[News] Black Power Through Low Power Radio

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jun 14 12:57:51 EDT 2007


June 14, 2007

If It Can Happen in Greenville, South Carolina ...

Black Power Through Low Power Radio


Over the weekend of June 9, about seventy activists from around the 
country converged in a poor neighborhood of Greenville, South 
Carolina. Led by the Prometheus Radio Project, a visionary 
Philadelphia-based organization of techies and media policy 
advocates, they came to assist organized local residents in what was 
billed as a "radio station barnraising" a weekend of collective work 
completing the studio, tuning, testing and raising the broadcast 
antenna, teaching and learning basic and advanced production skills 
and on Sunday evening, flipping the ON switch for Greenville's first 
fully licensed low power community-owned FM radio station.

WMXP-LP Greenville's broadcast range is only about 3.5 miles, but its 
impact is enormous. Owned and operated by the Malcolm X Grassroots 
Organization in that city, it's one of many stations Prometheus and 
its allies aim to assist progressive organizations around the country 
in creating. WMXP-LP Greenville will provide local news and analysis, 
a venue for locally produced music and other programming in English 
and Spanish. According to its founder Efia Nwangaza, a former SNCC 
activist and local attorney, WMXP-LP will serve, empower and enrich 
the life of its community in ways that large corporate broadcasters 
never have and never will.

For African American communities, corporate monopolization of the 
airwaves has reduced our musical choices to degrading minstrel shows. 
Thanks in part to black commercial radio's exclusive diet of 
entertainment and marketing, we know more about the furniture in 
Jamie Foxx's new mansion than we do about our local school boards or 
police practices.

Worst of all by denying black audiences news and analyses of public 
affairs through the lens of the black experience, corporate media 
have shrunk the civic space in our communities where grassroots 
organizing and the Freedom Movement of a generation ago thrived to 
almost nothing.

Back in 2000, the FCC approved low power nonprofit licensing, paving 
the way for thousands of local stations in urban and rural areas 
within the reach of most of the nation's population. Big media 
responded with the false claim, rejected by almost every broadcast 
engineer not in their employ, that low power would interfere with 
their giant 20 and 50,000 watt operations. Big media's generous 
campaign contributions persuaded the Congress to halt low power 
station licensing until now.

This month bills will be introduced with bipartisan sponsorship in 
both the House and Senate, to reopen the licensing of nonprofit, 
community-owned low power FM stations. Whether citizens will get the 
power to start and program their own radio stations on the tiniest 
remaining slice of what are, after all, their own airwaves will be 
decided by Congress this session. We can expect little or no help 
informing the public on this issue from corporate print and broadcast 
media in informing the public on this score. Three was no mainstream 
coverage of low power radio in 2000, no coverage of radio 
deregulation in 2003, and next to none of network neutrality today. 
But the wiggle room this time around for members of Congress will be small.

The public is deeply dissatisfied, and will not be easily convinced 
that they need fewer rather than more choices, less news, less local 
ownership, and less local content. Now Greenville SC is one more 
place they can look to, and ask, if they can do it at WMXP-LP 
Greenville, why can't we?

Bruce Dixon is managing editor of 
Agenda Report, where this piece appears.

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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