Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Getting WILD

This week Boston lost one of the few stations that catered to the African American/Black/Urban audiences in this city. WILD-FM sold to Entercom communications, and quickly changed its format from R&B/Soul to hard rock.

The Boston Globe article and a Boston Herald column on the subject talked a lot about the loss for the community and how the black community (6 percent of the city's population) no longer has a voice on the airwaves.

They're right. We know the digital divide still exists, based on both economic and racial lines, but the radio waves are open to everyone. Radios are very inexpensive, sometimes even given away. So anyone can pick up the signal. Technically, the airwaves belong to the public, which is why the FCC probably should have charged the major media companies more for the digital spectrum that they practically gave away.

But alas, they didn't.

Yes, there are options, from the Internet to satellite radio. But those options are only available for a price.

This is a loss, so don't just shrug and move along. Just because you can go online and read this blog and other stories from around the world from the comfort of your home, doesn't mean everyone can.

I used to work for a wonderful little station in Rockland County called WRKL-AM. 910 on the AM dial was the place to go when you wanted to know the local news, the school lunch menus and if there were any closings. No, it wasn't as popular as WNEW out of New York City, or WLIR-FM from Long Island (they had some great progessive rock during the 80s), but it served a purpose and an audience.

Today it simulcasts polka music from Chicago.

The radio spectrum belongs to the people, it should serve the people as well. Just because it's cheap to sit a radio engineer next to a receiver, doesn't mean that simulcasting polka (or WAAF out of Worcester) serves the community.

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