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Jun 23 2006 - 3:55am

Low Power FM Prometheus Radio Disputes NAB Claims 

June 23, 2006

Low Power FM organization Prometheus Radio is disputing yesterday’s NAB statement about new legislation over LPFM stations. "The NAB has delivered a CD to the Senate Commerce Committee staff that claims to demonstrate something that isn't true. With their CD the NAB says that allowing small community organizations, schools and churches to operate 100-watt radio stations will cause devastating interference to other stations on the FM band," the organization writes in a statement.

The statement adds that the "recordings demonstrate nothing but the desperation of the NAB in its quest to protect its members and their 1,934 business models from new competition." According to Prometheus Radio, the examples given by the NAB were not good examples of what the organization was claiming, and did not involve LPFM stations.

According to the NAB, the bill would eliminate “third adjacent channel interference protections” which help keep radio signals clear and sharp. The organization also released audio of stations as an example of the kind of interference that can occur when these protections are removed.




Jun 22 2006 - 4:04am

 NAB Says "No" To Low Power FM Amendment

June 22, 2006

According to the NAB, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) will present an amendment to a telecommunications reform bill that involves Low Power FM stations (LPFM). The legislation would eliminate “third adjacent channel interference protections” which help keep radio signals clear and sharp. The amendment could be introduced to the Senate Commerce Committee as soon as this afternoon.

The NAB has posted a recording of audio from Washington, D.C. stations when these protections are lifted. The recording has been sent to the Senate Commerce Committee and the NAB is urging members to fight against the bill.

Sen. McCain has lobbied for LPFM in the past, though issues with signal interference have always been a sticking point.

Jun 12 2006 - 8:24pm

From Social Policy 

Summer 2006 


Hannah Sassaman, a self-described “rabble rouser” and program director at the Philadelphia based Prometheus Radio Project, has been featured in segments on NPR’s On the Media, Democracy Now, CNN, C-SPAN, and a variety of other TV, radio, and print projects.  She was a key organizer of major FCC localism hearings in San Antonio and Rapid City and recently helped coordinate the successful building of an FCC-licensed emergency radio station used by families displaced by Hurricane Katrina, in Houston.  Kat Aaron is the co-director of People’s Production House, a media justice organization in New York City that works to expand the next generation of social justice media makers through their youth program, Radio Rootz, which teaches radio reporting skills in schools throughout New York City, and through the Community News Production Institute, which trains low wage and immigrant workers in journalism and radio reporting.  Social Policy caught up with them this summer to discuss the No Hate Radio campaign and the future of community-powered radio.

SOCIAL POLICY: First off, can you give us a general outline of the No Hate Radio campaign and its origin this spring?

HANNAH SASSAMAN: In New York, on the major Clear Channel hip-hop station there had been a pair of top rated DJs – Star and Buc Wild – and over the past couple years there were a number of instances where people in New York (and all across the country – their show was syndicated in a dozen markets) began voicing concern about the content on their shows affecting them, their families, and their communities.  The most recent incident happened this May: Star and Buc had a series of programs over 8 days where Star (whose real name is Troi Torain) was making extremely violent and racist comments against his rival, DJ Envy.  It was blatantly, egregiously violent stuff directed at DJ Envy’s wife and four year-old daughter and it spurred a number of different responses.  DJ Envy’s wife, Gia Casey, went to Councilman John Liu to engage in a public campaign against Clear Channel, which ultimately led to Star’s suspension and termination. 

KAT AARON: The whole thing actually came to our attention when Councilman Liu sent a press release to some media outlets, including the community radio station where I work. We got the sound from Star’s show, and we couldn’t believe how offensive, sexist and racist his statements were.  Since we work with young people, the hip-hop generation, as it were, we knew wanted to get involved.

