allow him to better serve the community. “One guy there called me a ‘purple cow’ -- a strange and unusual beast,” he said. “And purple cows can end up changing the rules.”

Brice is an extreme example of what LPFM can do. Other stations focus on environmental issues, the needs of migrant farm workers, or local musicians. Still others offer religious programming. But they’re all doing exactly what they were supposed to do: serving local needs.

And that’s not a partisan assessment. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been one of LPFM’s biggest supporters. Former FCC Chair Michael Powell -- a Republican -- touted the stations as one of the big successes of his tenure. Current FCC Chair Kevin Martin -- who was nominated by President Bush -- seems to agree.

But LPFM stations are only on the air in rural areas and small towns -- there are almost none in suburban areas and big cities. That’s because Big Media doesn’t like the idea at all. When the FCC first proposed the new stations, commercial broadcasters fought back through their lobbying arm, the National Association of Broadcasters, which lobbies on behalf of. Big Media argued that the new stations' signals would cause static and other interference. My former employers at National Public Radio agreed. So Congress approved a compromise: New community stations would be limited to rural communities and small towns, where there was little chance of interference, until a team of independent engineers had studied the risks.

That report showed that there was no risk of interference. This summer, both the House and Senate took up bills to expand the reach of LPFM. The bills have bipartisan support, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll become law. Brice thinks it’s a no-brainer, though: It may be tough for him to keep WQRZ-LP on the air, but he thinks every community in the U.S. needs a station like it.


TrackBack URL for this entry:


Spammers will make no money here on Talk Back. We don't care about ring tones and apps. We are discussing vital issues, as on low power FM. drudge report

Hey moderator, please pull that post from Thomas below, and his comment too.

Every community and little town should be required to have an LPFM or LPTV station regardless of what other media are available, where information can be dispensed and the local people heard. (Shut Up, NAB!)It's our airwaves. It would be just like the post office with
a "postmaster and clerks" regulated just like the mails.It would be required to be funded from subscription fees and the local tax base. Maybe it would be a key to election reform.
Thank you heroic patriot Brice Phillips for your personal sacrifices and perserverance. Remember that this sole proprietor was more herd-wedded than a dairy farmer and he had to negotiate the application and obtain the equipment in the first place. How many of us could perform such miracles. Then we find that he is a partially diabled man living on a government check. Well, whoever approved his application, it was the finest thing you'll ever do. Brice, if you're still eligible, they can take my whole tax contribution to pay you at least triple benefits for as long as you live, and you should get a medal. That's right, Americans should be able to designate their deductions to pay for the things we really need. Who would still pay to kill people in Iraq? Not many I bet, because we'd be motivating hearts of gold like Brice Phillips' everywhere.

Your past shows have been about Congressionalinvestigations into voter fraud and illegal practices by the GOP as well as high profile crimes committed through the misuse of high offices of this administration such as the DOJ attorneys and the Abramoff charges. Why have these stories been buried in the media? What is happening with these investigations? It seems like you could do a new show on the current state of media manipulation which keeps these monumental crimes out of the public conscience.

Make the Federal Government accountable to the people by adding the Citizen Amendments to the United States Constitution and make America Free Again.

Get your copy at

Have a good day


100% Citizen of the United States of America

Hello from Ground Zero. I would like to thank Rick Karr and Bill Moyers for getting the word out about WQRZ. Just to give everyone a Situation Report. WQRZ still has no funds to rebuild their facility. The EOC will eventualy be evicted from the old school they have been using. The County 911 dispatch is in a FEMA trailer. Our local residents can't spare the extra money to suport us and we still have no public assistance from FEMA. What I would like to see is the rest of America burn up the phone lines to congress and the senate. Ask them where is the Grant for WQRZ. I will try to keep every one up to date with our progress.

If you are looking to help you can visit our website please make checks payable to WQRZ as donations to Brice will mess up his social security.

