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Radio Free South Philadelphia: FM station could come soon

Immigrant South Asian stores in South Philadelphia show the diversity in that neighborhood and one type of demographic South Philadelphia Community Radio would reach. Credit: Charles Mostoller/METRO Immigrant South Asian stores in South Philadelphia show the diversity in that neighborhood and one type of demographic South Philadelphia Community Radio would reach. Credit: Charles Mostoller/METRO

South Philadelphia is trying hard to take over the airwaves.

Chris Randolph of Resources for Human Development is joined by community groups and other non-profit organizations to fight for a frequency on the radio dial so South Philadelphia residents — many of whom are not English-speaking — can have, and hear, a voice.

For the first time in a long time, the Federal Communications Commission is allowing urban community groups the ability to get a license for local broadcasting. South Philadelphia Community Radio is hoping for one of those licenses. Randolph said the “monster stations” aren’t giving neighborhoods what they want.

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“Geographically, they are not really meeting needs of the community,” Randolph said. “They are not going to announce local events, they are not going to cover local political races. What we usually get is minimal coverage.”

One of the low-wattage licenses could cover all of South and Southwest Philadelphia on an FM station and not only feature news and events, but bring in a younger demographic with radio shows and podcasts.

“What we need in addition to all these 16-wheelers, is to have some space for the mopeds so you can have local, small stations that focus on the needs of particular communities,” Randolph said.

An Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign has been set up to raise the $21,000 needed for studio and rooftop hardware and professional engineering.

The FCC choices for stations could come in the coming weeks or months but if the entire monies requested isn’t met by then, Randolph said the group has Plans B, C and even D. They will go the grant route if needed.

So, who would use South Philadelphia Community Radio's station? The list is long, Randolph said, and the programming is two-folded. Certain news and events would be geared toward the English-speaking community but also the plethora of ethnic groups that inhabit South Philadelphia.

“There are seven or eight that have significant presence and most have zero access to broadcast media,” he said.

The heart of the Mexican communities lies in South Philadelphia as well as the Italian, Bahasa, Vietnamese and many more.

An older or poorer population, who may not have access to the Internet, would profit greatly, Randolph added.

The group already has studio space picked out on Seventh Street and the Methodist branch of Jefferson Hospital on South Broad Street is allowing the group to use its rooftop as a broadcast platform.

Other groups working with Randolph are the Nationalities Service Center, South Philadelphia Community Center, the Bhutanese American Organization, South Philadelphia Rainbow Committee and may more.

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