Hannah Sassaman — Banned from the National Association of Broadcasters Since 2002


I was feeling
February 26, 2010, 2:56 am
Filed under: 'media justice', the revolution, video

I was feeling kind of down after a workday cooped up at home, but then I read these two things and feel like I just drank a shot of clarity and awesome.

1)  This weird and wonderful article on creating your own luck, from the Telegraph circa 2003:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/3304496/Be-lucky-its-an-easy-skill-to-learn.html

Self-help-y but in the best way.  All about having the clarity and confidence in yourself to notice opportunities — and the trust, instinct and experience to take them.  The best stuff in my life happened to me that way.

2)  Then I read this master class on video production and translation from two recent Narco News Authentic Journalism school grads:

http://narcosphere.narconews.com/thefield/3803/torture-egypt-making-video

The video profiles the contrast between the Egyptian goverment’s praise of its police force and that force’s record of torture, as well as the struggle against it.  Watch the video but also read the article to learn some hot download and editing tricks, and be wowed by the patience and focus required to edit and produce something effective — in a language you don’t understand.

Off to meet one of the videomakers at a great local bar.  Bye!



Low Power FM Passes the House of Representatives!
December 17, 2009, 4:32 pm
Filed under: 'media justice', 'media reform', fcc, radio, the revolution, Uncategorized

A number of people have asked me to do a little bit of writing on a big moment for community media justice — the passage of the low power FM radio bill out of the House of Representatives last night.

The bill was brought to the house floor for the very first time on December 16th — directly after the joyful and bipartisan introduction of a resolution to honor A. Phillip Randolphorganizer of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and a lion of the labor and civil rights movements.

Randolph believed in community media as a vital tool to build the movement for economic and racial justice.  In 1917, he founded The Hotel Messenger — a magazine that fearlessly espoused the political vision and personal stories of a community suffering greatly under class and racial discrimination and brutality.  The paper exposed corruption in uniform sales to sidewaiters in New York and regularly told worker and community stories.  He used his movement and his paper to plan visionary marches on Washington for fair employment and civil rights, and to engage in a rhetoric of change that rose above partisan argument:

“Our aim is to appeal to reason, to lift our pens above the cringing demagogy of the times… Patriotism has no appeal to us; justice has.  Party has no weight with us, principle has.  Loyalty is meaningless; it depends on what one is loyal to.”

That’s the kind of media that we need now – media that rises above a ‘cringing demagogy’ that oppresses rather than liberates us.  What an honor for the bill to expand Low Power FM to be brought to the floor the same day as Randolph’s resolution.

I spent the larger part of my 20s inside the low power FM movement — helping to build radio stations with the Prometheus Radio Project.   Low power FM stations are amazing and unique as snowflakes.  The transmitters are these incredible little boxes — shiny lights like computer servers with a thick coaxial cable coming out — winding up to a flagpole antenna on the top of a roof.  Pasquo, Tennessee’s WRFN-LP hoisted their tower up with ropes, pulleys, and a hundred hands after a rainstorm.   In Woodburn, Oregon, the Pineros y Campesinos Unidos de Noroeste put KPCN-LP’s antenna on top of a water tower.  Best view I’ve ever seen.

I remember building transmitters with Ugandan women in a blackout outside of Nairobi, producing radio plays in Tennessee, and the benediction given by the Holy Ghost priest who led the Southern Development Foundation at the first moments on the air of KOCZ-FM – Opelousas Community Zydeco radio.

When I think of community radio, I think of these moments of magic and how wonderful my time building these stations was.  But we don’t fight to expand community radio because of the magic and the beautyAs special as that is.  We fight to expand community radio because it – and all community media – is a necessary tool for survival and freedom in our society and in societies around the world.

Then-Federal Communications Commissioner Chairman Bill Kennard was invited at the turn of the millennium to South Africa to help their country build their telecommunications regulation — or so the story begins.  He was invited to visit Bush Radio — Africa’s oldest community radio station and an instrument of liberation and struggle that helped bring South Africa out of apartheid.  Kennard was scheduled to spend 20 minutes with station founder Zane Ibrahim and his comrades — but he spent over 4 hours studying how people built power with and through the station, how it developed leaders, how vital it was to the community.  The station houses a day care center, a radio school for kids age 6-18, a hip hop curriculum for musicians doing outreach around AIDS.