HS: The No Hate Radio campaign – comprised of longtime media activists from organizations including Kat’s group, Radio Rootz, the Prometheus Radio Project, and Media Tank –  started a local campaign and worked to build a website.  It was tricky to develop, since we’re obviously very sensitive to issues of censorship – how can the FCC establish rules to protect against hate speech, without having the power to stop speech, for example – but the point of the site was to try and get at the root causes of the hurt in the community.  It allowed people who were angry about this content to complain to the station and to the FCC, rather than to ask for the station to censor itself.  It wasn’t even to ask for the station to remove Star and Buc, although that did happen and many people supported the decision.  We wanted to look at the root causes behind Clear Channel’s ability to put out programming that, while often popular, can be very dangerous and offensive to our communities. 

KA: For Radio Rootz, one really important thing was to say look, this issue with DJ Star isn’t about hip-hop.  Hip-hop can be raw, and it can have strong language, but hip-hop culture is not about hate speech.  That’s what it becomes reduced to in a media environment where trash talk is what gets attention and DJ deals.  A trash talk war, back and forth between two DJs, with things like the Tsunami song at Hot 97 and then Star’s comments at Power 105, that can improve ratings.  But good ratings and good radio aren’t the same thing.

These sorts of comments, racist and sexist and homophobic comments, are the opposite of what young people need to hear – or anyone, really.  But when local radio stations are owned by huge corporations like Clear Channel, the listeners have very little control over what they hear via the public airwaves.  Specifically, in New York, the hip-hop community has no say about what goes over Clear Channel’s Power 105, or Emmis’ Hot 97.  As a community, we don’t get to decide whether we want political hip-hop or commercial hip-hop, whether we hear local artists or the same Top 40 artists, and we don’t get to decide what’s offensive to us.  I would much rather my students hear a curse word, as defined by the FCC, than I would want them to hear words like “gook” and “bitch.” And to be really clear, it’s not a question of censorship, or asking the government to get more involved in regulating what we hear.  The larger issue behind the No Hate Radio campaign is changing who gets to define what offensive language is, and who gets to decide whether a broadcaster is meeting its obligations to its listeners.  Right now, it’s not the kids, it’s not the parents, and it’s not the local listening area.  That’s a problem for us. 

HS: For us it’s about who owns the media, who gets access to our airwaves.  Clear Channel owns 1,300 stations in the top 248 national markets.  Their headquarters are in San Antonio, not New York, or Philadelphia, or Chicago, or anywhere else they have a substantial presence – though they dominate San Antonio’s airwaves too.  Now, these 1,300 stations are getting access to a valuable resource – the airwaves – which belong to American people.  In exchange for that resource, they are supposed to be responsive to local communities, to give us access to each other, to our democracy – to make our lives a lot better.  But because Clear Channel owns these 1,300 stations, if there’s community anger towards one station – or even ten or twenty – they will simply be slapped with a fine, or maybe lose some advertising content.  The station is a moneymaker to them; they’d rather ignore public input and pay the FCC every time they “make a mistake.”  With that many stations under your control, community response will never affect the bottom line.

What No Hate does is tell people who are upset how to direct their responses to the FCC, and also describes how the FCC actually has power to take licenses away from corporate control.  Community response can be used as evidence to not renew a license for Clear Channel, and we believe more diverse ownership of station licensing puts a stop to this race to the bottom that inevitably comes with consolidation in broadcast media.

When big companies put out content that is primarily about increasing advertising revenue, it’s clear that issues that are important to the local community in that market simply do not matter to them.  When people get involved in local radio – low-power radio, full-power community radio – we can start to create stations with truly diverse content representing youth, the elderly, that feature real debates, and local politics.  And challenging FCC licensing is the foundation to that movement.

KA: And that’s also where groups like Radio Rootz come in – we teach young people to create funny, dynamic interesting radio pieces and radio shows, so that when we say look, Clear Channel is not what we want to hear, we can point to community created content and say: we want that instead.  We train our students in reporting, and we also teach them about issues like media consolidation and ownership, so that they understand the media landscape they are working in and they can choose to get involved in the fight for a media that serves their communities’ interests.

SP: Tell me about the June 28th approval of the amendment reaffirming Low-power radio on Senate Bill 2686.

