Over the weekend I chatted with Peg Nolan, formerly of the People's Food Co-op, now living in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area of North Carolina. Peg told me about their fantastic Low Power FM station, WCOM-FM, community radio.
This is what we desperately need in La Crosse!
When Wisconsin Public Radio ate the local public radio station, WLSU many years ago, we lost a lot. Few stations have a local focus. WIZM-AM provides local programming and talk in the mornings, but most of its programming is canned right wing propaganda, from Rush to Hannity and some nutso religious money guy who castigates callers for having credit card debt in the evenings. (But do listen to Coast to Coast AM at midnight.)
WLSU provides a few local programs in the mornings and volunteer DJ jazz on weekends, but there's hardly anything about the local music scene and few programs about local issues. Other radio stations provide mostly canned music or sports talk.
I've been trying to get Democracy Now!, an award-winning daily news program, on the free airwaves in La Crosse for years. No go. Not enough break time to make money, said one commercial station (they weren't interested in play for pay, either.) I won't air anything that doesn't "support the troops," said another local broadcaster (code for "buy into rightwing newspeak").
BUT, with a local LPFM station, not only could we broadcast DN! daily to thousands in La Crosse, but we could broadcast other free speech programming, news and analysis kept off the commercial airwaves, programs about local music, local youth issues, events, history, women's issues, health issues, recreation and sports, ... the sky's the limit.
A few years ago, the La Crosse School District was granted a LPFM license, but because they didn't construct the required facility within 18 months of the granting of the license, they lost it.
The Prometheus Radio Project provides help for local groups wishing to apply for licenses. Their online document, Organizing Your Station, gives a good overview of equipment needed. There's a lot more info out there.
Anyone interested in getting a start on an LPFM community radio station? Email me.