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

Wireless Philadelphia’s Proof of Concept Accepted by the City
May 24, 2007, 1:59 pm
Filed under: philadelphia, wireless

FYI: The City of Philadelphia has decided that the proof-of-concept area that Earthlink built is providing enough reliable service permit Earthlink to build a wireless network over the entire 135 square miles of the city.

I’m interested to hear from folks who live in and around that area — is the service you are receiving reliable? Are the login-splash pages peppered with Earthlink ads, or do they include community information? Did your Wireless Philadelphia service help you figure out how to vote in the recent Mayor and City Council race?

I’m also interested to hear which criteria WP and the City used to judge that the proof-of-concept area and its service was up to snuff.

Price Points:

“Consumers who sign up for EarthLink Wi-FiSM will enjoy download and upload speeds up to 1 Mbps for a limited time promotional rate of $6.95 a month for the first six months, returning to the recurring rate of $19.95 a month thereafter. For consumers that want even more speed, EarthLink is offering a 3 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload service for only $9.95 for the first six months, returning to the recurring rate of $21.95 a month thereafter.”

Identifying who is eligible for reduced rates in the ‘Digital Inclusion’ program:

EarthLink is also working with Wireless Philadelphia to promote ‘Digital Inclusion,’ a cornerstone of the project – which is a program to offer qualifying Philadelphia residents Internet access at the discounted rate of $9.95 per month, before any promotional opportunities. In order to be eligible for this rate, customers can have income up to 150% of the federal poverty level, or participate in certain supportive programs such as Transitional Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Medicaid, or Supplemental Security Income. For more information on Wireless Philadelphia’s Digital Inclusion program, visit http://www.wirelessphiladelphia.org/digital_inclusion.cfm .


In addition to signing up for EarthLink’s monthly subscription product, EarthLink Wi-Fi, consumers can buy access to the network at competitive prices in one-hour, one-day, or three-day increments. Customers can also sign up for a monthly subscription from EarthLink’s wholesale partners – People PC (www.peoplepc.com) DirecTV ( www.directv.com), SuperPA.net ( www.superpa.net) and Pennsylvania Online (www.paonline.com ).

Download the full press release here: http://wirelessphiladelphia.net/wp_poc_press_release.doc.


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.

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…

Sour Grapes from the National Association of Broadcasters
February 23, 2007, 10:12 am
Filed under: fcc, rants

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.

Just A Few Hours Left
February 5, 2007, 11:58 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

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.

Radio Uhuru — Briefly, and More Soon…
January 25, 2007, 1:03 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hello to all — we’ve met an amazing milestone.  After two and a half weeks of extensive work, the station broadcast all day at the World Social Forum.  I’ve never been involved in a barnraising where the initial launch of the station was accompanied by such a diversity of voices on the air — landless organizers from southern India, youth trainers from rural Somalia, elders from Zimbabwe.  The world is deep and large and for one day in Nairobi, beautiful young producers wove some of the best radio I’ve ever heard from that world. 

This station rose from what was, at this time yesterday, an open wound.  Three of the women that helped to build this project — two Ugandans and one American — were working in the studio on Monday, interviewing each other.  I am not going to use their names until I get permission to do so.  The two Ugandan women are fierce, beautiful women who work with youth in Kampala, Uganda, and the American woman can match them step for step with her focus and clarity and intelligence.  When three men showed up at the door of the studio with a gun — a real gun, one of the Ugandans promised later — they did the right thing by listening to their demands and lying down on the ground.  The thieves, who had scoped out the studio earlier with a guarded curiosity, took the computer of a French producer, our two brand new mikes, a number of minidisc recorders (rare as gold in our group) and some other small valuables that we keep realizing are missing.  The thieves put these three women in a shocked and guarded state, and put all of us into a place of reflection and decisionmaking.  Were the thieves actually cops in disguise?  Were we way too lax and flashy with our expensive computers, cameras, minidiscs and microphones?  Did we feel safe going back to that space?  As the thieves didn’t take any of the equipment necessary to actually broadcast (the mixer and transmitter were safe as houses) or any of Andy’s technical tools (they dumped out his canvas tool bag on the floor, filled it with their other valuables and left), we actually could go on air still, if we wanted. 

After long conversation we decided that the space was ours and that we had a responsibility to ourselves to get our audio on the air and to keep broadcasting. The women who had been involved in the assault, encouraged us the most.  And so on Wednesday morning, after a day of police reports, collecting more audio, one of the Ugandan women, quiet and powerful, was the first voice on 107.9, Radio Uhuru.

The day was magic — the exhiliration of a barnraising paired with a focused need to put as many world leaders on the air as possible.  We have archived the entire day of broadcasts and once many of us are back in the land of broadband we’ll have photos, stories, and audio to post.  Expect brilliant conversations with landless Indian community organizers, Somali women working on infrastructure, and Zimbabwean elders — and more!  I’d like to write more now, but the only reason I’m enjoying the rare luxury of internet access is because I need to download audio editing and graphics editing software for our Ugandan allies who are about to head home.

More soon and with love,
Hannah Sassaman