Thanks Ya'll

Wade Hicks WQRZ Asst. Engineer

Keeping it local

I finally wrote to Chairman Copps at FCC urging that he restore the Fairness Doctrine and have standards for tv stations that they represent the public interest to retain a license.

This is very important... it is why 4 media groups control all our airwaves and we get no news of any importance.

I worked in journalism when the Fairness Doctrine and lisense renewals based on meeting strict criteria was in place. They are needed to insure a democracy.

I also wrote my senator about these, saying I support low power fm.

Personally, I think low power fm will make it thru.

But breaking up the strangle-hold the corporations ahve on media is another story. We really have to fight on this one.

Commissioner Copps seems to be on our side... please, all, write to him.


Regarding your Aug 24 program that included Michael Kopps and others... Why all the fast talk? Whatever happened to good old pensive Bill - the guy who sought out guests who would not / did not / in fact could not over-prepare - the Bill who would turn and face the camera alone and ask the truly profound questions. Bill: to speed along at 150+ spoken words per minute with your fast-talking guests is to blend in with the rest of the din (CNN, CBS, FOX, etc.) that we all ridicule. Go your own way on this, Bill, not their way. One life still left to live.

I would like to make a donation to this young man and his station. His generosity is inspirational.

We have three LPFM stations on the air in our city of about 100,000. I'm an engineer and have helped all three of them either get on the air or stay on the air. The biggest problem with LPFM is that the rules (passed by congress - not the FCC) are draconian. In addition to limiting the number of stations by retaining the "third adjacency rule", LPFM stations are in the fight with both hands tied behind thier backs. Very few even break even because the 100Watt power level only covers a few miles, making it impossible for people to listen at home and work, unless they happen to do both within 2 miles of the transmitter. In addition, the LPFMs can only air underwriting announcements rather than commercials. Although the difference can be subtle, it limits what a potential supporter can do. If LPFM stations are to earn enough money to stay alive, they either need more power or the ability to compete for commercial dollars (or both). One final note about Senator McCain: he very cautiously supported the creation of the LPFM service. He also supported the legislation that forced the FCC to retain the 3rd adjacency rule, despite the FCC engineers' testimony that those protections were obsolete. Now that he knows that the CPB and NAB pulled a fast one, he wants to undo the damage. The problem is that he created a bad compromise to start with and he should have known better. It's hard to get congress to change a compromised bill unless the public gets upset. I hope the legislation makes it through, but I'm not hopeful.

I appreciate4 all of the programs that you have done on LPFM but I have never heard you discuss or comment on Low Power Television (LPTV). I wrote to you twice, during the dark period, when you were contemplating and finally in retirement. I guess I didn't expect an answer then, but now that you are out of the dark period I would like to hear your take on the close to 3,000 LPTV stations owned by several hundred owners across America. There is approximately 10% of these stations that are owned by the "media giants" Please give us you take on LPTV. Sincerely, John Kompas

Brilliant, as always. I'm meeting with my representative, Brian Baird, tomorrow and will ask him his position on low power.

Too much happens in this country while people are standing in line for their iPhones.

I wrote a comment before, but it never went on the boards, so I will be brief.

I worked in broadcasting when there WAS a Fairness Doctrine... one of the things lacking.

Ask that it be brought back. I have friends who think we are living in the Soviet Union the way media is controlled.

Thanks for the program, Bill! Copps raised some hopes for me that the FCC wants to hear from us.

How ironic to hear of John McCain being cited on your program as a supporter of LPFM.
Back in the 90s, when many risked arrest and huge fines for broadcasting Community LPFM in protest against the '96 Act, the little-known Arizona Senator, having established himself as the congressional respresentative for the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) actively led the crusade against what became LPFM.
I seem to recall at the time he went so far as to support criminalizing the activist broadcasters and who first brought this matter of media consolidation to the public's attention.

