Since even before I was a DJ on KNDS-LPFM (96.3, then 105.9 when I joined), NPR has been on a crusade against low-power (LP) radio, as Democracynow.org points out in their article from 2000. In a more recent article, dated April of 2008, Ars Technica points out the stances NPR has against LPFM radio. Feel free to read the article yourself, but, in summation: “‘The laws of physics have not changed, and a system of full power broadcast stations serves many more listeners with less interference compared to low power broadcasting,’” NPR told the FCC this month. “‘While LPFM stations may advance the interests of localism and diversity, the Commission cannot assume that LPFM is inherently better than full power service.’”
But what is “better”? Perhaps a station funded by corporate interests is better because of financial stability and uninterrupted programming, whereas NPR has to constantly disrupt its programing to do its tedious fund raising drives. Corporate radio, with its financial backing, can always afford to pay its employees and make sure there are enticing benefits. Programming can expand because there’s a larger and uncompromisable budget. BUT WAIT - because it’s corporate radio, it’s bad, right? Well, that’s the mantra NPR seems to perpetuate to its listeners.
"Better" is a point of view. Since NPR sees corporate radio as a problem because of product placement, advertisements, etc. then LPFM radio should be the answer. Like NPR, KNDS in Fargo does sponsorship underwriting. However, unlike NPR, KNDS staff are NOT paid, but rather, DJs and staff volunteer their time (and at times, their own money) to keep the station afloat. Thus, KNDS DJs and staff are even more primal and less likely to be paid to say or advertise something. And in actuality, it is ILLEGAL for an LPFM station to do any formal advertising, so, in this case, there is no WAY of corporate sponsorship, which is why LPFM radio IS the answer to corporate radio.
Moreover, from Democracynow.org’s article, “NPR opposes proposals to strengthen rules allowing LPFMs to obtain channel interference waivers when an “encroaching” full power station arrives on the scene. And the broadcaster decidedly dislikes measures that would require new full power signals to offer technical and even financial help to an LPFM that they’ve suddenly squatted on (or squatted next to).”
Another way of interpreting this is that NPR dominates the airwaves of public radio and is imposing a monopoly. Citing another article from 2000, Commondreams.org"NPR has tried to keep a low profile in this matter, but there’s no doubt of its position. Kevin Klose, CEO of NPR, stated in a recent “Radio World” broadcast that “the American public would not be well-served by an FCC ruling that creates LPFM (low-power radio FM) at the expense of the existing public radio services.” In fact Klose’s fears are well-merited. Ever since NPR forced its affiliates to accept nationally syndicated NPR programming, the proportion of locally originated and community-oriented programming on these public radio stations has plummeted, and many listeners are discontented. Low-power FM is a huge threat to the NPR empire."
Toby Jones and myself were part of the original KNDS founders, with our show (now my show), Amateur Hour. The whole point of it was to bring genuine variety (and mean it) to the Fargo-Moorhead area. KNDS and other LPFM stations.
The following quote is from NPR’s "Diversity" page: “National Public Radio will serve the individual; it will promote personal growth rather than corporate gains; it will regard the individual differences among men with respect and joy rather than derision and hate; it will celebrate the human experience as infinitely varied rather than vacuous and banal; it will encourage a sense of active, constructive participation, rather than apathetic helplessness.” — Bill Siemering, NPR Co-Founder.
IF that is true, then NPR should be encouraging LPFM stations to co-exist with them. IF NPR is a proponent of diversity on the macro level, then LPFM stations is the beacon of diversity on the micro level, and should be spurred on by NPR, not seen as a threat.
The point of this is not to ban or boycott NPR, but to exhibit that even an anti-corporate interest entity, such as NPR has its dark sides too. NPR has some decent programming. I do listen and enjoy various shows distributed by NPR, but it is hard for me to reconcile with their hypocrisy. If you feel as I do, that we, the public, can be served just as competently on a micro level, then please e-mail or write to NPR and tell them to reconsider and readjust their position on LPFM stations. There is a reason why they are called “National” Public Radio. They have a broad audience, which is fine, but when you want to listen to someone who lives in the same town as you, who can level with your locality, then that is where LPFM stations come into the light. Help support locally run stations by people you know. Hopefully, NPR will readjust their position and instead of seeing LPFM stations as a threat, will co-exist, or even fortify broadcast radio at the lowest level, the level that you have direct access to.