[News] Black Power Through Low Power Radio
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
By BRUCE DIXON
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
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
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.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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