Prometheus Radio Project

Prometheus Radio Project

If you’re sick of stale cor­po­rate radio and des­per­ate for local alter­na­tives, you may have heard of the Prometheus Radio Project. The Philadel­phia-based non­prof­it col­lec­tive — ded­i­cat­ed to empow­er­ing com­mu­ni­ties and spurring social change through com­mu­ni­ty radio — is a proud anti­dote to the canned cor­po­rate sounds of Clear Chan­nel and oth­er radio behemoths.

More than 10 years after a small group of activists with roots in the pirate radio move­ment found­ed Prometheus, the orga­ni­za­tion is work­ing hard to pro­tect exist­ing low-pow­er FM (LPFM) sta­tions from an indus­try law­suit and help­ing the bipar­ti­san Local Com­mu­ni­ty Radio Act, which would open up more radio spec­trum space for non­prof­it LPFM sta­tions, final­ly become law.

But Prometheus’ staff and vol­un­teers are also firm­ly embed­ded in the grass­roots, lend­ing their skills and ener­gy to com­mu­ni­ty groups ready to build a radio sta­tion. Since 2002, col­lec­tive mem­bers have trav­eled around the coun­try for radio barn rais­ings,” help­ing to raise anten­nae masts, con­struct stu­dios and build local, vibrant alter­na­tives to an increas­ing­ly cen­tral­ized and cor­po­ra­tized media landscape.

Prometheus staff mem­bers Cory Fis­ch­er-Hoff­man, Andy Gunn, Andalu­sia Knoll, Antho­ny Maz­za, Saku­ra Saun­ders and Pete Tridish cor­re­spond­ed via e‑mail with In These Times in ear­ly April.

In 25 words or less, what makes you so spe­cial? (Keep in mind that humil­i­ty, while admirable, is boring).

We are a col­lec­tive­ly run non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion of media activists, orga­niz­ers and techies fight­ing for par­tic­i­pa­to­ry com­mu­ni­ty radio.

What’s the first thing that comes up when your name is Googled?

Our organization’s Web site comes up, along with the Media Own­er­ship Law­suit in which Prometheus sued the FCC for their attempt to trash the few remain­ing reg­u­la­tions pre­vent­ing com­plete monop­oly own­er­ship of our media. We won, and that David and Goliath sto­ry has made nation­al head­lines and is one small step toward end­ing the cor­po­rate dom­i­na­tion of our media.

Shame­less­ly plug a colleague’s project.

Prometheus works with com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions across the coun­try to build and oper­ate their own low-pow­er FM radio sta­tions. We worked with the Coali­tion of Immokalee Work­ers (CIW) to build and oper­ate their own radio sta­tion. The CIW farm-work­ers in south­west­ern Flori­da have won cam­paigns for bet­ter wages and work­ing con­di­tions against the largest fast food cor­po­ra­tions in the coun­try. They are cur­rent­ly bat­tling against mod­ern-day slav­ery in Florida’s fields and tak­ing on food sup­pli­ers like Ara­mark and Sysco to demand an end to exploitation.

Describe your politics

We are col­lec­tive­ly run because we believe that all people’s voic­es should be heard. We work with social jus­tice orga­ni­za­tions that are parts of a larg­er social move­ment fight­ing for self-deter­mi­na­tion. We believe that we live in an out­ra­geous­ly unequal and unjust soci­ety and that those most affect­ed by these imbal­ances must be at the fore­front of chang­ing this sys­tem and bring­ing about jus­tice. We rec­og­nize that more demo­c­ra­t­ic access and own­er­ship of the media plays an essen­tial role in this process.

(Come up with a ques­tion for your­self and answer it.)

How many fin­gers am I hold­ing up?

This many.

Media

Name a jour­nal­ist whose work you read reli­gious­ly. Why?

Sey­mour Hersh. It’s unfor­tu­nate­ly so rare to see a jour­nal­ist who has worked so long and is so well-respect­ed in the indus­try” and still speaks truth to pow­er. Helen Thomas comes to mind as well.

What is your favorite In These Times story?

Well, that’s easy: Mo’ Pow­er for Low Pow­er.” This piece fea­tures the Chica­go Inde­pen­dent Radio Project—which, along with oth­er groups across the coun­try, is eager to see our air­waves open up for more com­mu­ni­ty radio stations.

What’s a mis­take the main­stream media always makes that real­ly gets under your skin?

