Radio World - September 12, 2012 - (Page 30)
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Optimism Infuses Grassroots Conference
September 12, 2012
As LPFM Filing Window Approaches, Community Radio Convenes in Midwest
Manager Cathy Melio, grassroots radio stations are often characterized by a “volunteer-powered, consensus-oriented, community-involved model” and generally feature an eclectic range of programs. I traveled to Champaign-Urbana by train from Chicago and made my way to the conference site. Housed in a historic post office in Urbana, the UrbanaChampaign Independent Media Center is a large, all-purpose space containing a tiny studio for community radio station WRFU(FM), along with public computers, production and art studios, a library and meeting rooms. Functioning post office boxes still line the walls across from the radio station and the main room features grand pieces of three-dimensional artwork overlooking the cavernous space. I arrived just in time to catch a screening of the film “Corporate FM” followed by a question-and-answer session with director Kevin McKinney. When I’d spoken with McKinney via email in April, I’d asked him if he was a radio activist; he demurred, saying that he associated that term with hippies “who only [care] about LPFM.”
A sign on the front steps of the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center welcomes community radio enthusiasts from across the U.S.
Norman Stockwell makes himself heard at a ‘Get on the Air Clinic’ at the GRC Conference.
By Jennifer Waits
Some 150 community radio practitioners and supporters convened at the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center in Illinois in late July for the annual Grassroots Radio Conference. Formed 16 years ago, the Grassroots Radio Coalition is a loose-knit group involved with and concerned about community radio. The GRC held its first conference in the summer of 1996, spearheaded by station leaders at KGNU(AM/FM) in Boulder, Colo., and WERU(FM) in Blue Hill, Maine. According to a treatise written by former KGNU Station Manager Marty Durlin and former WERU General
Although McKinney acknowledged that he likes the idea of low-power FM, he explained that, “Any ‘penny-whistle’ sized signal is too small to do what commercial FM should be doing … I don’t see it unifying a large enough population to shape and establish a unique style of a city’s music and culture.” Since much of the Grassroots Radio Conference agenda was focused on LPFM, I was eager to see how the film would be received. “Corporate FM” focuses primarily on commercial radio and the effects of consolidation, as well as what the director sees as the role of private equity firms in the reduction in the number of local
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