Community Radio Poised for a Big Comeback as Activists Free the Airwaves
Tuesday, 17 April 2012 11:30 By Mike Ludwig, Truthout
For several years, Luis Avila produced an acclaimed youth radio show in the Phoenix, Arizona, area that tackled everything from Latino-American culture to immigration reform, teen pregnancy and the fight to ensure undocumented students can receive college scholarships. Avila’s show, “El Break,” went off the air three years ago after the station that hosted Avila and his friends as guests ran out of money and was sold. After unsuccessfully looking for another host station, Avila and a coalition of immigrant rights groups decided to work toward launching their own community radio station to put “El Break” back on the air and provide more programs to serve their community, but federal regulators have not approved any lower-power FM radio stations – the non-commercial kind used exclusively by nonprofit groups and governments to serve a local area – in more than a ten years. But that’s all about to change.
After a decade-long grassroots campaign waged by community radio advocates, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is preparing to make room on the airwaves for hundreds of new low-power stations across the country. Avila said the opportunity comes at a crucial time. His community has suffered while living under the watch of rogue Sheriff Joe Arpaio and dealing with the harsh realities of tough anti-immigrant laws recently passed in Arizona.
“We have seen more and more harassment and intimidation of all Spanish-speaking families, not only of undocumented families, so we saw a need of doing more outreach to communities,” Avila told reporters in a recent press conference.