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Pirate Radio Goes Legit

The FCC is poised to license community radio stations in the Bay Area for the first time, and the competition promises to be fierce.



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Based on the response to the first round of LPFM licensing ten years ago, the competition in these coming months will be heated. The FCC considers each applicant based on a scorecard that looks at a community's need for a unique voice and at the general organization of the nonprofit applying — considerations that could favor an organization like Alameda Community Radio, which has been preparing for the past two years.

But these very considerations also have tended to favor churches and religious organizations, which have built-in audiences and tend to have strong organizational track records. In the last round of licensing, roughly half of the licenses issued were given to religious organizations. The FCC even split one license in Madison, Wisconsin between two applicants — a church and a group of self-declared secular progressives. The two groups split the day with twelve hours of programming each. Progressives follow the church group's programming with an "atheist hour." Of 61 existing LPFM stations in California, 27 were given to churches, including stations like KKJD, hosted by Borrego Springs Christian Center, and KCYC in Yuba City, which is run by North Valley Calvary Chapel.

But Alameda Community Radio does have one unique competitive edge in its application: It already has infrastructure for a radio station. Several decades ago, KJAZ, a once-popular music station, broadcast from the island's western edge. In 1994, though, the station was purchased by a Texas corporation and eventually moved. But the antenna is still standing, unused, near the library where the group currently meets. According to Galleymore, the owner is excited to rent it out again.

Galleymore admits that her group had begun to lose steam over the past year as the FCC remained vague about when it would begin to consider applications. But now that deadlines are being announced, Galleymore is seeing a return of enthusiasm. "Everyone wants to host their own program," she said, laughing. "It is really exciting."

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