Thank you Bill Moyer and PBS for airing this program. I was not even aware of the term "Low-power FM" or its existence. Given the control of the airwaves by the 'big' corporate infotainment operations, I am not surprised. A recent documentary concerning global warming aired by BBC has not been broadcast over US airwaves. Why? Because it does not share the popular view held by big media that global warming is man-made. It is informative, controversial and certainly deserving of airtime. But not for a friend in Ukraine of all places, I would not have heard about it. UKRAINE-a former Soviet republic. How ridiculous is that?
I submit that we are witnessing the outright theft of our airwaves by corporate interests acting only for their own behalf. In an earlier post, Ms. Bonnie Willette said we should describe current market conditions as a 'predatory market' as opposed to a 'free market'. This could not be more accurate and I hope more citizens are starting to recognize this is a serious problem. Just over a century ago a certain president by the name of Theodore Roosevelt recognized the dangers predatory markets posed to the average citizen and the good of our country. Hopefully our next president will be made of the same wisdom to recognize this problem, have the character to put the interest of the country and citizens over the those of corporate interests and the strength and will to see the problem solved. This will be the profound challenge of the United
states in the 21st century! Terrorism will rank a distant second. Rome imploded. Will we?

(me again, a Wharton School grad)

Broadcast media no longer concerns itself with producing 'news' or being of service to its community -- its job has been narrowed to simply producing profits.

Thanks to Brice, Hannah, Rick, Michael -- and of course Bill-- for a fine show on a compelling topic.

FCC Commissioner Copp made a great point upon which I will expand: the relaxation of licensing standards, the NAB, its corporate masters and an all-too-compliant Congress have become enemies of the general public. (And I'm a conservative!)

Not only is low-power FM disadvantaged by the concerted efforts of these folks, but so too is the deployment other signal modulation techniques in these same bandwidths -- techniques which could much more efficiently deliver timely & pertinent information to local communities. It's disgusting...

Hey there Deborah, who wrote at 11.36 on on August 26th -- it's true that rural residents are very much in need of local broadcasts that serve them -- and that they are very much in need of appropriate technologies that spred emergency information when crises hit. Low power FM radio is not the only solution, but it is one that can be tailored by your neighbors to serve you well, cheaply, and in many, many places around your state and around the country.

One of my favorite arguments about low power FM radio and the need to expand it is -- passing this law will be free for the government. They don't need to conduct any more studies -- the 2.2 million dollar MITRE study is already done and ready to be put into place. Let's take a look at what an expanded low power FM service -- a service which is a full partner in the Emergency Alert System program ( -- can do, when expanded to your area and beyond.

I think you should separate the need for emergency local news and low power-fm. It would be more cost effective, and realistic to encourage the production and purchase of emergency radios that pick up TV bands and use their established local news broadcasts. As a rural resident, I receive only a couple of FM stations, but I can pick up 3 TV signals on my radio. In the last snow storm and wide power outage, the TV news` only suggestion was for those who had power and TV to call others and relay emergency information to their cel phones.

I have not given up on having this type station licensed in our community.
This is posted on my blog at:

Please take the time to contact Bingamin and Pearce. and the FCC Commissioner Copps.

Representatives Doyle and Terry have introduced a bill in the House of Representatives HR2802IH LOCAL COMMUNITY RADIO ACT, which has been sent to the Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Now is the time to contact your congressman that you want the FCC to offer communities this license. You can go to and read the bill. at and put "local community radio act" in their search engine. It will allow communities to obtain a license to broadcast on radio without having to seek advertisers and open the community to serve the public interest, offer diversity in news and opinions, preserve and promote cultural dialogue, and encourage competition.

Also send letters or contact to our FCC Commissioners, Michael Copps. supporting this bill.

This LP FM license was set up in 1999 and 817 licenses were granted. Then here comes the National Broadcast Association complaining that these radios interfered with their FM stations and the FCC stopped accepting applications in 2003 to have hearings.

After two years and the expenditure of over two million dollars in taxpayer money to conduct a study, the broadcaster's concerns were demonstrated to be unsubstantiated.