What Kennard saw, he wanted to bring to a movement that was already flourishing in the US.  Dozens of unlicensed stations were popping up – from Springfield, Illinois to New York to California.  The pressure of those pirate radio stations and the organizing of incredible leaders from faith, legal, and music communities made licensed low power community radio a reality.

Big broadcasters stood in the way for years.  Despite millions of dollars of impartial engineering evidence proving there was plenty of room, the big broadcasters kept low power FM out of almost every big city and most smaller communities in the United States.  For ten years.  But this year, the incredible coalition of deejays-turned-to-self-taught-engineering-experts, of rock stars, of Catholic, Methodist, and UCC churchgoers, of civil rights leaders, made it happen and passed a bill to expand low power FM to hundreds of new communities.

In the House of Representatives, that is.  But I can see the other side of the Senate vote.  In weeks coming — sooner than later — the vote will be done and then the real work will begin.

Low power FM radio station licenses are free to community groups.  Once the bill is fully passed, the FCC will start work and get ready to open a window — one more chance for unions and city councils and schools to get a voice that changes the face of their communities forever.  For those of us connected to incredible movement leaders nationwide — from Detroit to West Virginia to South Texas — we have a responsibility to help these leaders apply for these rare tools.

If we take responsibility now, and coordinate, our families and kids will travel through a future country filled with the sounds of our voices rather than the sounds of voices aimed at silencing us.  I can’t wait to live there with all of you.



Free Media and Human Rights in Pakistan
November 10, 2007, 2:16 am
Filed under: 'media justice'

I’m watching the final official public hearing on media ownership — in Seattle, Washington — and thinking about the impact the goverment and corporate domination have over the rights of regular people, here and around the world.

This photograph was submitted to the New York Times by a reader of the paper from Pakistan today:

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2007/11/09/world/09readerpakistan.337.jpg

Check out that “Free the Media” sign!

And earlier today, that photo was on the very front of their website. It’s also the posted-at-the-top photo they are using on the top of their ‘The Lede’ blog, where they are asking Pakistani readers of the times to send their photos, stories, audio, and comments to the paper, as the government tightens their crackdown on community freedoms:

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/11/09/a-call-for-eyewitness-photos-video-and-text-from-pakistan/index.html?hp

One commenter had this to say:

“Report on the protest. Students across the country are organizing themselves and protesting. Please keep the news on your front pages so that our voices aren’t silenced the way that Musharraf has silenced our media.”

It’s moments like this which remind me why local, national, and global media are life and death issues. Those struggling for their freedom in Pakistan, and all of us, need access to an accountable local press to make change, and to tell the world when injustice threatens to silence us.



Up the Creek Without a Radio Station, Part II
May 1, 2007, 10:25 pm
Filed under: 'media justice', fcc, radio, the revolution, Uncategorized

Thanks to Free Press for getting the word out about Gerardo Reyes Chavez’s incredible testimony at the FCC Media Ownership hearing in Tampa, Florida yesterday. Gerardo is a senior leader from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, one of the most influential and effective farmworker labor organizations in the world — they recently triumphed over McDonalds in a battle to get the giant corporation to pay workers a fair wage for their labor in America’s fields. (Watch a PBS piece on their victory, produced by NOW).

I’ve gotten a lot of requests to post his full testimony here. Reclaim the Media, one of my favorite media justice organizations, already beat me to the punch but I thought I’d take this opportunity to not just repost Gerardo’s testimony, but to also thank CIW spokesperson Julia Perkins and CIW organizer and station producer Francisca Cortez for testifying during the public testimony comment period last night.

After flying in to Tampa from New York, and just before a long drive back to Immokalee, Francisca and Julia waited until 10pm to tell their stories to the full FCC and the gathered crowds. Julia spoke about the unique beauty and power of WCTI-LP — Radio Consciencia — in a South Florida FM dial where most stations broadcast the same 10 songs over and over. Francisca described the work she does as a radio deejay, organizing for women’s issues and voices at 107.9 and all over Immokalee.

Without further adieu, Gerardo’s testimony. If I can get Julia and Francisca’s, I’ll post theirs as well. These leaders of the media reform movement — using community radio to save lives — are our heroes at Prometheus.

