Locally Grown Radio | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Locally Grown Radio

KPOV launches local news programming

Historically, radio has represented its sense of place better than other forms of media—consider iconic shows like the "Grand Ole Opry" and "A Prairie Home Companion," or even music itself, often labeled the Seattle, Minneapolis or British scene. But over the past 15 years, radio, more than any other medium, has undergone a rapid consolidation of ownership and control. In the mid-1990s, the nation's 10,000 radio stations were owned by some 5,000 entities. By 2008, four companies—most notably, Clear Channel—had gobbled up more than half of the radio waves, and were increasingly replacing locally produced programming with formulated playlists and nationally syndicated talk shows.

Bend's locally owned radio station, KPOV 88.9, launched a new local daily public affairs program, "The Point" but on May 1, it airs weekdays from 9-9:30 am on 88.9 FM and online at kpov.org. The show draws from the character and characters of the region, including interviews with local citizens and organizations, weekly comedy bits from Around the Bend Players, biweekly fly fishing reports, and monthly environmental updates.

Such local programming is a part of a growing countertrend to the massive consolidation of media outlets. In January 2012, President Barack Obama signed into law the Community Radio Act, an order that opens up the airwaves to a batch of 1,000 or so micro-broadcasting stations—or, in FCC parlance, LPFM (low-power FM) stations. The FCC is hammering out details, and applications for those stations should be available later this year.

Like property in a desirable neighborhood, radio frequencies command high prices because demand often outstrips a limited supply; a commercial license easily can run $100,000. At prices like that, local nonprofits cannot compete with big players like Clear Channel. To ensure that noprofits get slivers of the airwaves — which, like federal land, are owned by the people and leased to corporations — the FCC reserves the LPFM licenses for locally owned and managed stations. The cost is nominal. Yet even this effort to reopen the airwaves to local programming is keenly limited: In the last round of applications in 2000—which provided, for example, a station in Woodburn dedicated to migrant farm workers—the FCC was flooded with a reported 10,000 applications for 800 available frequencies. SW

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