Archive | July, 2004

Bringing the National to the Local

I’m really pleased that my local community radio station, WEFT, had decided to run alternative Democratic National Convetion coverage from Pacifica. But what pleases me more is that WEFT’s Programming Committee [PC] decided to add a local call-in show to the mix.

Rather than just have listeners call and talk to hosts, Kimberlie Kranich, the PC’s chair, did an excellent job of lining up representatives from the local Democratic, Republican and Green parties for the call-in each night, Monday – Friday. I hosted Monday’s show, which only went OK. Not much had happened, since the convention didn’t really kick off until the evening, and two of my guests–the Republican and the Democrat–were not particularly interested in taking specific stands on issues like the protestor pen; they mostly made platitudes about the need for discourse, but also the need for security.

Also, the call-in program only runs a half-hour, which doesn’t seem to be long enough, since it takes 10 – 15 minutes to get everyone warmed up. The folks we’re interviewing are not necessarily accustomed to being interviewed, and it seems to take listeners about that long to decide to call in.

Producing this type of programming is not easy, and Kimberlie at WEFT has done a good job. WEFT already plans to do similar programming during the RNC, perhaps with a longer call-in segment. Since our local IMC will probably send journalists to cover the RNC and the surrounding protests, I’m hoping we can integrate reports from them into WEFT’s RNC programming.

It may seem obvious that a community radio station should be doing this sort of programming, but at smaller stations like WEFT, most jobs are done by volunteers, requiring an extra dose of dedication and effort to pull these things off. Station size and revenue is largely a function of the community’s size, since stations primarily rely on listener pledge drive revenue. So stations in bigger communities often can afford to pay a part or full-time news director whose job it is to produce this kind of programming.

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LPFM Bill Passes Senate Commerce Committee

Early reports say that the Senate Commerce Committe passed the bill to restore low-power FM by voice vote this morning.

Strangely, the Committee also passed an amendment excepting the state of New Jersey, submitted by Sen. Lautenberg, apparently because the Senator believes Jersey is more susceptible to interference problems because it is the most densely populated state in the country. As a former Jersey-boy, let me tell you that there are many little towns and isolated exurbs around the state that could use a true non-profit community station squeezed in between the mammoth commercial blowtorches blasting in from New York City and Philadelphia. Thus, I doubt the need for such an exception, and the validity of Lautenberg’s interference fears. Seems to me that the NJ broadcasters were probably leaning on him for some protectionism, especially since they suffer from competing with the bigger NYC and Philly stations.

Now the bill is off to the Senate floor for further deliberation and vote. A passage in the Senate seems more likely than a vote and passage in the House, the leadership of which has been much more hostile to any sort of media reform effort.

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