HS: Low-power FM stations broadcast at 100 watts or less – covering between five and fifteen miles.  They generally serve small town, really rural communities, and in a very few cases, neighborhoods or communities within small cities in the United States.  When the service was first established, the FCC determined that there was plenty of room in both bigger and smaller communities for this type of broadcasting to exist alongside full-power FM stations.  The National Association of Broadcasters, representing huge broadcast corporations like  Clear Channel and other big owners like Viacom, GE, etc., were so afraid of what the FM dial would be like with all these small, community-driven low-power stations that they pretended there was a technical problem with low-power.  The told the FCC that a low-power station three clicks away would cause interference – terrible crackling on your radio – for a full-power station.  They weren’t able to convince the FCC – even after jimmying up a fake CD with the alleged interference captured – but they were able to convince Congress, members of which, of course, receive big money from the broadcasting lobby for their election campaigns.  And Congress certainly doesn’t have professional engineers at their beck-and-call, like the FCC.

So Congress restricted the scope of low-power (in the ironically named Radio Preservation Act of 2002).  For years we have been fighting to expand low-power FM to all the communities that need it, and now after the FCC’s $2.2 million study, commissioned to the MITRE corporation, the FCC proved that there was, after all, plenty of room for low-power FM to broadcast in thousands more communities with no potential interference.

This year, the expansion of low-power FM (LPFM) radio (one hundred watt community radio stations used by churches, schools, and community groups around the United States) has taken a dramatic, important turn. Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, sponsored an amendment onto Senate Bill 2686, a big telecommunications bill that covers everything from who controls your local cable company to how fast and open your access to the internet is.

This amendment removes the artificial restriction that the FCC was forced to put on our airwaves in 2000, keeping low-power FM radio from America’s cities and thousands of our towns.  Hundreds, if not thousands, of new radio frequencies would be opened up to communities across the country if the amendment became law.

Because so many thousands of low-power FM supporters called in – everyone from evangelical Christian stations to farm worker groups to school districts – and because groups as diverse as the Christian Coalition and Free Press support LPFM, the Senate passed the amendment, supporting low-power FM 14-7 on the Commerce Committee level.  Even though we all might have to come together later this year to defeat this bill (we’re not trading low-power FM for public access TV – no way!), this was an important chance to show support for LPFM on the floor of the Senate, on this bill, and in all future legislation.  If this amendment had been voted down on the floor, we might have had to start over at square one to expand LPFM to our communities.

Now we’re talking to a lot of Senate and House offices about the service low-power FM stations provided to communities after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  Only four Gulf-area stations stayed on-air during and after Katrina last year, and two of them were low-power stations.  Give us a call if you want to help us work in Congress or at the FCC to expand low-power FM as an essential part of our emergency communications infrastructure in the United States.

SP: So what are some more of the promising signs you see in the campaign to put more control in the hands of community radio?

HS: It all comes back to some level of community reciprocity: in exchange for using a resource that belongs to community, companies to need to give something back.  Instead, they want to establish a status quo that serves them by having the convenience of access in all these markets, but limits our – the community’s – power.  That said, it’s a really exciting year, actually!  When you look at the big companies – Clear Channel, GE, ABC, Disney –  trying to negotiate more and more control without being accountable, what you’re finding is a media justice movement that really understands how they’re trying to do it, a movement capable of using the same leverage to fight for access.

What we’re saying is that we want the local control and determination which allows us to participate in our democracy.  We’re capable of a sophisticated analysis to argue for these rights whether it’s the Senate or the House, and we’re able to make the same argument in all cases – to say no to corporate consolidation of media outlets.

KA: And again, part of what it means to take community control of the airwaves is about creating a new generation of socially engaged media makers.  It’s not enough for community journalists to just be reporters.  They also have to fight on the policy level, and young people all over the country are doing just that.  A great example is the Allied Media Conference, where young media makers and activists gather once a year to talk shop, learn writing and reporting skills, and get up to speed on the policy front.  I didn’t see things like that when I was starting in radio, even seven or eight years ago. 

SP: Hannah, how does your organization – the Prometheus Radio Project – directly engage communities on these issues?

HS: Well, we don’t go and tell people, “You need to build stations.”  We go to them and learn what appropriate communications they want and help people to understand all the battles around these issues, and work in solidarity to share tools and hook communities up with other like-minded communities.

