Dennis Wharton and other staffers at my favorite organization, the National Association of Broadcasters, are asking the Federal Communications Commission to make sure that the comments they hear at their current round of official ownership hearings are “verifyably local“. They want all attendees of these rare and valuable hearings to identify what city and state they are from before they offer their two minutes of testimony before the FCC.
As I get ready to run out the door to listen to communities from all across Pennsylvania offer their evidence that consolidation hurts our cities and towns in Harrisburg, the one thing I can think is — bring it on. I think the FCC would be pretty impressed to hear how many people drove, flew, or hitchiked in to give two minutes of testimony to a team of regulators sitting on a high stage at the front of the room. And, I must correct you, Mr. Wharton:
“I was at the Nashville media ownership hearing and there were people from St. Louis and Cincinnati complaining about local media,” said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton. “That suggests to us that there is something curious about these so-called localism hearings.”
These aren’t the localism hearings — Chairman Powell started to organize those, and fell off around the same time as his Commission started researching the drastic decline in diverse raido station ownership. These are official hearings meant to impact Docket 06-121 — also known as the Quadrennial Review of the Media Ownership Rules . Whether you are from Honolulu or Harrisburg, the facts and anecdotes you offer from your life and your local community are the pieces the FCC is obligated to consider when they decide whether or not to deregulate the media. Every story is valid. If the FCC wants to organize a hearing in Honolulu, I am sure we’ll hear more about the local market there, but I am also sure that NAB suits and other industry lawyers will fly in to listen, monitor, and pat their consolidated members on the back before they fly home.
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A number of posts I’d started about our trip to Kisumu and Maseno — on the shores of Lake Victoria, at the equator, and at the intersection between higher education in East Africa and the power of technical resources in that education — were deleted by the insane virus that has dogged all of our PCs since we landed in Nairobi. So this is a quick post as we get ready for 23 hours of travel back home and a lot of thinking, processing, feeling learning, and reenergizing for American battles, working with communities we met across Africa, and so much more.
There’s a conversation happening on the IMC-Africa (Independent Media Center Africa) list about whether or not the IMC convergence was successful, and what the Northern and Western delegates could have done to lend more power to the African delegates. I don’t have the internet speed or time to read it thoroughly, but I know all of us Prometheans will take that time soon. About half of our trip was spent working as part of the convergence, but the issues under discussion on the list apply to our personal interactions with IMC delegates from across Africa, they apply to the relationships with the University, the Communications department, the students, and the Maseno community, they apply to our deeply satisfying and ongoing relationships with organizing groups ProActive and Koch FM in Kangemi and Korogocho, two large Nairobi slums.
Did we make the right choice by bringing minidisc recorders for people to use during the Kaserani/Moi Stadium based World Social Forum? Many of these were stolen in the armed robbery at the station, and those who became most fluent with the tool couldn’t leave with one,a dn even if they did, there would be no real way to replace it if it got broken or stolen later. (Did you know that you can’t use EBay or Paypal in East Africa? I’m pretty appalled that these companies won’t support entrepreneurial endeavors by African artists, businesspeople, students, etc., when these groups and individuals could sell their wares and services at fair rates and make so much more in the global internet economy than they could at home). Should we have brought no computers? Somehow found a way to bring extremely solid and fancy computers that we could leave here? We brought older computers, some to donate, others that we needed to take home.
I have a lot more thinking to do. On Friday a number of Prometheans went to a community center in Kangemi, the breezy and basically electricity-free former police station in the slum neighborhood. It was pretty awesome to see the room filled with beautiful, powerful young men and women, peppered with so many experts at community organizing and fundraising. But as the room got dark, and tools like soldering irons, the one-watt transmitter we’d built, even the 13.8 volt power supply failed; as we packed up to go before we could finish the workshop on the quarter-watt and had to pack up our one last set of wire clippers (Andy’s last pair that he wasn’t willing to give up, though we left a 220-volt soldering iron), I couldn’t help but wonder. Can we learn with these radical community organizers what the best way is for a distant, comparatively resourced group to partner with local organizations? Is there a balance between the plug-and-play rich NGO model of organizing with a local group around the world, and bringing no tools at all?
I know that continued conversations with people like Mpumi and Terna from South Africa, Oscar and Douglas from Kangemi, Martin and Geoff and Helen and more from Korogocho and Koch FM, Bwakali and Anne and Brenda from the Kenya IMC, and the many international rabble rousers we’ve met will help us Prometheus organizers rareify our model and our plans for our next trip to Africa and beyond.
More soon… gotta go buy some Weetabix and Kericho tea and a kanga. Kwaheri Nairobi, Kisumu, Maseno, Korogocho, Kenya, Africa… for today.