Fewer than 0.3% of America’s 13,000 radio stations belong to a federally recognized Native American tribe. According to the FCC, there are about 41 non-commercial stations licensed to Native Americans and another 31 construction permits granted to federally recognized tribes.
To boost those numbers, the Federal Communications Commission has proposed creating a “tribal priority” when awarding new station allocations. The proposal is part of the commission’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (MB 09-52) on rural radio, in which it hopes to streamline allotment and assignment procedures to create more opportunities for those in rural and tribal areas to apply for a station.
Native American groups such as Native Public Media and the National Congress of American Indians hailed the FCC’s proposal as groundbreaking and overdue. Native Americans have been largely invisible in the broadcasting industry on all levels ranging from media access to control and ownership of broadcast facilities, the groups said in their announcement.
The commission has tentatively concluded it’s in the public interest to create the tribal priority for FM allotments, AM filing window applications and NCE FM filing window applications in certain instances.