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Prometheus in the News

Best of Press

Nov 8 2006 - 9:30pm

By Kéllia Ramares
Online Journal Associate Editor

Nov 8, 2006, 01:20

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On October 27, I went to an informal FCC hearing on media consolidation. It was held at the Oakland Marriott as part of the California NAACP convention. It was informal because only two of the five commissioners—Michael J. Copps and Jonathan S. Adelstein--the Democrats—were present. So it wasn’t an official hearing and wasn’t mentioned on the FCC web site.

Media consolidation is an important, often under-the-radar, issue for people who are concerned with preserving and strengthening democracy. The FCC is considering rule changes that will make it even easier for media conglomerates to own multiple media outlets in one market than The Telecommunications Act of 1996 did. And that says a lot. Since the Telecom Act came into effect, Clear Channel Communications, for example, has come to own seven radio stations in San Francisco, and three in San Jose, just 50 miles away.

Media consolidation allows large corporations, such as Clear Channel and the Tribune Company, to own radio and TV stations—both broadcast and cable--newspapers, news and entertainment web sites, billboards, performance venues, and even the performing entities themselves. (The Tribune Company owns the Chicago Cubs baseball team). Thus it is possible for a media conglomerate that does not like the politics of particular performers to strike them from the playlists of their stations, even though their music fits the station’s format. Just ask the Dixie Chicks, who are critics of George W. Bush. Conglomerates also can put a major crimp in music sales by politically disfavored performers by refusing to promote their latest CD release on company-owned billboards, show their videos on TV, or performing in certain venues. Just ask antiwar artists Michael Franti of the hip-hop group Spearhead or folk singer Ani DiFranco.

When a media conglomerate can own many outlets in one market, it can manipulate political content in other ways. For example, more than one speaker at the hearing complained about the fact that Clear Channel owned AM stations that promoted right-wing, racist, hate speech, while at the same time owning urban hip-hop stations in the same market. Hip-hop formats appeal to young African-Americans. And the speakers said that on the hip-hop stations, Clear Channel promoted violent, hypersexualized hip-hop, rather than the socially conscious styles of that genre, and reduced public affairs programming relevant to urban youth of color.

Speakers also complained to the two FCC commissioners about lack of minority media ownership, lack of quality programming for children, and the lack of localism and its attendant loss of local jobs. This latter phenomenon is the product of voice-tracking and the use of computers to run several stations out of one room. In looking for work in radio on the site, I have sometimes seen classified ads for voice-tracking jobs and ads for other kinds of media work that proclaimed such things as six stations being run out of one room. One man at the hearing played a short excerpt from a cassette tape he said was a recording of two stations running on the air simultaneously. Apparently there was no one in the room where the two computers running these stations were located, the man had tried to call to alert someone of the problem and got no answer. He later gave the tape to the commissioners.

The people who favor media consolidation claim that the Internet more than offsets whatever reduction in diversity might occur by the consolidation of the over-the-air broadcast outlets. But that is not really true. First of all, the Internet is being dominated by the large corporate media. Just turn on your computer and you will see, and perhaps use, the web sites of major “free” and cable networks (e.g. ABC or ESPN), large newspapers (e.g. New York Times, L.A. Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post), or large corporate portals such as Google and Yahoo. In fact, Google has joined the American lexicon: “I Googled it and came up with this.” Additionally, Congress wants to get rid of “Net Neutrality” and large corporations such as AT&T and Comcast want to own the ‘Net. This would basically drive up the costs of access and drive Internet service providers (ISPs) out of business. One speaker at the hearing mentioned that there had once been over 8,000 ISPs in the US and now we are down to 2,000. While that still sounds like a lot of ISPs, these statistics represent a 75 percent reduction in the number of available ISPs.

Secondly, Internet access is already much more expensive than a newspaper subscription, an AM-FM radio or a small TV set. One must have an Internet capable computer, and as content gets more technologically sophisticated, it must be a computer and operating system capable of running the latest software fast enough. Then there is the cost of the Internet access itself, and possibly the cost of content.

Thirdly, while it is true that the Internet provides publication space for thousands, if not millions of music, news, and public affairs producers from across the political, racial and age spectra, it is easy for independent producers such as myself (Radio Internet Story Exchange) to be lost in the crowd. We need local media to let our communities know that we exist.

Although a couple of FCC commissioners are listening to people complain about the consequences of a lack of media diversity and localism, the FCC is conducting armed seizures of the transmitting equipment of microradio operators throughout the nation. When I finally got my turn to speak at the hearing, after Pacifica radio station KPFA-FM, where I am a news tech and occasional public affairs producer, shut down its live coverage an hour early, and after one of the two commissioners had stepped out of the room, I said that I would believe that the FCC would really do something about media consolidation when it stopped raiding these stations run by youth, by minorities and by the people outside the political viewpoints represented by the large corporate media.

