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Airwaves clear slightly for community radio

By Mitch Stacy

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Jan. 16 2012 8:06 a.m. MST

"I've been organizing for over 10 years, and I have never had such an easy time filling up a room on a Saturday morning for an issue," said Danielle Mkali, who works for the social justice group Main Street Project in Minneapolis, which is helping with applications for two new low-power stations. "People are really excited about making radio happen."

In 2000 and 2001, the last time the window was open for low-power license applications, around 3,600 were submitted, but less than a quarter of that number are on the air today, according to an FCC official who discussed the issue with the AP but declined to be identified because that's agency policy.

Doyle said it takes around $10,000 and a good deal of wherewithal to start a small station, keep it on the air and build an audience.

Knighten put around $4,000 into basic equipment and was operating under the radar for more than two years, funded by donations. Then came a dustup with an on-air guest over a political issue that ended with county code enforcement ordering him to shut down. Police and FCC agents arrested him and seized his equipment Dec. 9. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, but hardly anyone expects Knighten to end up behind bars.

"I didn't think this would expand into the trouble it would cause," he acknowledged. "I thought that when we showed them we could create something in this community, we could present it and show (the FCC) that there was a need for it."

Local elected officials and other municipal leaders often appeared on the station's programs, including Ron Jenkins, chairman of the city's Citizens Police Review Board. Jenkins, who had a regular show on Dunbar Radio, is resisting calls from some quarters to resign from the advisory board because of his association with the illegal operation.

"Our intention was never to be criminals," Jenkins insisted. "We weren't trying to thumb our nose at anyone."

Online:

Prometheus Radio Project: http://www.prometheusradio.org/

Follow Mitch Stacy on Twitter at —http://twitter.com/mitchstacy

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