Davis Media Access (DMA) announced today that its 18-month battle to keep low-power radio station KDRT on the air had come to a "mostly satisfactory" conclusion.
"The Federal Communications Commission found a way to squeeze us in, instead of squeeze us out"KDRT-LP remains on air: Frequency change, streaming loom as big changes for small station
August 19, 2008
Davis Media Access (DMA) announced today that its 18-month battle to
keep low-power radio station KDRT on the air had come to a "mostly
“The Federal Communications Commission found a way to squeeze us in,
instead of squeezing us out,” said Jeff Shaw, station director for KDRT
and a DMA staff member. "The bad news is: we have to move. The good news
is: we're still on the air, which means we will be able to continue
serving the community.”
DMA holds the license and provides a home for the volunteer-driven radio
station, which has operated at 101.5 FM in Davis since its launch on
Sept. 24, 2004. Beginning Sept. 23, KDRT will broadcast at 95.7 FM.
In January 2007, Results Radio, the parent corporation of KMJE, a
commercial station in Gridley, filed an application with the Federal
Communications Commission (FCC) to move to Yolo County, where its signal
would displace KDRT at 101.5 FM.
The FCC authorized the LPFM service in 2000 to encourage localism in
radio, which had been severely diminished during several decades worth
of media consolidation in the commercial sector. However, the FCC gave
LPFM stations secondary status under commercial stations, which makes
such encroachments possible.
Once KDRT found out about the petition, its organizers filed a complaint
with the FCC. Shaw said the past 18 months have been spent dealing with
lawyers, broadcast engineers, FCC staffers and Results Radio
representatives, as well as waiting for the FCC to move through its
decision-making process. KDRT was guided through the process by
broadcast attorney Michael Couzens of San Francisco, who successfully
fought a similar encroachment in Spokane, WA
“From the moment we found out that KDRT’s frequency was being threatened
by encroachment, a coalition of KDRT programmers, other community
volunteers, and DMA’s staff and board began organizing a concerted
campaign to try to fight this,” Shaw said. “The ‘Save Our Station’ or
SOS campaign focused on public education, cultivating support from
elected officials and public policy makers, and raising money to pay for
the legal and engineering fees associated with the fight.
‘We knew it was a long shot, and we also knew we had to try,” he said.
The 95.7 frequency was not available a year ago, and was only freed up
through the process of the FCC changing some of its rule making on the
Low-Power service. "The unfortunate turmoil that KDRT-LP was subjected
to when its frequency was undermined by a full-power station had a
silver lining," said Pete Tridish, founder of the Prometheus Radio
Project, an LPFM support and advocacy group based in Philadelphia.
"While some smaller low-power stations were quickly intimidated by
corporate lawyers who told them their channel was no longer theirs,
KDRT's strong organization helped bring public attention to the plight
of low-power groups having their stations taken.
“The impact of KDRT’s story was felt in Washington DC, and the FCC has
at least provisionally changed course on supporting the rights of
community media as the result of KDRT-LP and stations in similar
predicaments standing up for their rights,” Tridish said.
Autumn Labbé-Renault, DMA’s executive director and one of the original
conveners of KDRT, said the station stood out because of its strong
volunteer base, large number of public affairs shows, assistance to
other LPFM’s (KDRT volunteers organized the Low-Power Radio Roundup in
October 2005, a conference for more than 100 LPFM practitioners from
three states), and broad-based community support, including letters from
the Davis City Council, Yolo County Board of Supervisors, Assemblywoman
Lois Wolk and Congressman Mike Thompson. Individual donations to the SOS
campaign totaled nearly $14k.
“For the FCC to look at KDRT and say ‘this is what we charged them to do,
and they have been successful’ and then pull the plug just didn't make
sense,” Labbé-Renault said. “It would have been a serious breach of
public interest, as well.”
Big changes looming
Much of the day-to-day operations of KDRT are coordinated through the
12-member volunteer KDRT Steering Committee, which comprises programmers
and at-large volunteers. Chairperson George Moore also serves on DMA’s
board. Moore said that rather than depleting KDRT, the encroachment
battle energized both KDRT’s volunteers and the larger community.
Moore added that the frequency change brings with it some good
opportunities for the station. As part of the transfer, KDRT will
increase from 83 watts to 100 watts, which is the maximum allowable
strength for LPFMs. The increase will strengthen KDRT’s signal in parts
The station will be off the air intermittently between Sept. 6 and Sept.
16 as it re-engineers, and plans to fully re-launch at 95.7 on Sept. 23,
2008. Additional changes include web streaming beginning Sept. 23 at
www.kdrt.org, and a revamped KDRT website and programming schedule.
“This is great proof that the Davis community cares deeply about
freedom. As long as people's voices can be heard on their airwaves, we
have a powerful tool for questioning the work of our government while
also listening to great music,” said Nancy Bodily, who hosts “Earth
Momma’s Mountain Music” on KDRT Thursdays at 10 a.m. “This community dug
into its pockets and hearts to come up against the FCC, and our small
voice was heard all the way to the office of
the chairman.” Bodily also serves on the KDRT Steering Committee and the
Labbé-Renault said help came from many sources, including KDRT/DMA
volunteers, elected officials, community members, local musicians and
businesses—especially the Davis Food Co-op, which mounted several fund
raisers, other LPFMs, as well as Prometheus Radio Project.
“At the end of the day, I can’t say I’m exactly glad this happened,”
Labbé-Renault concludes. “I wouldn’t want anyone to go through this. I
said publicly in April 2007 that KDRT would not go off the air on my
watch. I meant it as a call to action, and I can say that we are all
gratified by the response and support.”
A celebration of KDRT’s success is planned as part of “On the Backlot,”
DMA’s 20th anniversary celebration and free community concert, Saturday,
Oct. 18 from 3-9 p.m. at DMA, 1623 Fifth Street in Davis. More details
are available at www.davismedia.org