Testimony of Gerardo Reyes Chavez
Organizer, Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Radio Consciencia
WCTI-LP — 107.9 FM

Before the FCC Media Ownership Hearing, Tampa, Florida
April 30th, 2007

My thanks to the Commissioners for inviting me here. My name is Gerardo Reyes Chavez. I am a farmworker, living in Immokalee, Florida. I am here to describe how important a local and accessible media system is to farmworkers – and to demand that the FCC not just stop the consolidation of media ownership, but expand and protect the truly local media we need to survive.

For a community like ours that has few economic resources and faces daily violations of our human rights, it is difficult to have access to commercially-controlled media most of the time. In the past, when we wanted our community to hear an important message about their basic rights, we had to pay for time on the air and only when the commercial station wanted to grant us that time.

Media consolidation risks thousands of workers’ lives. Many farmworkers indigenous languages like M’am, Q’anjob’al, Haitian Creole, and many times Spanish is our second language.. However, like everyone we need the media to reach us when danger comes. Farmworkers often live in trailers, are often frightened but confused when storms move through – and they cannot understand the warnings coming their way on the radio, especially if they don’t speak fluent English or Spanish. The smaller communities where farmworkers live, like Immokalee, lose detailed coverage in favor of larger markets like Naples, Tampa, or Ft. Myers.

In 2003 we built our own low power FM community radio station. Radio Consciencia, or WCIW-LP – broadcasts at 107.9 in Immokalee. While most workers have little access to the Internet, newspapers, or television, Radio Consciencia gives Immokalee a voice and provides our community with the information it needs.

When Hurricane Wilma hit Immokalee in 2005, we realized the deep value of Radio Conciencia. All local radio stations were transmitting alerts on the impending hurricane, but Radio Conciencia was the only radio that was transmitting information on where to go and what to do in Spanish and in the indigenous languages spoken in our community. Many of the farmworkers had to work in the fields as the hurricane approached and did not return home until transportation to shelters being provided by Collier County had stopped running. When people were confused about what was happening they were able to contact us at the radio station to find out the current situation, the imperative of evacuating trailers, and where to find shelter. Radio Conciencia received so many calls from people who were stranded in trailers that we knew the unmet needs of our community. We mobilized 2 vans and transported over 350 people to shelter until late into the night. After the storm we saw that several of the trailers in the camps from which we evacuated people had been completely destroyed. After the storm Radio Conciencia continued to transmit information after the storm on where to find food and water and safety measures to take. By this time the County had realized the importance of Radio Conciencia to the community and had loaned us a generator so that we could continue to communicate these important messages in the aftermath of the storm. This is just one example of the many times Radio Conciencia has made a safer environment for our community.

I want to tell other farmworkers and communities like ours to build their own LPFMs. I’d especially like to see LPFM stations in communities to the north where migrant workers go when the season in Immokalee is over and where farmworkers are more isolated and have even less access to information, communities where workers face severe violations of their human rights including continuing existence of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. But the FCC already gave away most of the frequencies that they could use. Those spots are now filled with translator stations, which bring listeners no local content – but instead repeat a signal from Twin Falls, Idaho across the nation. The Commission must prioritize new local broadcasters over these distant-fed translators, and stop silencing community radio hopefuls, waiting years to broadcast.

You have chosen to listen to Florida’s people tonight, and to give our voices the strongest weight in your decision. I ask each of you to stop media consolidation, and to expand and protect access to low power FM. Listen to your conscience – and build the media system that you know, in your hearts, that we need. Thank you.



Up the Creek Without a Radio Station
April 30, 2007, 10:26 pm
Filed under: 'media justice', 'media reform', fcc, radio

I’m tuned in right now to the next media ownership hearing in Tampa, Florida, looking forward to hearing from diverse community leaders and folks from all across the state. In Harrisburg, people who had driven from hours away, taking off days from their jobs and families, contended with paid broadcasters and the development directors of major nonprofit organizations. The commissioners themselves commented on how striking the difference was between community members who volunteered to come speak, and those staffers who were defending media consolidation, on the clock.

