LPFM: The Mess in Madison; Further Footnotes to FRSC Raid

When Congress initially eviscerated the FCC’s LPFM service four years ago, I was living in Madison, Wisconsin. There, with the stroke of President Clinton’s pen, the number of open frequencies available for new LPFM stations went from something like 16 to three.
Of the applicants to tender requests for an LPFM license in Madison: one individual applied for one open frequency; a church applied for another; and seven groups applied for the third channel.
The FCC has finally granted construction permits to those entities eligible to go on the air. However, as the seven groups essentially came to a draw in the FCC’s “points system” for determining the winner in competitive situations like theirs, the license will be divided up between each group.
Health Writers, Inc., the Center for Prevention and Intervention, Common Ground Church, Cornerstone Church, St. Matthews Evangelical Lutheran Church, Sun Prairie Community Church, and Youth With A Mission, Inc. have all been granted construction permits to build an LPFM station on 99.1 MHz. Each group may broadcast for a single year before having to cede the airwaves to another group (normally LPFM licenses run for eight years).
Meanwhile, Lake City Church is sitting pretty, having filed for 97.1 by itself. This is, I believe, the first time such a messy competing-applicant situation has actually led to a license being divvied up into such short increments.
Some followups to last week’s Freak Radio raid: rumor has it that not only did the Santa Cruz Police Department not participate in the bust, but they actually issued parking tickets to FCC/Federal Marshals vehicles – for being parked too long on the street outside the bust location. Reaction to the raid continues to trickle in, including a resolution of support from the Pacifica radio network (in tribute to both Freak Radio and KFAR).
And one final factual correction: FRSC is not the nation’s longest-running microradio station. That distinction falls to Mbanna Kantako and Human Rights Radio in Springfield, Illinois, which went on the air in 1987 and still broadcasts today. He has suffered two raids during this time – the first one in 2000, after 13 years on the air – and bounced back from both.