March 27, 2012 at 4:37 pm

FCC Ruling To Boost Local Radio: Will There Be An App For That?

low power radio app

Now that nobody listens to the radio anymore, the Federal Communications Commission has finally decided to greenlight applications for low-power FM radio broadcasting permits. Onlookers (we like Nieman Labs’ report) agree that should lead to a flowering of weird and wacky local radio stations to deliver music and news to micro-communities across the country.

We kid about “nobody” listening to FM radio, of course — it’s still a massive medium, although its share is declining as music fans increasingly tune in to digital tunes. But even the most wired music fans among us still tune in to FM radio in the car, and least occasionally. Perhaps they would do so more, if their radio dials delivered a bit more variety rather than the same old classic rock and new pop hits.

Before we get to our big idea, a reality check: These stations will only cover a two-mile radius on a good day. And the FCC isn’t even accepting applications until 2013. Also, from what we understand, the stations will focus more on news than music, because the whole point of this initiative, which was enabled by president Obama’s signing of the Local Community Radio Act in early 2011, is to give local communities a new way to talk to each other.

However, we don’t see anything barring stations from broadcasting music over these low-power stations, which brings us to the point: using music apps to control low-powered radio stations within small urban (or suburban, or even rural) areas.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Consider what Jelli radio is already doing: letting listeners control programming on FM radio stations with an app that runs on the web, iOS, or Facebook – sort of like connecting to a radio tower.  (Jelli recently added an Android version too, allowing more users to get in on the fun.)

See where we’re going with this? Given that Jelli has already succeeded in letting fans control high-powered FM stations across the country, it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to do the same for low-powered stations. With so many of the college radio stations going off the air, it seems likely that at least a few low-powered transmitters should be available. And given that these stations will be rolling out across the country, some enterprising company will likely start selling equipment to augment that supply.

Wouldn’t it be cool to set up a community radio show where people could crowdsource the DJ duties, either from a massive catalog or from a restricted, genre-based catalog the way bars already do with Roqbot? Yes. Yes, it would. contacted to find out whether it plans to join forces with low-powered radio stations — response below (updated). Whether it comes from Jelli or someone else, we think the idea of letting communities control their own radio stations with an app seems ripe for the picking.

Update: Jelli CEO and cofounder Michael Dougherty tells us, “That is very cool – an intriguing idea would be local communities to be able to mix curated programming with locally crowdsourced blocks as well, made efficient via a cloud platform. Jelli should develop a ‘package’ of services for these types of stations – could be an amazing way to activate local communities.”

(Photo courtesy of Flickr/Scribe Video Center)

  • David

    I would really like this to take off.. we have the same type of programming here too that the article mentions. Just like the old saying: too much of one thing is never a good thing

  • Mav48185

    That would be so cool I would love to control my own radio and listen to it in the car and not hear commercials all the time theres more commercials than music thats why no one listens to it