The way that Prometheus does it is we try to tie arguments together.  We try to meet people in local communities and get people together so they can use these tools themselves, engage their local governments, or even take it nationally to the FCC.

Our work with PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste), a local union of farm and tree workers in the mid-Willamette Valley of Oregon is a good example.  They already had access to radio and found it really useful to talk about labor issues and as a tool to come together and organize.  They established a strong, cultural, diverse outlet, but when a local farmer realized they were using the airwaves to discuss labor rights and immigrant rights, he badgered the local station to get them off the air and they lost access.  They even had to sue to claim the last two hours of airtime which they had already paid for! 

They want to use a new station to strongly communicate their organizing goals, and allow the community to influence those goals as sort of a Soapbox media center.  Their own station will be an appropriate tool which will make them more effective, and help PCUN have a place where people can come in, make media, learn how to be more engaged with labor rights and immigration rights.  On August 20, 2006, that station – KPCN-LP – will go live in Woodburn, Oregon for the first time.

KA: Radio wasn’t always the way it is now – programmed remotely, with profit rather than education or entertainment as the main focus.  Even ten or fifteen years ago, there was much more creative, interesting, and local radio. That can come back, if we can get more community control of the airwaves.  Who wants to hear the same twenty songs over and over?  Don’t you think people want to hear what’s happening in their neighborhoods, their schools?  People want to hear from the farm workers, the middle school kids that Rootz teaches.  They want to hear the girl who raps from down the block, mixed in with the big name rappers.  I love mainstream hip-hop and pop culture as much as the next person, probably more, but there’s more out there, and I’m not the only one who wants to hear it on the radio. 

You know, early radios were transmitters and receivers, a two-way medium of communication.  Those days probably won’t ever come back, but the airwaves can and should be a space for community dialogue. No Hate Radio gave people all over the country a chance to tell the FCC that these radio behemoths are out of control.  This campaign certainly isn’t the beginning of this fight against the corporate media giants, but it’s not the end either. Clear Channel has crossed the line, and if I were them, I’d be starting to worry.  People are pissed, and they are mobilized.  Those are our airwaves, and we’re going to get them back.

May 18 2006 - 10:45pm

Clear Channel Must Answer for Racist, Violent Broadcasts

Dismissal of New York Deejay Doesn't Let Radio Giant Off the Hook; Groups Call on FCC to Reject License Renewals, Expand Community Radio

NEW YORK - May 18 - Days after the nation's largest owner of radio stations fired a controversial New York deejay, an alliance of media watchdogs, consumer groups and community organizations called on the Federal Communications Commission to hold Clear Channel Communications accountable for its record of broadcasting racist and hate-filled speech on the public airwaves.

"Clear Channel is peddling hate for profit," said Kat Aaron, co-director of Radio Rootz, a radio training program for kids in New York. "They don't need corporations trying to warp hip hop to make them think that racism is cool. What kids need is to tell their own stories on the radio. That's why community radio is so important — it gives regular people a voice."

These groups, including Prometheus Radio Project, Youth Media Council, Media Tank, Radio Rootz and Free Press, are urging their activists to file informal comments at the FCC about Clear Channel's broadcasts and encourage the expansion of diverse, local voices on the radio dial. Allies have set up a Web page at to help individuals file complaints directly with the FCC.

Last week deejay Troi Torain, Star of the "Star and Buc Wild Show" on New York's Power 105, attracted national press attention for broadcasting overtly violent, racist, and sexually explicit comments concerning the 4-year-old child and the wife of DJ Envy, a rival at Hot 97 in New York. Not until New York City Council Member John Liu organized a press conference with the family did Clear Channel act to remove Torain – who since has been arrested and charged with harassment and endangering the welfare of a child.

"Prosecuting Troi Torain is not the issue," said Joshua Breitbart, Communications Director of Media Tank in Philadelphia, where Star and Buc Wild aired on Power 99 FM. "Clear Channel also must be held accountable. Consolidated broadcasters use personalities like Star for ratings. History suggests that the company will just replace this shock jock with another 'Star.' Hate radio is their business model."

