Canary Coalition aims for the airwaves

By Jennifer Garlesky • Staff Writer

A Sylva-based environmental organization may be sending its message out over the airwaves.

For 60 days the Federal Communications Commission opened a window to allow organizations across the county to submit an application for a full-powered noncommercial radio license. More than 36,000 organizations applied, which has FCC officials expediting the application process, said Mary Diamond, FCC press aide.

The Canary Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to improving air quality, is one of the organizations who applied for an FM signal.

“The whole prospect is pretty exciting to me,” said Avram Friedman, Canary Coalition executive director.

If the grassroots group receives a permit, the station will feature an environmental theme and inform residents on local environmental news, host live debates as well as promote local musical talent.

Being able to broadcast environmental news to residents in Jackson, Macon and Swain counties through a noncommercial independent radio station is something Canary Coalition members look forward to.

“We’re excited and glad the opportunity came about,” said Larry Nestler, coalition chairman. Listening to a radio may seem like a thing of the past with listeners switched over to downloading radio shows on their Ipod, listening to streaming music or hooked on satellite radio. But having a full-powered FM station will allow the coalition to create a high profile in the community.

“We will be able to share with our listeners debates on the environment and bring local and global issues to the community,” Nestler said. “We are hoping this allow us to increase awareness for environmental issues, especially air quality.”

The projected costs of running a radio station are unknown to the coalition, Nestler said. However, one idea he suggested was that the costs could be subsidized by public service announcements.

The FCC has been reviewing applications since the beginning of November, but Diamond would not say when a decision will be made. In order to narrow the applications, the FCC is rating each on a point system, Diamond explained. Each applicant will be awarded a predetermined number of points by meeting a set of criteria.

For example, an applicant will receive three points if it has been established for more than two years, according to section 73.7003 of the Communications Act.

The FCC also regulates how the channels will be distributed if more than one organization applies for the same FM dial.

If an organization will reach an audience of more than 2,000 people it will be considered. The applicant providing the most people with the highest level of service will be awarded a construction permit, according to the Communications Act.

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