I have done stories about some of these stations and have had some of my R.I.S.E. public affairs programs run by a few of them. These stations are truly local and their local quality has enabled them to step in during emergencies to provide important local information when voice-tracked corporate stations, pretending to be local, could not.

Limits on media ownership in a single market would help spread media ownership throughout a community. But if indeed the people own the airwaves as a commons—something that I think is a myth these days— the government has to put down the literal and figurative guns it points at microbroadcasters. The government needs to expand the Low-Power FM (LPFM) program to the bounds of technical feasibility rather than greatly limit it to accommodate the anti-competitive wishes of the National Association of Broadcasters and NPR.

This means ending the armed raids and dropping the “bad broadcaster” rule that currently prohibits microradio broadcasters who operated without a license from getting licenses under the new program. Where choices among potential broadcasters in an area must be made because of technical considerations, the more local group should be favored over the corporate conglomerate. Pretend localization through voice-tracking should be disallowed. This way, underrepresented groups can afford to own media, and local music, news, media employment and emergency service can be developed. This would not mean that there is no room for international or national music or news, but that localities would decide for themselves what they wanted, instead of being homogenized by corporate programming.

Of course, this means that local entities have to commit to the idea of local media workers being able to make sustainable livings at what they do. One reason media consolidation has been successful is that it is expensive to produce local news or to cover live cultural events. It’s cheaper for the folks who own the equipment to lay off the local talent, take on the corporation’s homogenized programming and eventually sell their studios and transmitters to a media conglomerate for a tidy personal profit. This has to stop. So does the expectation that programmers will be volunteers. Landlords want rent and grocers, even at the farmers’ market, want cash for their fruits and vegetables from media workers, just as they want it from people engaged in other types of work.

But that’s another story. The first step to building diverse, local, democratic media is for the FCC to end its war of words, warrants and weapons against microradio stations.

Sep 13 2006 - 2:53am

from Radio World Newspaper

FM Translators for AM Are a Good Idea  

September 13, 2006

Sep 13 2006 - 2:23am

from DePauw University News 

September 13, 2006, Greencastle, Ind.

Kevin Howley 2005.jpg

  "For a growing number of Americans from across the political spectrum, making media reform a political issue is the first step toward creating a media system capable of sustaining a democratic culture. But this isn't going to be easy," writes Kevin Howley, associate professor of communication at DePauw University, in this week's Bloomington Alternative.

"For one thing, politicians and Big Media enjoy a cozy relationship, and neither the political class nor the corporate media are likely to give it up without a fight. Consider the massive amounts of money political candidates spend on advertising every election cycle," the professor continues. "And the distortions and incivility of political ads don't do much to improve the character and quality of political discourse these days. The sole beneficiary of incessant political advertising is Big Media. Small wonder campaign finance reform doesn't get much play on the nightly capitol night.jpg

Howley, author of the book, Community Media: People, Places, and Communication Technologies, calls for "communication policies that support a viable, independent, noncommercial, public media sector," asserting, "we must reclaim public media. This means demanding federal policies that insulate public radio and television from market pressures while simultaneously calling for greater public participation in station governance, operations and program production. What's more, we need to expand our definition of public media to include provisions that support the growth and development of public, educational and government (PEG) access television, LPFM, community WiFi, and other noncommercial, community-based alternatives. Freed from commercial constraints, journalism serves the public interest with high-caliber reporting, diverse perspectives, and incisive analysis. We need more independent media!"

As one example of the need for media reform, Dr. Howley points to "a Zogby poll that finds Americans far more knowledgeableTv Set Beach.jpg about popular culture -- TV shows, the personal lives of celebrities, Hollywood films and the like -- than they are about current events, U.S. history or elementary civics. For example, fewer people could name the three branches of government than could recall the names of the Three Stooges. As the late Neil Postman observed, we may be "amusing ourselves to death.'" He concludes, "In times like these, times of technological innovation, political turmoil, and democratic crisis, a media reform movement is not only possible -- it is essential. The choice is ours."

Access the complete text by clicking here.

Within the last week, Kevin Howley has been quoted in articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer and on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's site.

Aug 7 2006 - 4:06am

Monday Aug 7th, 2006 5:14 PM

by Lyell Davies

Summary: Steven’s Rewrite of Telecommunications Franchising Rules Temporarily Stalled—legislation impacting Community Access TV, the Internet, and public access to media services slows in Washington despite best efforts of phone companies and their ‘politician’ allies.

Jul 26 2006 - 8:55pm
Volunteers Sought to Build LPFM in Oregon

Date posted: 2006-07-25

An Oregon Latino farmworker organization, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos de Noroeste, plans to build low-power FM KPCN(LP) to operate on 96.3 MHz in Woodburn, Ore., and organizers are looking for volunteers to help.

