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.



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.



Kenya Reportback
March 7, 2007, 1:54 am
Filed under: kenya, radio, rants, the revolution

All the members of the Prometheus delegation to Nairobi and Kisumu met up tonight at the home of the inimitable Jay Sand, to report to a small but engaged crowd on our Kenya trip. It was difficult to string together the experiences we had, how we felt about them, and to draw conclusions. So we didn’t do that. Instead we talked pretty stream of consciousness, but by sitting together, and by including new voices and interested parties in the conversation, we were able to draw some conclusions. As long as drawing conclusions doesn’t mean that we are wrapping up our experiences in a tight bow and putting them in a drawer, I am okay with that.

I talked about Safi and Faridah (Faridah in background to left, Safi with the mic), two of the women I felt closest two during my time in Nairobi, at the convergence space for the IMC, south of the city in the tree-lined, gated Karen suburb. Both of these women are mothers, living in Kampala, Uganda. They took over three weeks to come to Nairobi. They both learned a huge amount and taught so much more. Tonight I tried to think about and speak about -why- they came to Nairobi. I don’t have a big answer to that but the confusion around it felt pretty real.

The Uganda delegation to the Independent Media Center convergence in Nairobi consisted of a tight group of folks, all of whom were youth organizers with a group in Kampala called Mission for Youth Rights. I was never clear how they found out about the convergence in Nairobi, but I am very glad to have met them and to have learned from them during the weeks we were together.

Were Safi, Farida, and their allies and friends there to build a larger African Independent Media Center network? Were they there to learn technical skills and resources, and to practice teaching them? Both? What personal goals did they bring? I remember Safi pushing hard for us to make certificates proving that everyone had been there, and I couldn’t understand who would sign them. It wouldn’t be the Prometheus organizers, so I made slots for everyone at the event to sign them, including (and especially) Kennedy and John, local Kenya IMC founders who contributed to our gathering by handling a ton of the food logistics, and by lending incredible insight in our meetings, discussions, and private conversations.

It’s an issue of resources, for sure, and we started to talk about that tonight. When tools like computers, minidisc recorders, transmitter kits, internet access, soldering irons, even electrical power, are scarce, you can’t necessarily depend on the solidarity that comes by working with these tools to well up in the same way. Different kinds of solidarity — perhaps more mindful ones — come with direct conversations about why people come together to work, and conversations about what work is possible without ready access to technical tools.

The thinkings on Kenya tonight are matched by a nice article in the Philadelphia Weekly , accompanied by amazing photos by Prometheus volunteer and ally JJ Tiziou. I’m pretty happy with the article and grateful to George for sharing the stories of the trip and the Kenyan and other African colleagues we met with the world, but I regret not pushing to get more voices from our travellers in the article. Also, while Suad did a ton of work with the transmitter, many many other folks (like Andy) taught many other skills. A really cool technically minded guy named Job did a lot of work on that transmitter as well. I was just taken aback with Suad’s thirst for learning, her incredible skill on the transmitter (most of her solder joints were really clean and workable rather than broken) and also with her passion for radio as an appropriate and necessary technology for the community where she’s from, in Somalia. I hope we can work more with her someday…



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.



viral organizing and the allied media conference
July 5, 2006, 11:07 pm
Filed under: radio, rants, the revolution

I’m at my grandparent’s apartment in northeast Toronto, surrounded by an office park and some solemn bridge playing. My aunt Amelia just died so in the midst of a raucous summer of media justice organizing for so many of us, in the midst of preparation for the last likely chance for community groups to apply for full power FM radio stations in the United States and battles for our control over the fundamental pieces of our communications infrastructure, I’m taking a break in Canada. It’s great to be here and to have the space to think about the past few weeks and the great places I’ve been.

Approval-hungry granddaughter that I am, after catching my grandparents up on what I was up to and yet again gathering another bemused, though proud, ‘that’s nice’ after I tried to impress them with news of how Prometheus moved major legislation that will expand US community radio last week. They kind of blinked at me, smiled for awhile. So I pulled out all the stops and brought out the ultimate grandparent weapon – the actual video of me doing something on national television. My grandparents, retired Canadians who escaped pre-Nazi Poland and ran a Canadian Maritimes dress shop respectively, squinted around their Windows 95 machine to watch me chat with Amy Goodman in my flashy glass earrings and shiny antique plastic glasses. Across an international border, sixty years of context and our very different ways of getting information and sharing it (my grandfather, deaf in both ears and basically blind, tries all kinds of schemes to be able to read the paper, the latest being a contraption that magnifies the letters onto a huge flatscreen monitor on a free lease from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind to my grandfather, a veteran), my segment on Democracy Now seemed to have an impact. My grandfather pulled me aside after watching the video clip 4 times (Gram had to call her twin sister from the upstairs apartment and a number of her friends to watch the video before I was allowed to help finish making dinner), and said, “So you and your friends are making sure that no matter what, two or three corporations simply can’t have a monopoly over the media, anywhere in the world, because they’ll be an independent resource available, right?”

Right, Papa Sam – that is exactly it. We build radio stations at Prometheus, but not because we love radio (though we do) or because we don’t want radio to die and are buoying up a fading medium. We are organizing for appropriate technology, appropriate community media, not for easy answers, not for one answer, not even for a rallying cry at a podium that causes us to raise our fists. That cry will hit some straight in the heart, it will wing others and leave them confused and unfocused. Others it will miss entirely. How can we hit everyone? Not with words and policy goals aimed like bullets aimed from one stage. I think we have to turn around and hit each other, or rather, embrace each other. Hugs are remembered so much longer than pithy turns of phrase shot like bullets from high above a crowd. Long conversations and popular education are the way to build allies, instead of an audience.

In the farmworker communities I mentioned on DN! — the communities of Immokalee, Florida and Woodburn, Oregon, where we have built radio stations or are about to be invited to build them — is one appropriate technology that the organizations at the core of labor rights in those towns use to effect change. But we aren’t so stupid as to say that the farmworkers of southwest Florida and midstate Oregon need only a radio station to complete their participation in their local community and global society. These farmworkers are using the phone system to plan and organize with family members around the world. They are walking door to door to gather thousands of workers and allies for state protests and national tours. They are sitting at computers – teaching each other computer literacy, in fact – and remaking the website, the blog, the podcast, in the model of their struggle and revolution.

At the Allied Media Conference in Bowling Green, Ohio, workshop leaders and facilitators offered history, best practices, and proven models – but no cure-alls. For those of us with a foot in local, state, and national policymaking, the need for answers, for strategies that won, burned in our stomachs like an acid. At my own panel I spent time shit talking allies and asking the room – begging it – to get together into awar room. Part of me wants one place where we can all come together with our various strategies for policy wins and success, prioritize those wins and fund them, coordinate them, and set them on the path to victory.

But that doesn’t last. If you are trying to build a media justice and democracy movement with the appropriate technology ethos at its core, you have to start at places like the Allied Media Conference, where no strategy or technology is the only way or even the hot way, the sexy way. There are so many many ways. The organizers there understand that it’s the people we work with and the media they make and how they come to decide that such media is what they want to be doing – that combination of local organizers and space to connect them — that leads to new great ideas like low power FM radio, or like a front of women of color bloggers.

Now that this conference is moving to Detroit, Michigan, easily accessible and in the midst of diverse, well-connected organizing initiatives that cross movements and connect them – I know we’ve created the right petri dish of chemicals for the next intersections of community organizing and media policy. We won’t find one solution but dozens, hundreds, and we’ll use gatherings like the AMC to connect them in important, countless ways.

Looking forward – really looking forward.




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