Attempting to Hijack Low Power Community Radio

Ideas and Issues

2010_May_432_750New Orleans    There has been virtually radio silence about the rush of applications from hopeful communities around the country hoping to build low power radio stations under the new opening by the FCC for applications.   The deadline recently passed, and more than 1000 applications were filed, which would seem like good news, but might be both more and less than that as people try to get a voice in their cities.  

Corresponding with Peter Franck, a veteran Bay Area lawyer and low power radio advocate, he may have put it best looking forward:

“…by March 1 we won’t know final outcome.   What we will know is how many real community groups filed and how many phony cookie cutter applications there are from right wing…and evangelical groups.  Then one of the tasks…will be to help the true community groups file petitions against the phony ones, since there is so little spectrum space ….”

For some folks there’s already good news and some signs that the FCC may be moving faster than usual.  Our friends in Fayetteville, Arkansas, who have been trying to put together a community radio station for years were a “singleton,” meaning the sole applicant for an available frequency, so know that they are finally winners.   Meeting in New Orleans at Fair Grinds Coffeehouse with other area nonprofit applications who like AM/FM had filed for low power frequencies, all of us had competition of one sort or another with only the Vietnamese application being a singleton.   Robert Dunn, head of the media department for Delgado Community College, couldn’t help feeling outrage as a victim of the “cookie cutters” who are trying to hijack the process and block legitimate access.

One of the local applications was filed by the notorious Hispanic Christian Community Network and its president Antonio Cesar Guel.  This network of 40 existing low power stations incorporated all of the applications on one day late in October as nonprofits in Texas and filed a total of 245 applications, hoping, I assume, to bullrush the FCC into scoring another 20 or 30 by mucking up the process.  Recnet, a radio consulting and engineering company, filed an “informal” objection with the FCC to “flag” this strategy citing the following problems with the applications:

  • Identical phone numbers for all of these organizations,
  • Identical e-mail addresses for all of these organizations (Cesar Guel),
  • Identical educational statements for all of these organizations,
  • In some cases, main studios in gated communities, apartment complexes and non-existent addresses.
  • All applications, despite the physical state are incorporated in the state of Texas.  This is despite many states requiring “foreign” non-profit organizations to also register in their own state.

M&M Community Development Corporation also seems to have filed about 100 applications, one of which is also blocking Delgado’s application.  Fraught with errors, including saying they were located in Gretna, VA not LA, substituting Virginia for Louisiana, this outfit already has stations around Atlanta and Boston along with Lafayette and some low power television in Texas, so is using the same tactics.  They will lose but the delays could be costly and take years.

Even when there is an open window, some folks still believe the only way to stop communities is to try and breakthrough a back wall when they can’t fairly walk through the front door by the rules.