Thanks to “Tofu” Dave Bellin, a DJ at WCOM in Carrboro, North Carolina, for the Thanksgiving broadcast of Hour 1 of our documentary series during his weekly “Carrboro Live” show. WCOM is a low-power station that attracts some of the region’s brightest minds to its studios, and we are particularly delighted about the association. We’ve written before about the low-power movement; here’s a bit of history from WCOM’s web page:
Back in 2000, the FCC was in a jam. The radio waves, which are supposed to belong to the public, were looking a lot like they really belonged to Clear Channel and other radio mammoths, which effectively controlled music programming by extracting payola from musicians to play their songs. In response, the FCC created low power FM (LPFM)â€”a new class of non-profit community stations with about a five-mile broadcast rangeâ€”to provide communities with an opportunity to get back some air time. In spite of its limited scope, LPFM was seen as a threat by big broadcasters, who convinced Congress that LPFM stations would interfere with their signal… The lobbyists won the day and convinced Congress to greatly scale back the FCC’s LPFM plan.
As for WCOM’s own history:
Locally, it seemed there would be no available frequencies for our area for LPFM… But late one night, Ruffin Slater (of Weaver Street Market’s Community Enterprise Project) entered 35 52 51 N and 79 03 50 W andâ€”bingo!â€”the â€œfrequency availableâ€ light came on. It turned out there was one 50-foot by 40-foot piece of broadcasting turf that was still available to the community… Eighteen months later the FCC granted a license to broadcast at 103.5 FM with the call letters WCOM.”
This was just the start of a long and complicated effort to locate a studio and antenna, which you can read about here.