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Low Power FM Movement Makes Waves

The FCC approved Low Power FM Radio in 2000.
The FCC approved Low Power FM Radio in 2000.

Fans of Low Power FM radio say hundreds of new mini-stations are bringing localism and diversity back to America's airwaves. The service's opponents -- primarily big broadcasters -- say the stations, which can be established for less than $10,000, are amateurish and cause interference.

Nearly five years after first moving to allow LPFM programming, the FCC is holding meetings with hundreds of activists and workers involved in the community-based stations. The discussion will center on the stations' effects -- and the possible expansion of the program from rural and exurban areas into cities.

The FCC hearing comes as new ways of receiving radio programs -- from satellite services like XM Radio to Internet tools like Audible.com -- are growing by leaps and bounds. But the decidedly lo-fi approach of Low Power FM spurs a passionate reaction in its supporters, who praise its sometimes idiosyncratic content, and from critics, who say the stations create havoc on the radio dial.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rick Karr contributes reports on the arts to NPR News. He is a correspondent for the weekly PBS public affairs show Bill Moyers Journal and teaches radio journalism at Columbia University.