Tonight I’m especially looking forward to hearing from Gerardo Reyes Chavez, a leader from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (http://www.ciw-online.org), who will testify on the 2nd official panel of the evening, after 8pm. Gerardo will talk about the importance of not just stopping media consolidation, but fighting for essential growth of local, community-owned media outlets, like low power FM, public access TV, and full power noncommercial community radio. In his case, lives were saved when Radio Consciencia (http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2006/nov/17/radio_conciencia/?neapolitan ), the local LPFM station licensed to the Coalition, broadcast warnings in Zapotec, Haitian Creole, Q’anjob’al, to farmworkers stuck in the fields during Hurricane Wilma. As Gerardo will testify tonight, local stations were transmitteng alerts on the impending hurricane, but Radio Consciencia was the only station transmitting information on where to go and what to do in both Spanish and the indigenous languages spoken by thousands in the community. Community members could go even further — contacting the station to learn more about the current situation and where the evacuation trailers were. They got so many calls that the station mobilized vans and transported over 350 people to shelter that night. After the storm, WCIW-LP (Radio Consciencia), kept the information going on where to find shelter, food, and water, all in the diverse languages of the local community. By that time the County had realized the importance of the station, and loaned the group a generator so the station could keep saving lives.

The FCC can stop media consolidation if we demand it, but the current situation is broken. Rules that make current corporate media owners accountable, as Commissioner Copps said in his introduction this evening, would be an improvement. But what we really need are rules that encourage and permit more outlets like Radio Consciencia to be built — in every American city, and across the country.

You can listen tonight by clicking here: http://fcc.gov/realaudio/#apr30 , and by visiting http://www.stopbigmedia.com. I can already hear the crowd cheering the amazing, diverse speakers — congratulations to everyone coming out to testify and to all the groups who worked hard to make this happen.



First Post (On The Way To) Memphis
January 11, 2007, 10:44 pm
Filed under: 'media justice', 'media reform', NCMR2007, rants

I’m writing this from the last leg of a seventeen hour drive to Memphis, Tennessee, haven’t slept much, so this is rougher than I’d like and might get some edits later on! Prometheus, at this point in the game, has developed some expertise in loading a van with gear, volunteers, and enough of a good attitude to get us where we are going. Usually we’re trucking one or two vans worth of radical radio experts to one of our barnraisings, where we build an entire radio station over the course of a three day weekend. This time around we’re headed to the National Conference for Media Reform.

What is a conference, exactly? If my rudimentary Latin doesn’t fail me, it’s an opportunity to confer — to talk to fellow travellers, people with different kinds of knowledge, about problems, how to solve them.

I know I have a lot to learn, and that many of the people that I want to learn from will be travelling to Memphis with the same hope.

When I look forward from my cramped corner at the back of the van and ask people in the van what they’re interested in doing, it’s everything and anything from spreading the word about independent films, to getting the word out about the last chance in a generation that we’ll have to build our own full power radio stations in the USA. Others will be focused on defending and protecting their public access TV stations, or holding local corporate media accountable to youth and to people of color.

I’m always really struck by the deep and broad literacy that many of the activists I meet hold on a deep diversity of issues under the media reform umbrella. When we woke up from our fitful upright naps, squished between boxes of information about full power FM and sleeping bags and irregularly shaped Tupperwares of baba ghanouj, we stopped at a truck stop for breakfast. I spent a lot of time talking to Howard, who had just returned from Jordan, where he and his wife worked with the Prometheus delegation to build radio stations with a women’s community center. Over weirdly sweet sourdough bread and eggs, he argued fluently for net neutrality, solar powered Wi-Max wireless infrastructure in Sierra Leone, and the nefarious history of the founding of the FCC. Howard is multifaceted — on the surface, I might think he would not be at home at a power lunch or a media convergence space, but it’s his fluency and ability to cross-reference in many issues that makes him so valuable as a colleague, and just the kind of person that I hope many people want to meet in Memphis.

This weekend in Memphis, in the background of the essential and huge debates on stopping the consolidation of media ownership, will be a quiet and insistent conversation on the last frontiers of open spectrum in the United States, and how important it is for the grassroots and the policy shapers to come together to claim that territory for the American people. Presenting on over a dozen panels will be pioneers and architects of media justice and media accountability, looking for allies and backup for their incredibly successful work taking down the corporate media that marginalizes their communities.

