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Blog Posts by Geoffrey C. Blackwell

Tribal Radio Priority

by Geoffrey C. Blackwell, Chief, Office of Native Affairs and Policy
March 1, 2013

In 2010, the Federal Communications Commission established a Tribal Radio Priority to expand the number of radio stations owned by American Indian Tribes broadcasting to Tribal lands.  The Tribal Priority is a FCC rule through which Tribes or Tribally owned or controlled entities may more easily obtain broadcast radio licenses in both the AM and FM bands.  The Tribal Priority is intended not only to provide radio service tailored to specific Tribal needs and cultures, but to increase ownership of such radio stations by Tribes and Tribally owned entities.  In doing so, the Tribal Priority also fosters localism and diversity of ownership.

The need for Tribal radio stations is clear.  There are 566 federally recognized American Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Villages.  Approximately one-third of the 4.1 million Native American population lives on Tribal lands, which comprise over 55 million acres, or 2.3 percent of the area of the United States, exclusive of Alaska.  Despite this, fewer than 100 broadcast radio stations are licensed to Tribes or affiliated groups, a fraction of one percent of all radio station owners.  We have visited many parts of Indian Country and we have seen how people in Native Communities can benefit from radio – to prepare for and recover from emergencies, to preserve Native culture, language and music, and to convey important information to Tribal members.

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