The Prometheus Radio Project was founded in 1998 by activists working within social change movements such as housing, environmentalism, health care, anti-war, and criminal justice reform. The success of these movements was limited by corporations’ ownership and control of media, who used their power to suppress debate on vital issues.
The pirate station, Radio Mutiny, was formed in West Philadelphia to serve as a local outlet for diverse voices, community news, and cultural expression. Radio Mutiny joined with hundreds of pirate stations across the country to pressure the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create a legal option for community broadcasting. In response, the FCC introduced the Low Power FM radio service—the first time opportunity for small community radio licenses in twenty years. Members of Radio Mutiny, together with other pirates from around the country, hung up their eye patches and founded the Prometheus Radio Project to build and advocate on behalf of these new stations.
The creation of the Low Power FM radio service stands as one of the greatest successes in recent efforts for grassroots media reform. As a result, hundreds of new low power community stations are broadcasting that otherwise would not be—operated by civil rights groups, schools, farmworker organizations, environmentalists, cultural organizations, and others. Low power radio has allowed nonprofits in the United States to re-imagine and revitalize their relationship with media; and this has set the stage for a dramatic expansion of civil society into the world of radio station operations.
Prometheus supported hundreds of community organizations to apply for licenses and build their stations, touring the country to reach out to community groups and spread the word about Low Power FM radio. Prometheus organized 12 “radio barnraisings,” where hundreds of volunteers gather to build a radio station in three days. These radio barnraisings have helped groups build their base while training a new generation of media organizers across the country.
Prometheus continues to support dozens of low power stations with their day-to-day operations. We have helped over a hundred groups to apply for full power radio licenses in the 2007 filing opportunity, and assisted dozens in the 2010 application window. Over 120 interns and volunteers have worked with Prometheus over the past 10 years, emerging as community leaders and activists in the fight for participatory media.