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What is Community Radio?

Community radio is a radio service offering a third model of radio broadcasting in addition to commercial and public broadcasting. Community stations serve geographic communities and communities of interest. They broadcast content that is popular and relevant to a local, specific audience but is often overlooked by commercial or mass-media broadcasters. Community radio stations are operated, owned, and influenced by the communities they serve. They are generally nonprofit and provide a mechanism for enabling individuals, groups, and communities to tell their own stories, to share experiences and, in a media-rich world, to become creators and contributors of media.

In the U.S., community radio stations are non-profit, community-based operations licensed by the Federal Communications Commission. These stations differ from other public radio outlets in the U.S. by allowing community volunteers to actively participate as broadcasters.  Community radio stations generally have smaller budgets than National Public Radio (NPR) network outlets, due to the smaller audiences attracted by their diversified programming and in turn, the small number of potential contributors and business supporters. Community stations are distinct from NPR stations in that most community-radio programming is locally produced by non-professional disc jockeys and producers, whereas traditional public stations rely on programming from NPR and other outlets (such as PRI). Community volunteers are trained and given a central role in radio production, operation and program development. Youths also get a chance to participate. Stations remain responsive to community needs and consistently seek input from listeners.  Community radio stations are usually overseen by non-profit organizations, which are led boards of directors and often include paid staff for managing business operations and coordinating volunteers.


Benefits of Community Radio

Community radio is known for greatly improving a community’s quality of life. This claim is substantiated by research conducted by Dr. Richard Florida of Carnegie Mellon University.  In his book “Competing in the Age of Talent: Quality of Place and the New Economy” Florida explains how “quality of place” influences peoples’ choice to move to a particular community. Based on data collected on labor pools, environment, recreational opportunities, cultural amenities, and the economies of 35 metropolitan areas, Florida made the following conclusions:

  • Communities perceived as being inclusive, supportive of diversity, and possessed of a climate of “cultural variety” attracted skilled, innovative workers more effectively.
  • Communities encouraging diversity and participatory civic culture—and possessed of highly developed cultural and environmental amenities—enjoyed long-term success in retaining talent.
  • Sociological and environmental factors are increasingly as important as—if not more important than—economic factors in generating and sustaining regional health.

As described by Dr. Florida’s research, these goals translate into valuable community assets.


Radio Continues to be Relevant

Some people have wondered if radio is outdated in the age of the Internet.  The overwhelming experience of community stations, whether they were built recently or have been around for many years, is that radio is very much relevant and by no means outdated.

Wherever people build community radio, they discover why it is such an important community resource.

It is immediately accessible to everyone now, regardless of economic or technical resources. The most inclusive media to date, broadcasting can be heard for the price of a cheap radio. It simple and portable technology – hand-crank radios do not even require electricity!

Radio makes live public discourse possible for better understanding of issues, and for sharing important news and emergency safety information. Community radio acts as a virtual “town square” for building and protecting democracy.

KKCR is proud to be an important part of our Community.