In New Mexico, there are 12 licensed LP FM stations--seven are owned by evangelical churches, two by the Catholic church. There are zero licenses to communities that offer public access to radio. I want to see a LP FM radio station in my community. I am willing to donate $1000 which will purchase the equipment. We need a building or a room in someone's business, a radio sender, and an antenna that could be mounted on the rooftop of the ordinary house.

Anyone interested in this topic, write me.

Georgia @ 8:36 am -- We weren't trying to make a partisan point. The broader issue is that all communities, regardless of the prevailing political sentiments, are lacking local programming. LPFM stations serve progressives and conservatives alike -- and that, in my opinion, is as it should be.

One aspect of the total control of media in America that was not clearly mentioned; although it was hinted at is that the consolidation of communication tools in the hands of a couple of corporations has brought about a total takeover of our government itself. We are no longer a government of the people by the people and for the people. Instead we are a corporate government, wholly owned by the big corporations and working for the benefit of those corporations. We the people have been relegated to the position of human flotsam; that is we are nameless slaves put to labor for the profit of these corporations and without voice or redress. We have all but lost the nation and you still will not come out and simply SAY IT. But we all know it is true. It is time to strip corporations of their phony designation as "citizens". Everyone knows, including the lawmakers that a corporation is a legal structure and NOT A LIVING ENTITY. If corporations WERE living entities, they could not be bought and sold in America because THAT is slavery.

We need to put this government out of office by any means possible.

Over the years I have noticed the lid going down on the internet. The Corporate attitude I talk you listen give us money keep your opinions to yourself syndrome. At least for now we can enjoy the freedom of feedback and collaboration. Reinvent the two way street of the public interest of America.Thank you Bill Moyers

It is great to parse out all the pros and cons of our current radio landscape. And it's great to read of the verbal support for LPFM. One concrete thing we can do right now is translate that support into concrete dollars to help keep WQRZ-LP and Mr. Phillips on the air. Here's the link to the donation page."

Dear Mr. Moyers,
After watching last night’s broadcast on the United State’s aimless strategy of media development, I am reminded of some needed language reform. The term “free market” does not reflect today’s economic and policy structure that allows corporate giants to consume newspapers, radio, TV and now internet sites wholesale. As has been pointed out many times, Adam Smith’s free market required equal access to capital and information, which every citizen can see violated today. “Free Market” sounds like a courtyard fountain where I would let my children skip and play; I would not abandon small FM radio stations like KQRZ in this pool, and fortunately lifeguards like commissioner Cobb have thrown them a floatation device. Continually using this term unfairly links our populist political system (democracy) to a profiteering economic system (capitalism). This does not serve the public interest.
I believe in the power of words. It is time for a new term describing our economic system that reflects giant corporations consuming smaller ones through whatever tactic they imagine. My suggestions are “predatory market”, or “shark’s market”. This would satisfy conservative linguist Frank Luntz because it better reflects the conditions of today’s transactions, which was his stated goal when interviewed by Terry Gross. As well we need a popular term, perhaps “reined market,” that describes an economic system that is vital, strong and serves the public. Whatever the terms, they need to be consistently used to shift public perception toward taming a system that’s on the prowl and eating the little guy every day. I hope you will use appropriate words in your tireless quest for free and smart speech.
Sincerely, Allen Doyle

This program was very good but didn't go far enough. There was no mention of the struggles of progressive talk radio from syndicators like Air America, Jone and Nova against the big media owners like Clear Channel. In several large markets, progressive talk has done well enough to double or triple the ratings of the stations' previous formats and yet the formats have been flipped back to such programming as sports news. Many of these format flips occurred around the time of or since the 2006 elections, and it's obvious that there was a political agenda in spite of the owners' claims of concerns with profits. The ratings at many of these "flipped" stations have since reverted to much lower figures than those of progressive talk, and the owners are not talking about it. Media consolidation is actively stifling dissent on the airwaves, and I would be pleased to see another Moyers program dedicated to this subject.