Clear Channel owns nearly 1,300 radio stations nationwide, far more than any other company. The San Antonio, Texas-based giant is no stranger to controversial broadcasts. From 2000 to 2003, Clear Channel-owned stations were hit with 60 percent of the indecency fines levied by the FCC.

"Clear Channel's pattern of nationally broadcasting racist, sexist and homophobic content is hate radio," said Taishi Duchicela, Media Justice Organizer at the Youth Media Council. "We've been challenging Clear Channel since 2001, and we haven't seen any positive changes to how Clear Channel operates, in the Bay Area or nationally. On the contrary, Clear Channel has risen to new and outrageous levels of disrespecting and attacking our communities. The question is: Will the FCC give Clear Channel more eight-year licenses to attack us on our own airwaves?"

Last October, Youth Media Council filed a citizen petition to deny the license of KNEW-AM 910 for broadcasting racist, anti-immigrant and anti-gay content, including statements by radio host William Bennett's that "Islam is a religion based on child sexual rape" and "abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down."

"The Federal Communications Commission has a responsibility to regulate the airwaves on behalf of people across America," said Prometheus Radio Project organizer Hannah Sassaman. "We want more local ownership in our cities and towns, rather than the race to the bottom that inevitably comes with consolidation in broadcast media. The time is right to roll back media consolidation, and put these licenses into the hands of our communities."

May 10 2006 - 5:21am

Mississippi ARRL Member Wins SBA Award for Katrina Efforts

NEWINGTON, CT, May 9, 2006--A Mississippi radio amateur and broadcaster who braved the fury of Hurricane Katrina to keep his ham radio club's low-power FM (LPFM) broadcast station WQRZ-LP on the air was one of three recipients to receive the Small Business Administration (SBA) Phoenix Award. The SBA honored ARRL Member Brice Phillips, KB5MPW, of Bay Saint Louis, for "Outstanding Contributions to Disaster Recovery by a Volunteer." Since 1998, the Phoenix Award has been presented to "those who display courage, resourcefulness and tenacity in the aftermath of a disaster, while contributing to the rebuilding of their communities."
Brice Phillips, KB5MPW

May 9 2006 - 4:14am

Superior teen honored on national level for radio work

By BETSY COHEN of the Missoulian

9 May 2006

Nicholas Schwaderer, a teenager from Superior with a fascination for the world of radio, was honored in Washington, D.C., on Monday and named one of America's top 10 youth volunteers.

Schwaderer was stunned but exuberant after receiving the national Prudential Spirit Community Award in a swanky, star-studded ceremony at the International Trade Center.

"I feel like I'm on top of the world," the 17-year-old joyfully shouted into the telephone moments after the event. "I just can't believe all of this."

Schwaderer won the prestigious award for building an FM radio station at his St. Regis school, which has become an important source of news and entertainment for the rural community of St. Regis.

Earlier in the year, Schwaderer won the state award for his effort and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to tour the nation's capital with the other 101 state winners from across the country. Among the state winners was another western Montanan, Ian Lacy, a 14-year-old from Hamilton who produces videos of local events and scenery to share with community members who are homebound or ill. While in D.C. for the recognition ceremony, the top 10 winners were announced. Schwaderer said he never expected he would be among the top honorees, and now, after meeting and traveling with all the state winners since Saturday, he's even more blown away by the distinguished honor.

"There are kids here who raised over $10,000 for various projects, and there are so many different, totally awesome projects I can't believe mine was chosen," he said. "I mean these kids here are awesome, they are kids who are going to change the world and I can't believe I'm hanging out with these guys."

Schwaderer and the other nine top volunteers will receive a personal award of $5,000, an engraved gold medallion, a crystal trophy and a $5,000 grant from the Prudential Foundation for a nonprofit charitable organization of his choice.

"This program, this trip, is totally awesome," Schwaderer said. "It's amazingly well-organized and they treat us like royalty.

"Last night, we had dinner in the Smithsonian - we had the entire museum to ourselves, the Hope Diamond and everything else.

"I hung out with the CEO of Prudential, he's the coolest guy and he's so into this. Ted Danson the actor was there, so was Joey Cheek the Olympic speedskater - it was great."