The Prometheus Radio Project is looking for people to help build the entire station, from the studio mic to the antenna, to be installed on top of Woodburn’s nearby water tower.

KPCN(LP) Start-Up Coordinator Adrian Valladares-Carranza said PCUN used to broadcast a program years ago on an AM station that served Woodburn and the Willamette Valley.

Its site is


Jul 26 2006 - 2:21am


Local Farmworkers Will Build New Community Radio Station

"The huge mobilizations this Spring of immigrants have demonstrated more than ever the power of radio," -- KPCN Start-up Coordinator Adrian Valladares.

All photos courtesy:

(WOODBURN) - Between August 18th and 20th, farmworkers and families and supporters from across the Willamette Valley, the Northwest, the United States and around the world will join PCUN in Woodburn to build an entire radio station from the ground up.

After that will come opportunities for local people to become involved in all aspects of the station’s operation, one of only ten such stations across the nation.

Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN), Oregon's farmworker union and largest Latino organization, is joining a national group called the Prometheus Radio Project that supports and builds stations around the world, to raise their own community radio station: KPCN-LP, 96.3 FM.

"The huge mobilizations this Spring of immigrants have demonstrated more than ever the power of radio," said KPCN Start-up Coordinator Adrian Valladares.

"We believe that people are anxious to hear much more in-depth information and debate about immigration and other topics."

This will be one of the few farmworker-owned community radio stations in the United States, PCUN’s KPCN-LP will produce and air programming that centers around the most pressing economic and social issues, such as labor and immigration, and expresses the vibrant local Latino culture of the Willamette Valley.

“Neither of the two Spanish language radio stations that currently serve Woodburn offer programming in indigenous languages, youth radio, or in-depth public affairs.”

Many people from Central and South America do not speak Spanish, Valladares tells that English will also be a part of the station’s programming, adding a new way for Spanish speaking people to gain instruction in a subject that has long waiting periods at the local community college.

“Having our own radio station has been among the highest goals of the farmworker movement in Oregon. KPCN-LP will dramatically increase our ability to communicate with our farmworker base in the heart of the Willamette Valley’s agricultural industry.”


A non-profit based in Philadelphia, the Prometheus Radio Project was founded in 1998. Since that time, they’ve been cultivating Low Power radio stations, and believe their listeners are a constituency that can fight for a better and more democratic media future.

To take some of the pressure off the new station, PRP provides technical, legal and organizational training in radio and has organized ten “radio barnraisings” which convene engineers, DJs, activitists, and the local community to literally build a radio station and demystify radio.

Adrian Valladares says KPCN-LP will exponentially expand the diversity of voices participating in the Latino media in the Woodburn area.

“Many are voices never heard on commercial Spanish-language radio, including student-run, indigenous language, and worker-run programs. We call on students, parents, farmworkers, and indigenous people to get involved because this is our radio station."

For more information on the new radio station coming to Woodburn, visit:

Jul 20 2006 - 9:29pm

10 Years On: NAB Wants Translators For AM

Billboard Radio Moniter, published July 20, 2006

By Tony Sanders


Everything goes in cycles, but sometimes the cycles can change direction. Back in 1997, the NAB opposed a petition to the FCC to allow the use of FM translators by AM daytimers. Now, in 2006, the NAB is telling the Commission that allowing such a use is a good thing, essentially because the competitive environment is even tougher for broadcasters on the senior band.

Jul 19 2006 - 10:26pm

NAB Cites Increasing Interference to AMs, Coverage Losses in Petition to Allow AMs to Operate FM Translators Date posted: 2006-07-19

We now have more details on NAB's petition that the FCC allow AMs to use FM translators:

Electromagnetic interference to AM stations is increasing, says NAB. Such "interference generated by power lines, computers, traffic signals sensors, electric motors, fluorescent lighting, RF from cable TV lines, and certain kinds of medical equipment often disrupt the strength and clarity of AM radio signals. In particular, power utility poles made of metal, which are rapidly replacing wooden poles, can radiate AM signals, creating distortion and nulling a station's signal in parts of the intended coverage area."

Jun 27 2006 - 9:25pm

Tuesday, June 27th, 2006

Lawmakers, Regulators Face Key Decisions on Future of Media Ownership, Internet, Public Access, Low Power Radio

Lawmakers and regulators in Washington are in the midst of making a number of decisions that could affect the nation's media ownership laws, the future of the Internet, public access television and the expansion of low power FM radio stations. We speak with Hannah Sassaman of the Prometheus Radio Project which successfully sued the FCC three years ago in an effort to block the new media ownership rule changes. [includes rush transcript] Lawmakers and regulators in Washington are in the midst of making a number of decisions that could affect the nation's media ownership laws, the future of the Internet, public access television and the expansion of low power FM radio stations.