Trying to Secure a Spot on the Chicago Radio Dial
By JESSICA CURRY
They don’t know where they’ll be on the dial yet, but CHIRP Radio
starts broadcasting from the web this month. Fighting to get on air as
Chicago’s first low-power FM station, radio renaissance woman and
Chicago Public Radio producer (848) Shawn Campbell started the Chicago
Independent Radio Project about a year ago. There are already some 170
volunteers. The goal: to create a truly local station that captures
what’s been lost in corporate, commercial radio. Sick of too many
commercials, few local songs and programming locked in replay? Tune in
to the up-and-coming CHIRP (www.chirpradio.org
So there isn’t a single radio station available in Chicago. Why is
That’s pretty much the case in all of the top 20 markets. The
dial is really saturated. Low-power FM was actually created to make up
for that, but the fact is that the way they created the low-power FM
service, [the government] put in so many protections for existing
stations that there’s no space allowed for a low-power FM signal in any
of these top 20 markets.
So is that because the big radio stations in a city like Chicago don’t
That’s certainly what we believe, and that’s what we
saw as the result of the way this was presented to Congress when
low-power FM was created in the year 2000, but it’s not what the
National Association of Broadcasters says. Their argument is that they
were afraid when there was talk about creating the service that these
low-power stations would cause interference with full-power stations.
So the National Association of Broadcasters convinced Congress to put
in what’s called third channel adjacency protection for existing
stations. Because the dial is so crowded in big cities, this
effectively shut out any new low-power FMs.
So do we not need three clicks between each channel?
commissioned an independent study, the Mitre Report, that found that in
fact third channel adjacency is just too much protection. What we’re in
the midst of right now is asking Congress to go back and correct this.
Do you know when the bill might be passed?
Our bill, it’s called the
Local Community Radio Act, was introduced with strong bi-partisan
support in the Senate and the House. John McCain was actually the
introducing Republican co-sponsor in the Senate. We have more than 100
co-sponsors on the bill. It no longer appears to look controversial in
any way. Barack Obama’s also a co-sponsor, so we know whoever is
president is going to sign it.
What’s CHIRP going to sound like?
What we’re looking to do is to have
a station that plays a really eclectic mix of music, that has a real
focus on Chicago, a real Chicago identity. Stations here that play
local music really ghetto-ize it. They’ll have a half-hour or an hour
once a week when they’ll play local music.
So what’s been lost in radio?
A lot of people say radio is dead or
dying, and that’s been predicted before. The audience hasn’t left
radio—radio has left its audience.
Published: October 11, 2008
Issue: November 2008 Investing In Chicago