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2004-07-30 16:50:21
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Friday, October 6, 2000

Public access to public airwaves is almost nonexistent
Noel Holston / Star Tribune staff writer

The FCC's low-power FM initiative is rooted in the belief that radio stations allow the U.S. public minimal access to the airwaves it collectively owns. Is that really the way it is?

Calls to a sampling of Twin Cities radio stations show that KFAI (90.3 FM) offers more people an opportunity to speak their minds or play their favorite music than all the other stations combined, including Minnesota Public Radio.

Indeed, MPR stations are less likely to give up control of airtime than their commercial counterparts. While many of its programs are for the people, none are by the people.

On the commercial side, public service and issues programs typically air early Sunday morning.

Kool 108 (107.9 FM) offers three informational series on Sundays. Program director Bob Wood said that onetime WCCO Radio news director Curtis Beckmann is host of "Metro Focus" (5:30 a.m.). Kool staffer Susan Berkson moderates "Anoka Now" (6 a.m.) and "Twin Cities Viewpoint" (6:30 p.m.).

KSTP-AM (1500) doesn't offer any traditional public service programs because its locally produced talk shows are issue-oriented by nature, said KSTP's Todd Fisher. He said KSTP-FM (94.5) devotes two hours each Sunday to "Sunday Morning Perceptions" (6 a.m.), in which the Rev. Rod Wilmoth of Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church answers listeners' phone calls and plays a bit of contemporary Christian music.

The level of commitment is pretty consistent across the board. KDWB (101.3 FM) has a two-hour public-service block on Sundays that includes two syndicated half-hours, a rebroadcast of "Metro Focus" (6 a.m.) and "Twin Cities Weekly Review" (6:30 a.m.), which covers a variety of topics, from politics to health.

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