Consolidation of the media has turned us into the Soviet Union. I thought it an excellent point, made by FCC Chairman Cobb, that people heard of a meeting by listening to the BBC.

It is hard to get real news in the states any more.

I worked in journalism when there was a Fairness Doctrine. We HAD to put different, varying, even conflicting view on the airwaves.

We need to have that back.

That's when news was news, not infotainment. That's when radio was radio and not all right wing talk shows.

These are public airwaves and I urge everyone to write to the FCC. I notice Mr. Cobb said hearings were going on but not where to write.

If anyone knows, please post the information.

The fact they are even open to considering letting us hear the views of more than four bohemoth media conglomerates (I believe it is down to four, or is it still five?) is really essential.

Thanks for raising this issue, Bill Moyers!

"Of the people, by the people, and for the people..." these inspirational words were said by a past US president. Free press is a right that is guarenteed by our US Constition. But in reality it, like any right, is not truly free. It takes eternal vigalence to pass that right to the next generation. I can not accept that our children and grandchildren will read that our air and radio waves had a "For Sale to the elite rich and therefore powerful?" That everything has been gone to a CEO and left not even crumbs for a small businessperson to buy and get a piece of their American dream is simply wrong. We are a country of the dollar sign, or are we? I wonder how much the truth, justice, or the public's voice is worth, in ten years?

What happens when the people's voice is silenced because the mic was turned off? Or if the camera turns away from the person who is trying to tell their story. I have come to learn that everyone has a story. The real consequence is us, the public. Because then a "free press" costs us our freedom, voice, but worse the TRUTH! I firmly believe that a company or corporation can not and should not be the Vanderbelt or gatekeeper for gateway that informs the American people what is going on in OUR America. A FCC report even stated from early 2003 or 2004, I believe, that towns and other communities would truly benifit from local TV stations being owned and operated by the communities themselves. This report was rejected by the past FCC commissioner and that bad press is what forced his resingnation. Who is going to check the truth when a network that has a story that can smear the owning company or the CEO? The business giants have come and will always be with us, the choice is will we stand up and load our slingshot to check them and defend the real TRUTH?

An important element that I have not heard yet goes back to the time when the constitution was written. At that time there were many newspapers published in every large city plus small towns had at least one. With this large number of newspapers being published the diversity of opinions was large and generated discussion within the population. My understanding is that the framers the constitution counted on this combination to guarantee an informed voting public. One of their fundamental building blocks was that a well informed population would always choose the best path for our country. With the reduction to the number of sources of opinions through the consolidation of media ownership we may have eliminated one important block from foundation on which on the constitution was built.
I believe this alone gives enough reason to support the expansion of the program for more locally owned FM radio stations.