Main­stream media often pro­vides a nar­row view of impor­tant issues that face our com­mu­ni­ties by high­light­ing the voic­es of those they con­sid­er to be experts.” These experts” often claim author­i­ty while ignor­ing those that are most impact­ed by the top­ic at hand.

What’s your favorite Web-based tool for your job? Give us a quick walk through on how to use it.

We love the Prometheus map­tool. This was cre­at­ed by a for­mer intern-extra­or­di­naire, and it links to all of the low-pow­er FM radio sta­tions on the air. Check it out!

Pol­i­tics

What’s one piece of leg­is­la­tion (state or nation­al) you’d like to see passed right now?

We are work­ing hard, team­ing up with grass­roots folks from across the coun­try and media jus­tice and reform orga­ni­za­tions from the belt­way and beyond to pass the 2009 Local Com­mu­ni­ty Radio Act. This impor­tant piece of leg­is­la­tion will expand low-pow­er FM radio to cities, towns and sub­urbs across the coun­try, open­ing up the air­waves for hun­dreds or poten­tial­ly thou­sands of new, non-com­mer­cial, local, par­tic­i­pa­to­ry com­mu­ni­ty radio stations.

Are you involved with any inter­est­ing forms of activism? Could you tell us about any of these projects?

We are work­ing with peo­ple across the coun­try to pass city coun­cil res­o­lu­tions in sup­port of expand­ing low-pow­er FM radio. Res­o­lu­tions have been advanced in Urbana-Cham­paign, Ill.; Hart­ford, Conn.; Boston, Mass.; Lake Worth, Fla.; Min­neapo­lis, Minn.; and Frank­fort, Ky. We are also ask­ing peo­ple to sign LPFM Now! Post­cards and mail them into their Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Phone calls, e‑mails, let­ters, meet­ings and sur­prise vis­its to con­gres­sion­al offices are an impor­tant part of this cam­paign as well.

How can oth­ers get involved?

Call your con­gressper­son right now! Tell them that you sup­port The Local Com­mu­ni­ty Radio Act (HR 1147 & S592), and ask them to cospon­sor this leg­is­la­tion as a sign of sup­port for com­mu­ni­ty media.

What cam­paign should we all sign on to right now?

Join the cam­paign to expand LPFM. Check out our Web site and get involved. Down­load a city coun­cil res­o­lu­tions toolk­it, write to expandlpfm@​prometheusradio.​org to order post­cards and call your con­gres­sion­al rep­re­sen­ta­tives now!

Per­son­al

How do you get around (bike, pub­lic trans­porta­tion, car)? Why?

Bicy­cle, but you got­ta watch out for those trol­ley tracks in Philadelphia.

What local media do you depend on?

Prometheus is based in Philadel­phia, and the dearth of com­mu­ni­ty media here is what got Prometheus activists involved in these issues in the first place. A few years back how­ev­er, we were hon­ored to play a role in the re-launch of Philadelphia’s only his­tor­i­cal com­mu­ni­ty radio sta­tion, WPEB, a pro­gres­sive, local media out­let serv­ing West Philadelphia.

Have you ever had any run-ins with the law that you’d like to share?

Prometheus grew out of the pirate radio scene, so col­lec­tive­ly we’ve had lots of run-ins with the law. It would be sil­ly to go into the details of any one inci­dent, but let’s just say that our inter­ac­tions with the law have cul­ti­vat­ed in us a hearty respect for those who choose to defy the law and face the con­se­quences for what they believe to be right.

Cul­ture

What’s the last good film you saw?

Un Poquito de Tan­ta Ver­dad, a must-see doc­u­men­tary about the pop­u­lar upris­ing in Oax­a­ca, Mex­i­co, in 2006 and the takeover of the media by women. Com­mu­ni­ty radio tran­scend­ed sim­ply being a [part of the] media” but became an essen­tial tool for com­mu­ni­ca­tions, sur­vival, self-defense and transformation.

What is the last, best book you have read?

Rebel Radio by Jose Igna­cio Lopez Vig­il, an incred­i­ble tale of Radio Vencer­e­mos, the gueril­la radio sta­tion of the FMLN (Frente Farabun­do Martíi para Lib­eración Nacional) in El Salvador. 

What trend in pop­u­lar cul­ture do you find the most annoying?

The replace­ment of face-to-face con­ver­sa­tion and per­son­al inter­ac­tion with the vari­ety of dig­i­tal con­nec­tions we have access to today, whether it’s phone, text, e‑mail or what­ev­er. We miss just talk­ing to peo­ple — face to face!

What celebri­ty least deserves their fame?

What celebri­ty DOES deserve their fame?


—April 142009

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