Bid To Revive Community Radio Stalls In Senate For the past decade, a coalition of advocacy groups has been asking Congress to let hundreds of new community radio stations go on the air. Supporters of the idea -- from the Christian Coalition and Sen. John McCain, to Move On and Sen. Maria Cantwell -- say the new stations would do wonders for communities from coast to coast. But the bill to expand community radio is currently stalled in the Senate, the victim of anonymous holds by two or more senators, and supporters worry that even with bipartisan support, the bill may once again die without an up-or-down vote.
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Bid To Revive Community Radio Stalls In Senate

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Bid To Revive Community Radio Stalls In Senate

Bid To Revive Community Radio Stalls In Senate

Bid To Revive Community Radio Stalls In Senate

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For the past decade, a coalition of advocacy groups has been asking Congress to let hundreds of new community radio stations go on the air. Supporters of the idea — from the Christian Coalition and Sen. John McCain, to Move On and Sen. Maria Cantwell — say the new stations would do wonders for communities from coast to coast. But the bill to expand community radio is currently stalled in the Senate, the victim of anonymous holds by two or more senators, and supporters worry that even with bipartisan support, the bill may once again die without an up-or-down vote.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

The measure could increase the number of noncommercial stations broadcasting in the U.S. by nearly a quarter. Media reform advocates say the new stations could do wonders for political and civic discourse, but as Rick Karr reports, the bill won't do anything until it clears a major hurdle in the Senate.

RICK KARR: A few weekends ago, dozens of people came to downtown Hudson, New York, to build a new community radio station.

(SOUNDBITE OF ELECTRIC SAW)

KARR: They cut lumber for studio tables and soundproofing baffles, they screwed together racks to hold broadcasting equipment, and they learned the best way to strip the insulation off of audio cables.

SIEGEL: Yeah, I just - what I do is I just score the edge of the rubber and then sort of twist it back and forth.

KARR: Greene County legislator Bill Lawrence says the area used to have a commercial radio station that actually reported local news.

BILL LAWRENCE: Back when I first became a legislator in the early '80s, we had great reporting, investigative reporting actually, and I thought they did a good job of doing both sides of a story. We lost it. They went regional, and we've sort of lost that local input.

KARR: Lawrence has volunteered as a co-host of the new station's morning show. And in case you're thinking he's some kind of crunchy, touchy-feely hippie, he's a Republican. WGXC's general manager Galen Joseph-Hunter is not, and she says that's the point.

GALEN JOSEPH: He and I couldn't disagree more politically. But he approaches his point of view with respect for others and with humor. And hopefully everyone on the station will have those qualities.

KARR: Michele Combs is senior spokesperson for the Christian Coalition.

MICHELE COMBS: I think that this is really a family issue. It's affecting a lot of good churches and a lot of good schools out there and a lot of people who this is how they get their news, and this is how they get their information.

KARR: Supporters on the left tend to cite what new stations could do for immigrants or underprivileged inner-city communities. Advocates on all sides of the political spectrum see community radio as an antidote to media industry consolidation.

MARIA CANTWELL: And that level of consolidation yields a lot of clout.

KARR: But a couple of anonymous senators have used parliamentary procedure to effectively veto its chances for an up or down vote. Cantwell says it's yet another example of minority rule on Capitol Hill, which happens to lots of bills that have bipartisan support.

CANTWELL: A lot of these bills would pass 98 to two, or, you know, 95 to five, if we got rid of what are called secret holds, where one or two members hold something up really on behalf of some special interest.

KARR: Cantwell says rigorous testing has shown that the trade group's objections are unwarranted. Besides, she says, the need for the new stations outweighs the concerns of broadcasting conglomerates.

CANTWELL: What my constituents, and I think many Americans, want to see is a diversity of voices and an array of information being distributed from radio stations that can have a very, very unique perspective.

KARR: Unidentified People: Ten, nine, eight...

KARR: Unidentified People: Five, four, three, two, one.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

KARR: Unidentified Woman #1: Transmission.

KARR: For NPR News, I'm Rick Karr.

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