This ballyho program over LPFM is symptomatic of the failure of "public media" to keep up on the actual situation. All media is public media. Coming soon is further blurring of the lines between media and propaganda. There are things happening NOW that will sculpt the American psyche in coming decades. Moyers knows not about them , from his illusion to a seperation between broadcasting and the Internet. At issue is the emergence "new media" that is decades coming; multipoint distribution services, or WiFi mesh networks.
There was, to my recollection, no mention of the FCC's 700 Mhz broadcast spectrum auction upcoming in January 2008. Nor anything about the "white space" reassignment of spectrum, favored buy Google, to provide us all with FREE High Speed Internet access. Nor a word about the notion given today, in industry publications, that video is already "clogging up" the Internet.
The price tag to play in these areas, thanks to FCC actions during and since Regan, is way beyond reasonableness; so it is of paramount public interest that the FCC insure "the public interest" is served directly here.
I see no indication that the mental log-jam and "black box" mentality is about to change.
The lip service given by Moyers, Karr, Sussaman, and Commissioner Cobb to "the open discussion of issues" and "benefits of such discussion" may give our Republic is moot and a little silly. It is inconsequential, and serves only feeds segway to further pitch for more money to endorse the power that nearly killed LPFM. Who is PBS anyway?
LPFM is not the issue. Content is. New Media looks to me like Old Media until something new happens. And the question is. "Will it?"
It is simplistic to say that mega-media restricts thought. It homogenizes it. And this nothing new. The only thing new is the restrictions of media have been liberated; print now has infinite space and live media has eternal time...on the Internet.
"The Big Black Boxes;" ATT, Clear Channel, WalMart, Home Depot and the other Big Boxes; remain as obstacles to anything that may alter their market share. And New Media may do this if the FCC finds "the political will" to do the right thing and actually act "in the public interest." Only this may provide a means to realize any sense of right this great nation needs to conduct itself in a manner that re-initiates a rebirth of personal and public righteousness. The majority of leadership over the past 20 years has all but murdered that concept.
The new "bottom line" has to do with real domestic terrorism. When the consequences of hurtfull media become motivation to action, we may see in this country far worse than we see today in Iraq. While I do not want to engage in or experience violence, nor do I endorse it, I do warn of precursors already in play. At this rate, it may soon become, like suicide bombers, a political necessity. And the conduct of media takes the Lion's Share of the blame. But not all of it.
This year's overly expensive and long Presidential election becomes more tedious as buzz word issues are commonly realized to have absolutely nothing to do with what everyday American life needs now. And the few issues that don't play on individual emotionalism will be measured as too controversial; when the utter lack of such wisdom is the very root of the entire problem.
There is only one real issue: weather or not government is going to build out our collective needed infrastructure; like, for example, muni-WiFi or WiMAX mesh structures.
We may then talk to each other in a public manner for a token cost, with high degrees of security, and via channels that need not depend on formatting according to commercial needs.
The rest is bullroar and will make good movie plots but terrible politics.

Rick, thanks for your amazing building-code and zoning analogy -- I usually use a somewhat convoluted description of the restrictions with coffee-cans and quarters, it comes out much worse. For those who want a good summary of the study that the FCC commissioned -- the 2.2 million dollar, taxpayer-funded study that proves that there's plenty of room for low power FM radio, check out our 2-page summary of it -- -- "The Facts are In".

Tony -- thanks for posting the link to WQRZ -- which needs our help right now. Hundreds of other low power FM radio stations make ends meet with creative grants, community fund drives, membership pledges and more, but few are dealing with the adversity that Brice must handle now and for the forseeable future.

Mr. Moyer...
The problem with broadcast conglomerates is the fact they only have one concern,
their STOCKHOLDERS. Having
been involved in commercial broadcasting for 27 years, I've seen it first hand. Companies like ClearChannel & Viacom (now CBS Radio once again), will come into a radio station & immediately start cutting operating costs (i.e.veteran broadcasters who've honed their crafts & talents to be good enough to work in major markets & thus be PAID commensurately FOR that talent are fired or forced to work more hours...CUTTING the number of full time emloyees to avoid paying decent wages & health insurance as well as a general shift in priorities from QUALITY to REVENUE, whoring out the air-tme to squeeze in as many commercials as possible
(24+ minutes per broadcast hour).
Combine that with the NAB
(which is actually just a schill for corporate broadcast companies) putting
millions of dollars behind lobbying efforts to create
legislation to force independent radio stations
out of the business.
What really suprised me was
finding out that NPR was involved in the attempt to
limit or stop low power non-commercial radio staions from getting licenses...It's
As a former program director
of an NPR affiliate & Public
Radio advocate...I'm sickened & disappointed by
NPR'S current corporate attitudes & policies. Needless to say, I won't be sufferng through another NPR pledge drive.

Will @ 11:01 pm -- You're right about WRIR-LP, of course. And there are a few others in more densely-populated areas: Nashville, Spokane, and a few others.

The rules about LPFM are arcane, but imagine this analogy: a street in a new subdivision with the land alongside it divided into evenly-spaced lots. If the street is the FM band, each lot is a potential spot for a station, and its "address" is its frequency.

