You may have noticed by now the gaping hole in your radio dial at 93.3FM. In a sudden shocking move yesterday, NTC literally pulled the plug on the community station. Today’s story in the Herald states that the college did this because “WNRB is too far away from the core mission of the organization to provide education and knowledge,” according to Melanie Platt-Gibson, Director of Communications and Marketing at the college.
Unfortunately this seems to show a very narrow idea of what “providing education and knowledge” means. Yes, WNRB was not an “educational” station in the traditional sense of the word, but it provided a community voice that can be found pretty much no where else. The station carried Hmong programming every day and programming from Latinos Unidos. There were information shows, humor shows, music shows and alternative health shows. It sounded like “education and knowledge” to me.
Now, I have to admit my bias here, I was a volunteer at the station, and so provided some of the “education and knowledge” such as it was. But I volunteered at the station because I truly believe that community radio offers exactly that: “education and knowledge.” Even if someone produces a purely “entertainment show” on a community station, you will learn something. You will learn what one of your friends and neighbors is thinking and experiencing. You will never, ever learn this on a corporate, playlisted station.
When the station started up, I immediately recognized that NTC had given a great gift to the community. I was also afraid that they, not being a charitable institution, might rescind that gift at any time. Apparently that time is now.
Unfortunately, if the story in the Herald is accurate, NTC has gone beyond no longer giving a gift into the realm of hurting the community.
LPFM licenses are no longer being issued by the FCC (as a practical matter) and apparently NTC has simply turned theirs in. This is a great loss to the community. It would not have cost NTC very much at all to investigate if this license could have been transferred to another community group. NTC could have kept the license and acted as an umbrella to another community group. But apparently the license is gone and now most likely will never be replaced. A local voice may have been lost forever.
If so, that is a shame. And shame on NTC for doing that.