Aside from hobnobbing with the rich and famous, Schwaderer said he was struck by the quality of the events.

Meals were unbelievably delicious, and the tables were elegantly adorned with fine linen and china.

"You know, you can usually tell the quality of an outfit by how good the desserts are, that's where they usually drop the ball, you know. But the desserts were the tastiest things ever," Schwaderer said. "They handed out all these little glass bottles of Pepsi and Sprite along with wine glasses filled with ice, so you felt like you were at this really ritzy party, and that you were really important."

During the awards banquet, Schwaderer said he was too busy eating and talking to think about the top 10 award, and besides, he didn't even think he was in the running.

When his name was called, he thought he imagined it. He doesn't even remember what he said in his brief acceptance speech.

The event was transformative, he said.

"I never thought that highly of myself, but I guess other people think I'm pretty cool," he said. "It's been the greatest weekend of my life, definitely."

After a quick stop to visit Montana Sen. Conrad Burns, Schwaderer will head home on Tuesday.

He plans to stay in touch with the other young people he's met on the trip - "I'm so inspired by them, each of them is amazing," he said - and start plotting his future.

He plans to attend the University of Montana in the fall, where he has earned a scholarship that covers all of his tuition for four years.

His goal is to get a master's degree in business administration without any student loans or incurring any debt.

"I think I can do it," he said, especially after the confidence boost from his adventure in D.C.

"This experience has let me know I can go beyond Montana - that I can expand," he said. "Nothing is limiting me besides myself."

The award is conducted in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and was created 11 years ago by Prudential Financial Inc. to encourage youth volunteerism and to identify and reward young role models.

Since its inception, more than 70,000 young volunteers have been honored on the local, state and national level.

Nominations for the 2006 awards programs were submitted last fall by school personnel, Girl Scout councils, 4-H organizations, American Red Cross chapters, YMCAs and volunteer centers associated with the Points of Light Foundation.

"Nicholas and Ian exemplify the spirit of community that is so important to the future of our neighborhoods, our towns and our nation," said Arthur Ryan, chairman and CEO of Prudential. "By honoring them, we hope not only to give them recognition they so richly deserve, but also to inspire others to follow their example."

Feb 13 2006 - 12:33am

Reprinted from The Washington Post
By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Staff Writer

Tuesday, February 19, 2002; Page A01


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court Friday struck down as
unconstitutional a law that barred an unlicensed radio broadcaster from
ever obtaining a license for a low-power FM radio station or being
involved with a station.

Feb 12 2006 - 10:53am

Late last week, US Senator Rod Grams (R-MN) started the process of attaching bill S.3028, the self-proclaimed 'Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act of 2000' to a completely unrelated appropriations bill. In response to this underhanded political maneuvering in Congress, hundreds of advocates of neighborhood radio are sending their receivers to their Senators.

Feb 12 2006 - 10:39am

CAMDEN, New Jersey -- Two members of the Philadelphia Independent Media Center collective were asked to leave the Tweeter Center grounds today, where the Lollapalooza Festival was taking place, when a representative of the Clear Channel Corporation informed them that the organizers of the Lollapalooza Festival (wholly ticketed, promoted, and produced by Clear Channel) did not approve of their anti-Clear Channel educational information and satirical banner. Both members of the Philly IMC had been invited to table at the festival. After being asked to remove their Clear Channel banner and to stop distributing anti-Clear Channel materials by Lollapalooza representative Claudette Silver, the collective members decided to pack up their things and leave, rather than dilute their message.

Feb 12 2006 - 10:35am

In Wake of Noncommercial License Trafficking, Advocates Ask FCC to Freeze Translator Applications


Upon learning that three individuals have improperly obtained some 4,000 FM non-commercial radio station authorizations free of charge for the purpose of resale for profit, a coalition of Low Power FM (LPFM) radio advocates have filed an emergency petition calling upon the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to impose an immediate national freeze on the authorization of new FM translator stations. The groups explained that each permit which is misappropriated in this scheme for importing the programming of a distant radio station deprives a community of the opportunity to create a new, community based LPFM station.