If we approach this conference with a lot of hope and with open minds, we’ll have the chance to build relationships that bridge distances. Lots of different kinds of distances, like the geography between San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Nashville, and all the way to and beyond Washington DC. I also want to think about what sometimes seems like the insurmountable distances between organizing strategies, different pieces of this movement. Maybe if we treat everyone like experts — pirate radio operators working in Springfield, Illinois, and policy crafters from across the Atlantic — we’ll be able to prioritize and strategize better, together, to win in all the ways we want and need to win.



consequences of the corporate media blackout
November 7, 2006, 5:28 am
Filed under: 'media justice', 'media reform', fcc, rants, the revolution

The Federal Communications Commission has just collected its first round of comments on its most recent set of proposed rules attempting to consolidate media ownership. Comments are coming in from all over the place. You can do a quick scan for yourself by visiting the Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System, inputting 06-121 as the docket number, and then get ready to review the over 120,000 comments available on the docket.

I am very glad that I am taking the time tonight to read through a smattering, just some of these comments, because spending time with the voices of the mothers and fathers, musicians and laborers, all these people who are writing in to the FCC, and taking the time to write personal (sometimes handwritten!) comments — is reminding me of one more reason why I continue to be passionate about this work to change our media system.

Just before Halloween, an independent media journalist named Brad Will, working with the New York City Indymedia Center, was murdered by paramilitaries in Oaxaca City. I found out when I got a call from an old friend, an independent media organizer in San Diego, who asked me if I knew any radio stations I could call to get the word out about this terrible and sad event.

At the time I was backstage, volunteering for an amazing pro-choice haunted house/benefit for the Philadelphia Women’s Medical Fund. I couldn’t leave, couldn’t jump online to try to help in whatever limited way I could, so I started text messaging anyone I knew with a connection to a community radio station, or with a press list they could hit.

Many, many Indymedia organizers began coordinating together to fight what they knew would come — the misrepresentation of not just Brad’s murder, but the misrepresentation of the context of why he was killed, and the stories and messages of the organizers and community members in Oaxaca who had been fighting for so long.

Reporters like Romero, author of the article in the last link, seems to be one of, if not the most prolifically disseminated reporter on Oaxaca in both local and national papers in America. A recent search shows communities in Lawrence as well as Olberlin, Kansas; Houston, Texas; rural New Mexico; not to mention Miami, Florida and North Dakota.

Why are these papers all using the same news feed? Because consolidation has forced them to shrink their newsrooms. (Notice the similarities in the style of our hometown New Mexico and North Dakota papers?) Why does it matter to the community members struggling in Oaxaca that our media is consolidating? Because the world depends on an accountable and diverse news media to fight to tell all sides to a story, and no matter what former FCC Chairman Michael Powell might say about the powers of the internet to disseminate information, most people in the United States and around the world are reading the corporate media’s — Rebeca Romero’s — version of why thousands of Oaxacans were encamped in the Zocalo, rather than listening to Radio Appo, for example, which offers up-to-the-second reporting from the streets of Oaxaca, or following the reports from Indymedia itself, which has provided a backbone of excellent reporting for so many struggles, for so many years.

I found this very recent editorial by Mary Sanchez , lambasting response to the media’s coverage of Brad Will. I couldn’t find it anywhere else but the Mercury News, a paper that will lose at least 47 newsroom positions now that it has been acquired by the Media Group. Newspapers, radio stations, and many more media outlets in the United States are poised to suffer deep job cuts if the next round of consolidation goes through. If the United States media consolidates further, for so many millions, and for the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca, it will be that much harder to speak to a global public that can levy the pressure necessary to support popular movements, and to bring those who commit atrocities to justice.

I should have written about this weeks ago, but here at the Prometheus Radio Project we’ve been pretty busy with some things (most notably the full power FM window — also known as the last time in a generation that social justice groups will be able to apply for their own radio stations). We want to work with all of you to help thousands of independent groups apply for their own radio stations this spring, because each new station is a victory not just for our local stories in America, but stories that are fighting for our solidarity from all over the world.

I don’t have the expertise to offer an accurate critique of the consolidated-media reporting around the struggle in Oaxaca — and many others are already doing an amazing job at that. But if you live in the United States, you can take the time to write a comment to the FCC, and tell them that there’s more at stake than profits, contour maps, vertical or horizontal integration at stake as they set up these new rules. As is always the case with our freedom of speech, lives are on the line.

You can send your comments to the FCC here — http://www.stopbigmedia.com.




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