The "building code" specifies how far apart stations can be. You can imagine full-power stations -- commercial or noncommercial -- as huge homes that take up the entire lot on which they're built. So the "code" requires a lot of empty lots between them. LPFMs are smaller, so they need less space.

The FCC's original plan was to allow LPFMs to go on the air with only two "empty lots" between them and existing stations. In other words, wherever there were at least five "empty lots" in a row (e.g. a station at 91.1 and the next at 92.3, with 91.3, 91.5, 91.7, 91.9, and 92.1 vacant), an LPFM could go on the air.

Congress compromised when the NAB and NPR complained by increasing the number of "empty lots" to three. That meant there had to be at least seven vacant frequencies in a row to allow an LPFM.

In most cities and suburban areas, there simply are no such gaps. But not in all of them, as you note. The bills that are pending in Congress would go back to the original proposal by the FCC, consequently allowing many more stations to start broadcasting in more densely-populated areas.

Thanks to Will from WRIR for bringing up the great work that WRIR-LP does in Richmond, Virginia. It's one of the very few LPFM stations that serves a major metropolitan area -- because Congress limited the low power FM radio service back in 2000. I also really appreciate everyone else's comments about how media consolidation has impacted them. Though each station is small -- broadcasting at 100 watts or less, and covering about five miles circumference, Brice Phillips and WQRZ make it clear that each voice matters locally. I know that the viewers of _Bill Moyers Journal_ have the inspiration and passion to build a media system that they own.

We can work to stop big media -- and we can build thousands more low power FM raido stations, in America's big cities. Visit, or, to get started.

So many thanks to Rick Karr, Bill Moyers and the producers at the Journal, and to Brice Phillips and the thousands of people working to build low power FM radio stations every day.

Ruth @ 10:24 pm -- The FCC isn't the problem -- at least, not with regard to LPFM. As Hannah and I said on the show tonight, the Commissioners seem to be unanimous in their support. But the FCC can't issue new licenses by fiat; Congress set the rules at the beginning, so Congress must act again to allow the FCC to issue more licenses.

I had almost forgotten about LPFM radio stations---I had figured that the big boys had quashed that idea like a bug under the foot of an elephant--I am glad that some did come into existence.

I plan to contact my Congressman and US Senators to urge them to support this legislation--I also think I might try to see if I can get one started in my community should the legislation passes and new licenses are granted.

I sure hate the way commercial radio stations have been "Clear Channeled"

Dave wrote on August 24, 2007 at 10:57 PM---"...If it is a good thing to encourage Americans to voice opinions on local issues through the airways that are suppose to belong to us any way, then why in the world is it not a good thing to have our wonderful, volunteer(professional) armies fighting for the same freedoms in Irag? I'm sorry but I do not get the difference..."
Eh, does death count?

So subtle the connection between the conglomerate media and the news on Iraq. When the NY Times published the essay from the soldiers in the field I watched and waited for CNN or MSNBC to cover it. I believe it should have been a big story - first hand impressions by soldiers fighting and the implication that our soldiers were being killed or comprimised by the "so called ally Iraq security force and police". If they mentioned it I cannot say with certainty, but I can say I never heard CNN or MSNBC address the soldiers essay. What I heard that really upset me was Ari Fleshier speaking to Joe Scarborough agreeing that the situation in Iraq is "going so well". I don't read or pay any attention to the Murdoch media but it would seem that NBC (GE), Time Warner (CNN) and ABC (Disney) did not cover this story.

