Since Congress and the Federal Communication Commission deregulated broadcasting in the early 1980s, control of radio and TV stations has moved steadily into a handful of multinational corporations. During that same period, ownership of newspapers shifted from families to media giants, so that now there is almost no local ownership of papers in major markets.
But the FCC has taken an action that holds considerable promise to open up communication in local communities. In January it issued a “Report and Order” creating low-power FM radio service whose purpose is “to create broadcasting opportunities for locally based organizations to serve their communities.” The proposal makes licenses available for more than 1,000 low-power FM radio stations—licenses that can be held only by local, community-based nonprofit entities; no commercial groups need apply. This is a landmark decision, one which can result in a significant democratizing of communication.