Seattle Area to Celebrate New FM ‘Hyperlocal’ Radio


Operators of new low-power FM stations coming to Seattle neighborhoods hope to advance “media justice” by giving voice to people and causes often overlooked by mainstream broadcast media.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Whether you’re in Ballard or Kent, Duvall or Rainier Valley, a “hyperlocal” radio station is gearing up to bring new voices and fresh perspectives to the airwaves near you.

Fifteen low-power FM stations, each licensed to broadcast with the power of a 100-watt light bulb in an area with a radius of roughly 3.5 miles, have been sharing experiences as part of the Puget Sound Community Radio Cohort.

Among their motivations is promoting “media justice,” giving voice to those often ignored by major broadcast outlets and media organizations.

National Radio Day

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Thursday, Seattle Public Library’s Fourth Avenue Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Plaza. 1000 Fourth Avenue

“Media justice means making sure everyone has access, particularly marginalized communities,” said Garrett Kelly, a co-founder of Hollow Earth Radio in Seattle’s Central Area.

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Seven of the 15 new stations are located in Seattle and will be honored at a “National Radio Day” event at 11 a.m. Thursday at the downtown Seattle Public Library.

As these stations become a reality, their backers say they’ll explore the gamut: music, lifestyles, social causes, community news, politics, drama, food, hobbies and more.

This hasn’t always been possible.

Sabrina Roach, an organizer of the radio cohort, said the key was the passage in Congress in 2010 of the Local Community Radio Act, jointly sponsored by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and signed by President Obama in 2011.

That law, which had been opposed by major private and public broadcast outlets, let groups in urban areas apply to create low-power FM stations, previously only allowed in rural areas.

This will be the first time National Radio Day is observed coast to coast, with 30 cities participating, Roach said.

Young broadcasters will bring the station to life with music and interviews, and those attending could get a chance to hear what they’d sound like on the radio, and look over an interactive 6-foot antenna.

Roach is working on the community radio project in her job as a “doer” with Brown Paper Tickets. The company has four such employees, hired to work on community-service projects in which they have a background.

Of the 15 stations in the cohort, only the Voice of Vashon is now broadcasting terrestrially — that is, over the airwaves — Roach said. It’s at 101.9 FM.

Some have been operating online, streaming their content on the Web.Among those is Hollow Earth Radio, born in 2007 in the basement of Kelly and his wife, Amber Kai Morgan.




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