Native tribes in New Mexico and Arizona are the first to benefit from the FCC’s Tribal Radio Priority, a provision created by the commission to help tribal entities start new radio stations. The FCC announced March 1 that it set aside FM allotments for Navajo Technical College in Crownpoint, N.M., and for the Hualapai Tribe in Peach Springs, Ariz. Allotments serve as placeholders for future FM stations; the tribes must now wait until the FCC opens a filing window and accepts their applications for construction permits. The commission created the Tribal Radio Priority provision in 2010, establishing standards by which Native tribes could be given priority in securing licenses for AM and FM stations. “The need for Tribal radio stations is clear,” wrote Geoffrey Blackwell, chief of the FCC’s Office of Native Affairs and Policy, in a blog post announcing the allotments.
Native Public Media, a minority consortium incubated within the National Federation of Community Broadcasters for seven years, is striking out on its own, establishing itself as an independent nonprofit and pursuing big new opportunities to expand media access for Native Tribes through broadband and mobile technologies. With the realignment, announced early this month, the Native group strengthens its ties with the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C., its partner for the last several years in research, policy analysis and advocacy to redress huge and historic shortcomings in access to new and older means of communication for Native tribes. Among the collaboration’s most significant achievements so far is last year’s FCC ruling giving tribes higher priority in competitions for radio channels near Indian lands (Current, Oct. 18, 2010) — a policy that the FCC looks to expand on broadband and wireless platforms.
The commission intends to unveil new initiatives during its meeting on March 3, which it designated “Native Nations Day.” According to a tentative agenda, the FCC will discuss options for lowering barriers to communications services and expanding wireless Internet on Native lands, and expanding Native radio under the new tribal priority. By aligning with New America Foundation as its fiscal agent, NPM gains access to a “remarkable think tank and brain trust that’s able to provide the kind of research and data that can make a small company like NPM more effective,” said Loris Taylor, executive director.