The 2013 LPFM Cohort: Organizing the Next Generation of Community Radio Stations in the United States

Abstract: In February of 2016, KXSU-LP 102.1 FM became the first new non-profit/educational radio station to turn on their transmitter in the greater Seattle area. This student-run station in the basement of a university dorm is one of 12 new Low Power FM stations in the Seattle area (1), organized as a “cohort” for sharing resources, trainings, and experience.

But Seattle is not alone. We are now reaching the end of a national wave of new low-power FM radio stations – over 1400 of them in urban areas across the United States (2, 3). Coming on the heels of over 700 new LPFMs licensed in rural areas, the “Local Community Radio Act” marked the end of the largest window of opportunity in the United States for new non-commercial/educational FCC licenses since the 1970’s.

This paper presents the Puget Sound Community Radio Cohort as an example of what we call a “cohort” approach to organizing regional community media resources. Instead of focusing on connecting individual stations with grants, training resources or volunteers, the cohort model seeks to build relationships between stations by addressing their shared needs together. Positioned within a corporate social responsibility program and a state university, the co-authors drew on their institutional resources to coordinate a learning community of stations through the application, building and organizational development stages of the process. Drawing on specific examples from the case, we focus on the principles and practices that the case offers for fostering vibrant regional media ecologies in other contexts.

Bio: Amoshaun Toft is an activist, educator, and researcher at the University of Washington Bothell where he works in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. He has been organizing, training, and making programming for community radio for over 20 years, and he currently advises the campus/community student-run station, UWave Radio.

Bio: Sabrina Roach worked at Seattle public and community radio stations for eleven years in development, community engagement, and production. For seven years she was the national director for Brown Paper Ticket’s social responsibility work in public interest media and technology.

Toft, A. & Roach, S. “The 2013 LPFM Cohort: Organizing the next generation of community radio stations in the United States.” Paper presented at the ECREA Radio Research Conference, 19-21 September, 2019, University of Siena, Italy.

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