Prometheus Radio Project
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|Industry||low power community radio|
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The Prometheus Radio Project is a non-profit advocacy and community organizing group committed to building an inclusive and representative media landscape in the United States and around the world. They are working to create a network of low power community radio stations. The communities organizing around these stations have grown into a powerful force working toward a more democratic media future in a world of Radio homogenization. Founded in 1998 by a small group of radio activists in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Prometheus has been active in building the low power community radio movement and organizing against media consolidation.
Prometheus Radio Project v. FCC
In 2003 the Federal Communications Commission, under Chairman Michael Powell, sought to significantly relax media outlet ownership regulations. In Prometheus Radio Project v. FCC, a number of broadcasters and citizens groups, including the Consumer Federation of America, the National Council of Churches of Christ, and Media Alliance, sued to prevent the FCC from following through on the decision. Prometheus was represented by Andrew Jay Schwartzman and Cheryl Leanza of the Media Access Project. On September 3, 2003, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay which prevented the new rules from being enforced pending the outcome of the litigation. In 2004, the majority ruled 2-1 in favor of Prometheus and mandated the FCC re-examine its media ownership rules. They ruled that a "diversity index" used by the FCC to weigh cross-ownership (of radio, television and newspapers) employed several "irrational assumptions and inconsistencies." Dissent by Chief Judge Anthony Joseph Scirica noted that the majority were simply employing their own assumptions.
The Supreme Court later turned down an appeal, so the decision stands. The FCC was ordered to reconfigure how it justifies raising ownership limits.
In the spirit of the Amish barn-raising tradition, where a community comes together and erects an essential structure, Prometheus holds radio barnraisings. These events bring together the local community with community radio advocates from around the world to build a community radio station, while advancing the movement for media democracy. Prometheus barnraisings gather Low Power FM radio advocates, journalists, radio engineers, students, lawyers, musicians, activists and other folks from across the country to build a studio, raise an antenna mast, and put the station on air for the first time – all over the course of three days. At a typical barnraising, the organization invites expert facilitators to lead workshops on a wide variety of topics, like understanding the workings of the FCC, introductions to various aspects of radio engineering, updates on media and democracy campaigns, and how radio can promote social change today. In the inclusive spirit of Prometheus's mission, the events are open to the public.
Prometheus has held eleven community radio barnraisings to date:
- WRYR-LP – February 16–18, 2002 – Deale, Maryland with South Arundel Citizens for Responsible Development
- KOYO-LP – April 12–14, 2002 – Oroville, California with the Bird Street Media Project (originally KRBS-LP)
- KOCZ-LP – November 15–17, 2002 – Opelousas, Louisiana with the Southern Development Foundation
- KYRS-LP – October 24–26, 2003 – Spokane, Washington with Thin Air Community Radio (who later launched full-power station KYRS)
- WCIW-LP – December 5–7, 2003 – Immokalee, Florida with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers
- WSCA-LP – September 10–12, 2004 – Portsmouth, New Hampshire with Portsmith Community Radio
- WRFN-LP – April 1–3, 2005 – Pasquo, Tennessee with Radio Free Nashville
- WXOJ-LP – April 5–7, 2005 – Northampton, Massachusetts with Valley Free Radio
- WRFU-LP – November 11–13, 2005 – Champaign-Urbana, Illinois with Radio Free Urbana
- KPCN-LP – August 18–20, 2006 – Woodburn, Oregon with Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste
- WMXP-LP – June 8–10, 2007 – Greenville, South Carolina with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
- WGXC-FM – September 24–26, 2010 – Hudson, New York with Free103point9
Prometheus Involvement with the Local Community Radio Act
For many years, Prometheus has strived to gain community members and nonprofit groups a fair share of the radio spectrum. Most recently, Prometheus was involved in the passing of the Local Radio Community Act. The act, proposed in 2009, opened up a portion of the radio spectrum to low-power community radio stations (LPFMs). Before then, community members could apply for licenses for full-power stations, which are five to ten times as expensive as LPFMs. Those groups who did not have the capital to build a full-power station were forced into piracy.
The Prometheus Radio Project did everything possible to ensure the passage of the Local Community Radio Act. Members of the organization discovered that while the bill circulated in Congress, secret holds were put on it to prevent its passage. People who opposed the bill, like Senator Gordon Smith – the president of the National Association of Broadcasters – were persuading other senators to vote against it. The moment the Prometheus Radio Project found out about this, members began contacting all the citizens they could. They encouraged their contacts to call their senators to show they were aware of these holds. Their efforts turned out to be successful when the Local Community Radio Act was finally passed in 2010.
What signing this act means is that “the FCC [has] a new mandate to expand low power radio,” says Brandy Doyle, Policy Director for the Prometheus Radio Project. However, the FCC will not begin to automatically handout licenses. Doyle states that “we think the FCC will need to do a rule making to clarify the intent of the new law and update the rules going forward.” (Doyle) Because of this act more groups will soon start to apply for licenses and they will need a lot of support in order to “navigate the process” says Vanessa Maria Graber, Community Radio Director at the Prometheus Radio Project. Now, however, “many low power stations are under a significant and substantive threat of encroachment.” Low Power FM Encroachment Report, 2/15/2005. Encroachment is something that Prometheus will have to work on combating next.
Prometheus saw the act's passage as an opportunity to give a voice to local community radio and bring community radio to urban areas.
Prometheus' current Outreach Campaign involves the contacting and support of groups wishing to attain their own low-power FM community radio station.
- Prometheus Radio Project v. FCC
- Media ownership
- Community radio
- Media democracy
- World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)
- Telecommunications Act of 1996
- National Association of Broadcasters
- Citizen media
- Summary of the Third Circuit Court's ruling on Prometheus Radio Project v. FCC from the Media Access Project Archived 2008-02-16 at the Wayback Machine.
- Prometheus Radio Project barnraising overview Archived 2007-02-08 at the Wayback Machine
- Everhart, K. (2011, January 11) For LPFMers, radio act brings a ‘ton of joy.’ Current. Retrieved from www.current.org/radio/radio1101lpfm-bill.shtml Archived 2011-05-24 at the Wayback Machine.
- Obama Signs into Law the Local Community Radio Act: FCC Chairman Pledges “Swift Action to Open the Dial”. Retrieved from www.prometheusradio.org/node/2445.
- Riismandel, P. (2011, February 1) Prometheus Radio’s Brandy Doyle on the road ahead for LPFM. Retrieved from www.radiosurvivor.com/tag/local-community-radio-act.
- Prendergast, Curtis and Stephenson, Hank. (2010, July 10). A Brief History of the Local Community Radio Act of 2009. sonoranchronicle.com/2010/07/11/a-brief-history-of-the-local-community-radio-act-of-2009.
- Prometheus Radio Project official site
- Free Press – National organization working to reform the media
- Rec Networks – LPFM database
- Radio Broadcasting Preservation Act of 2000 – Text of the act, supported by National Public Radio and the National Association of Broadcasters, which was overturned in the lawsuit Prometheus Radio Project v. FCC
- H.R. 2802 – Text of the Local Community Radio Act of 2007
- Radio for People – Coalition to expand community radio
- Reclaim the Media – Seattle-based media activist group
- Liberadio(!)'s interview with Kate Blofson of Prometheus Radio – October 8, 2007
- Prometheus Cheerleaders – Performance outside the FCC hearing on localism, October 31, 2007