“Our mission, as an organization, is to facilitate free speech through access to media,” said Lauree McArdle of WERA in Arlington, VA.
“We really wanted to expand the imaginative possibilities of what could be on the radio,” said Mike Yates of WAYO in Rochester.
“Our goal is to get the community to start talking together again,” said Caitlin Reading of Riverwest Radio in Milwaukee and a coordinator of the Grassroots Radio Conference in Albany.
All three were among the panelists in a roundtable late Saturday afternoon in the conference, an annual national gathering being hosted this year by the WCAA-LP 107.3 FM, the new low-power station run out of Grand Street Community Arts.
“It is a loose, tight-knit group of people that unofficially put this conference on every year,” said Musa Zwana, station manager of WCAA, which stands for “Community, Arts and Activism.” “Like, there isn’t an official body… It’s a bunch of people that do community radio.”
WCAA started broadcasting at 100 watts eight months ago — roughly three years after being approved by the Federal Communications Commission. (The Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy was licensed for its low-power station, WOOC 105.3, around the same time. )
The only other FCC window for low-power license applications occurred 13 years earlier. “It’s grown incredibly” since then, said Donna Dibianco, a radio-station consultant based in Florida. “It’s blossomed into a vibrant, self-sustaining movement that, tended to properly, will endure.”
Michelle Bradley, an LPFM advocate who tracks numbers on the low-power movement, said the movement “has changed substantially” over the years, particularly after the Local Community Radio Act of 2010 opened up low-power licenses to urban areas. According to Bradley, 738 stations are still licensed from the original application process in 2000. An additional 1,282 exist from the 2013 window.
On the panel, radio advocates who launched new stations in the 2013 wave characterized LPFM as both empowering and timely.
“Who would have thunk that radio would make us relevant in 2017?,”said McArdle. “But it is. And the communities embrace us.”