Where was it that a noxious cloud was moving toward a population? A train wreck I think. Emergency authorities went to the radio stations to get the word out. There was no one there. Of 3 or 5 stations that were supposed to "serve" a large market area, all were 'canned' electric feeds from afar. These public airwaves were totally subservient to the owners' desires and demands, and useless to the public in a time of dire need.
Fascism relies on propaganda to delude people into cooperating in the destruction of their neighbors so that when the fascists come to destroy their helpers they have no one to rally with and resist. Media is part and parcel of representative Constitutional democracy, the American experiment in human freedom and dignity. "They" are steadily usurping the people's ownership of the airwaves to advance the fascist agenda. All major media changed ownership in the 1980's. There used to be two newspapers in most large cities. Now there's one. The fascist noose tightens with control of the sources of facts, as they become the suppliers of fiction, controllers of the power to influence people to participate in America's destruction in the guise of defense of their nations, employing the pseudo-right- eousness of their perverted version of religion.
The truth is the first casualty of war because the fascists know they can't succeed if the truth is known. It's hard to fool people who are well-read. Most people are too busy trying to keep gas in their cars, food on their tables, not lose their homes, to stay healthy, to be well-read. They rely on their representatives in government to protect them. Yet many in government seem to be less well-read than the average American. They listen to the propaganda media, the government organs like Rupert Murdoch's empire, and take briefings from the fascists as their sources. They don't know the people they're supposed to represent and don't listen to them when they do meet them. In a time of universal deceit, George Orwell wrote, speaking truth is a revolutionary act. Fascists won't tolerate revolutionaries, in broadcast media, in the streets, or in "their" government. We're in great jeopardy. Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of their country.

On the show Mr. Moyers made the point that low-power FM doesn't serve urban areas. While Richmond, Virginia may not be a big urban area, WRIR 96.3 does an excellent all-volunteer job, reaches at least 300,000 listeners, and is now the official emergency broadcast outlet for the City.

Yes, yes yes....
I am 100% behind this push to open up the airways to the public and make these low power FM stations available to the average citizen. No corporate buyers should be allowed to purchase these low power license and only local, non-profits should be allowed to obtain them. This is the only way to insure open and HONEST discussion on all topics that affect the grass roots folks.

What I don't understand is how PBS can air a story about the free air ways but on the same show slant the Irag war and our successes there. What is the deal? You are either for freedom (low power FM and grass roots communications) or you are against it! If it is a good thing to encourage Americans to voice opinions on local issues through the airways that are suppose to belong to us any way, then why in the world is it not a good thing to have our wonderful, volunteer(professional) armies fighting for the same freedoms in Irag? I'm sorry but I do not get the difference. Either freedom is a positive thing and worth fighting and dieing for, or it is not. MAKE UP YOUR FRICKIN MIND!

In Philadelphia, a decade ago, Comcast
was given carte blanche with the provision that it allow for public access stations.
To this date, Comcast is still making a
profit on what was supposed to be public access stations. And City Council and the Mayor have done NOTHING to make Comcast comply or even reimburse the public for their illegal profits.

Make sure you urge the FCC to go back to the license renewal system- there are 14 guidelines they must meet. Number 1 should be: expand low power FM so even the smallest community has information it needs for survival d on their radios.

Make sure you urge the FCC to go back to the license renewal system- there are 14 guidelines they must meet. Number 1 should be: expand low power FM so even the smallest community has information it needs for survival d on thier radios.

Manufacturing Consent-The Political Economy of the Mass Media; Noam Chomsky, was published in 1988. He was ignored then as he is today. "A phrophet in his own land..."

That is terrible news about small radio stations (the heartbeat of local community and news/info) drying up b/c these titan insurance companies snap them up. Also about the FCC - I hate them.

Post a comment

THE MOYERS BLOG is our forum for viewers' comments intended for discussing and debating ideas and issues raised on BILL MOYERS JOURNAL. THE MOYERS BLOG invites you to share your thoughts. We are committed to keeping an open discussion; in order to preserve a civil, respectful dialogue, our editors reserve the right to remove or alter any comments that we find unacceptable, for any reason. For more information, please click here.

A Companion Blog to Bill Moyers Journal

Your Comments


THE JOURNAL offers a free podcast and vodcast of all weekly episodes. (help)

Click to subscribe in iTunes

Subscribe with another reader

Get the vodcast (help)

For Educators    About the Series    Bill Moyers on PBS   

© Public Affairs Television 2008    Privacy Policy    DVD/VHS    Terms of Use    FAQ