About Common Frequency

Common Frequency is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to innovative new community and college radio. By providing free and low-cost aid to regular people educating themselves to be the media, Common Frequency (CF) has been supporting the launch of grassroots stations since 2006. Peace and justice activists, social service agencies, students, Spanish-language speakers and Native tribes are among our partner organizations. We believe every town should have a common frequency on which peoples' voices can be broadcast and heard.

Our Goals:

  • Alert nonprofit and educational institutions regarding broadcast application opportunities.
  • Encourage public participation in radio broadcasting.
  • Bring diverse viewpoints to the public airwaves by facilitating spaces for production of new programming.
  • Promote music education and independent artists on non-commercial radio.

 

Addressing the Deficiency of Public Participation in Broadcasting

Common Frequency is a founding member and highly active participant in the Radio For People Coalition, a nationwide team of organizers, consultants, attorneys and engineers working together to promote democratic access to broadcast media. The coalition includes Pacifica Network, Prometheus Radio Project, National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB), Native Public Media, Free Press, the Future of Music Coalition, Public Radio Capital, broadcast engineers and attorneys.

 

Obstacles to Public Participation:

  • Media literacy: A lack of public education around the importance of information access
  • Complex Federal Communications Commission (FCC) bureaucracy and engineering standards
  • Lack of affordable consulting resources for solving technical problems
  • Systematic shortage of funding for public media in the US compared to other countries

 

Our answer is to respond to these exclusionary circumstances with an efficient approach. Any grassroots group interested in community broadcasting opportunities can obtain information from CF at no charge. And we often go on to provide in-house engineering work and legal consultation without billing for hours. In-kind services account for the bulk of our operating budget, but our partners often donate small amounts because of the money we save them by helping them meet deadlines and avoid fines. Common Frequency also monitors FCC decisions, files petitions to save community radio applications in peril, and activates community organizations concerning vacant channels available for licensing or for sale. We travel to communities in California, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho and Washington to provide information and meet with partner organizations, host nationwide conference calls and present at community media conferences. We also aggregate hundreds of radio news stories on our website.

 

What Sets Us Apart

CF is different from more established community media assistance groups because we form friendly, direct partnerships from the start. We actively search for frequency openings, find community-minded local groups to apply for licenses, and then assist with challenges from other applicants during the permitting process. Our work is required nationwide because the list of nonprofits holding full-power FM construction permits is too long for more established like NFCB and Pacifica. Since we navigate FCC bureaucracy and assist in filing key paperwork, partners can focus on operations and use their limited financial resources more efficiently. We consult on grant applications for capital-funding. We believe broad-based participation is the key to long-term success, so we often visit our partners on their own turf. We want anyone who feels isolated in rural areas to communicate better with allies and feel like part of a movement for media justice. CF is also planning a new radio network. Still in the early stages of visioning and design, we propose the construction of a web-based programming exchange for California community and college radio stations, that will also distribute copyright-safe record libraries to interested stations. With an increase in budget and staff, we hope to operate a decentralized cooperative grassroots radio network featuring multiple streams by 2012. CF sees an opportunity to present authentic radio to more listeners, create space for new collaborations and highlight quality regional and political content. We are preaching the 'new radio' because more and more listeners have unpinned audio from time. “Not all audio ends up on time-constrained, broadcast, appointment radio. Not all news has to be produced in cumbersome, equipment-laden studios with business-suited and scripted anchors. Not all audiences are passive.” – Wayne MacPhail, “How Journalism Teachers are Failing and How to Stop It” from PBS MediaShift

 

Current Projects

  • Supplying research and policy commentary to the FCC, working to change broadcast regulations around licensing of new FM translators and local Low Power FM (LPFM) licenses
  • Aiding applicants in obtaining construction permits with legal and engineering assistance
  • Consulting on station-building, governance, programming, legal compliance, outreach and development to build community capacity
  • Conducting targeted outreach, coordinating FCC filings and providing technical support to hundreds of new LPFM applicants
  • Planning a new radio network linking student and community broadcasters, focused on a collaborative programming exchange, independent music, regional news, and other shared content
  • Protecting several FCC construction permits of our own, with expiration dates approaching fast