Offensive (as opposed to defensive) media activism victories -- those that substantively advance community control of public media -- are extremely rare.
Like the recent passage of the Local Community Radio Act (HR 6533 / S592).
After nearly ten years of delays by the National Association of Broadcasters, politicians, and NPR, activists finally have something to show for all those calls, emails and other actions they took part in pushing for low power radio or LPFM. As a result of their determination, many hundreds of new hyperlocal microradio broadcast stations will be taking to the air with signals of up to 100 watts radiating up to around 3-5 miles.
In a local response, Shawn Campbell, a founder of the Chicago Independent Radio Project (CHIRP) said "For three years, CHIRP volunteers and supporters have worked diligently toward the goal of being able to apply for a low power FM broadcast license, and we look forward to working with our national allies and the FCC to make sure new stations are licensed in large markets around the country, including Chicago."
The Prometheus Radio Project, which took the national lead on this legislation, explains that it continues "building a community-controlled media system to support social justice and community expression... doggedly fighting for an alternative to the massive media conglomerates that shape our collective reality."
One of those unavoidable realities is that, virtually always, big, bad, media wins in the policy arena, no matter what roseate tint one's lenses may add to the spectacle. So at its core, what makes the passage of the Local Community Radio Act so very important is the fact that it represents, plainly and simply, a reversal of the paradigm - a triumph of community control of media over private or corporate control.
So in addition to the unshackling of myriad local, diverse voices, the LPFM Act's passage gives us something else quite valuable: a successful template for future community media activism.
And that's where substantive media activist victories are most possible.
- Low-power stations to get a spot on the radio dial (Philadelphia Enquirer)
- The Local Community Radio Act Demystified
- Senate Joins House in Passing the Local Community Radio Act! WE WON!
- The Little Bill that Could (Huffington Post)
(Scott Sanders has co-founded a number of media activist organizations including Chicago Media Action, and led efforts to constitute public community media centers with member elected boards and to increase diversity on non-elected public media boards. He also led campaigns resulting in the only FCC fine of a major public tv station concerning commercialism. He is a video documentarian and periodicals and technology librarian producing research for MMTC, MAP, and the University of Chicago, and author of articles for media-ocracy, Truthout, Counterpunch, Z magazine, FAIR EXTRA!, and a number of daily newspapers.)
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