WCOM: Important community voice

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday, January 29, 2005

Aided and abetted by the Federal Communications Commission, an ever-shrinking number of corporations control an ever-larger proportion of the media. This has prompted media critic Robert Mc-Chesney to label media reform our most pressing issue, linking the corporate media to misplaced government priorities, a variety of corporate scandals and our troubled campaign finance system.

Recently, McChesney reported optimistically that "the movement to fix our badly broken media system is gathering momentum." He includes in this movement, efforts "to strengthen alternative, independent and non-commercial media." Our area is home to a number of those initiatives, most recently WCOM community radio.

In January 2000, the FCC authorized the licensing of Low Power FM radio stations (LPFM). This opened the door for community and alternative radio, previously pretty much confined to large metropolitan areas, to spring up in small towns across the country.

LPFM allows low-power local stations to use space on the FM band between those spots assigned to the major broadcasters. The FCC regulations stipulate that LPFM is for educational entities and not for those engaged in commercial operations. Given the FCC's apparent commitment to the notion that a handful of corporations should own all the media, it was shocking when the FCC declared that "current broadcast licensees with interests in other media [broadcast or newspapers] are not eligible to obtain LPFM stations."

LPFM also has the potential to remove the heavy hand of the federal government from radio content, turning it to local control. As Jonathan Lawson of the group Reclaim the Media put it, "Imagine thousands of new stations that genuinely represent community standards, with local news, local culture and expanded opportunities for regular people to decide for themselves what should be on the air."

Locally, WCOM (103.5 FM) has been on the air in a limited fashion for a few months now. After an initial run of programmed music, the station now has live DJs starting at 7 p.m. during the week and at 8 a.m. on weekends (look for schedule updates at www.communityradio.coop.) Ultimately, the station will broadcast a mix of music, talk, news and public affairs.

According to Bob Burtman, a member of the programming committee, planned programs include a weekly newsmagazine with rotating hosts focused on Carrboro and a Spanish-language women's health program. WCOM is committed to a goal of 30 percent Spanish-language programming. Burtman considers WCOM's musical emphasis on world and roots music to be somewhat unique to the area.

The station plans to air a couple of hours of syndicated programming daily, in English and Spanish, including Pacifica's Democracy Now.

WCOM says its mission "is to build community through programming and linkages with the people of Carrboro and Chapel Hill." The station should get strong support if Carrboro Poet Laureate Patrick Herron was correct when he referred to the area's majority as composed of "progressives, African Americans, intellectuals, Latinos, GLBTs, artists, environmentalists, activists and so on."

While the idea for LPFM in Carrboro was originally floated by former Alderman Mark Dorosin, it's no surprise to find Ruffin Slater, a founder of Weaver Street Market, playing a major role in WCOM. As with the market, WCOM is very much a community-oriented affair.

"The purpose is to get everyone in the community access to public radio, both as listeners and as producers," Slater said when WCOM received its license from the FCC back in 2002. "We've gotten a lot of great response. We want people to get involved."

WCOM is a volunteer endeavor. Burtman estimates that the core group is currently 15 to 20 strong. Add to that a dozen or so newer volunteers, plus more than 20 DJs, all of whom are also volunteers.

Although one local paper whimsically reported that "all it takes is a transmitter and an antenna," WCOM organizers expect an annual budget of around $50,000, which will include support for a part-time station manager. Like many community radio initiatives, they plan to raise those funds locally. They should find a broad base of support from those who value a radio station for local voices, one free of any commercial agenda.

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Total votes: 156

Comments

I like that sausage pizza at Panzanella
but $45 for poetry is too much for poetry that doesn't rhyme.

Hey, I write poetry that rhymes (at least most times). Not only that it has a meter and syllabics and other little ole bits of prosody going on in 'em too. Will you pay me for it?
If not you can read it for the cost of a News and Observer on Feb 13th or you can read others for free if you like. I can send you links.
That said: there is no requirement by me that other poets follow the same formal restrictions that I find freeing.

Paul,

Please post the links.

Jack,
I don't have your contact info or I'd mail directly to you. I have links to three poems that have a level of formality that you might appreciate and a bit of explanation in this blog entry: http://ibiblio.org/pjones/wordpress/index.php?p=135
The explanation in the blog is more about prosody than content. If they can be disentangled.
Please send a check for $45 to WCOM, if you like them.

Paul,

I like your Lent 2003 poem.

Best, Jack

Is there a way to donate if unable to attend the event?

Here's how to donate to WCOM.

Note: I have updated the original post, replacing the announcement of last night's fundraiser with my column from the 1/29 Chapel Hill Herald.

This may not be the best forum for this, but it's somewhat relevant.

Fress Press is sponsoring the Big Media Hall of Shame. Vote for your choice of "media kingpins who have climbed the ladder of success by placing their own political and business interests ahead of the public good."

I voted for Michael Powell due to his FCC policies that are threatening the growth and development of municipal networks and fertilizing the growth of censorship.
http://www.freepress.net/hallofshame/

FYI, I spoke with Bob Avery, the Town's IT chief, at the MLK celebration and he told me that WCOM was streaming audio from Town Hall's parking lot via the Town's WIFI over the Internet to be broadcast live.

I used the same resource to post my earlier comments to OP.org.

How's that for communications convergence?

 

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