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Commentary: National Radio Day Highlights “Participatory Media”

"Radio listeners, stations and indie producers can join the celebration in a variety of creative, expressive ways"

The author is with Brown Paper Tickets.

The first coast-to-coast National Radio Day celebration is just around the corner on Aug. 20. It is a day to facilitate greater awareness, engagement and support for radio nationwide.

As a Brown Paper Tickets Doer, it is my mission to build capacity for non-commercial media and municipal broadband as tools for equitable community development. Brown Paper Tickets is a social corporation — we call it “Not Just For Profit,” where commerce-fueled philanthropy and hands-on support help communities thrive. The Doer Program is a social impact initiative delivering hands-on support and leadership to create positive change for communities.

Back in July, I called a meeting of radio broadcasters, producers and enthusiasts to discuss the National Radio Day concept and more than 30 stations immediately signed up to participate. Several volunteered to join forces to help create the campaign.

Radio listeners, stations and indie producers can join the celebration in a variety of creative, expressive ways — a Radio Relay, where short segments hopscotch around the country. Stations can share short promo segments. Anyone can submit a Sonic ID — a poem, joke, a dialogue or another audio vignette. There’s volunteering, donating, social media discussions at #NationalRadioDay and live events, including the flagship event in downtown Seattle.

Not only are these activities just plain fun, they give noncommercial stations an authentic, personal way to foster community engagement.

My hope is that National Radio Day allows an opportunity for the nearly 2,000 new low-power FM “neighborhood stations” to work together and start support networks with other noncommercial media and community service-focused institutions in their regions.

There is a lot of enthusiastic discussion here in Seattle about the role participatory media plays to address challenges and share culture. Of the 15 stations I’m working with in Western Washington, one — Voice of Vashon — is currently on the air, and the seven stations in Seattle will likely hit in the airwaves in 2016 or 2017. Rainier Valley Radio put out a call for program proposals and received over 50. Many are now “shovel ready” for podcasting.

I can’t wait to hear all the stories for how stations and listeners participated, the way National Radio Day connected, engaged and entertained the community, as well as mutual cooperative support between public, community and LPFM outlets after the day.

Thank you to everyone helping make this happen.

See a video below from the 2013 National Radio Day event. It includes footage of cutting of a National Radio Day cake, and three-minute “lightning talks” from each of about a dozen LPFM applicants talking about how they dream of using an LPFM radio outlet, should the FCC grant their applications.