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The Gift of Community Radio
As Jane Jacobs observes in Systems of Survival, different sectors of society have dif-
ferent moral codes. She posits that hybridization of these codes can create moral
monsters that have the vices of both systems and virtues of neither. In this paper,
I observe the interactions of two moral codes in media, those of the exchange
economy, and those of the gift economy. My understanding of the gift economy
as a morally distinct economy that is often appropriated by the exchange economy
is based on a long intellectual association and friendship with the philanthropist,
semiotician, and economic linguist Genevieve Vaughan. Vaughan’s work over more
than 25 years on the concept of the Gift Economy has sparked an intellectual
movement that includes academics, activists, and indigenous thinkers.1 In the
interests of full disclosure, I must say that Vaughan has supported my work and
that of many others producing feminist media during more than 20 years.
In order to reject patriarchal thinking, we must be able to distinguish between
it and something else, an alternative. (Vaughan 1997: 18)
I have been a community radio practitioner for more than 30 years, and during
that time have observed several kinds of controversy and struggle erupting within
the field. In this paper, I will examine radio and especially community radio in
terms of gift economy concepts, and explore the hypothesis that much of the
conflict that emerges within community radio can be seen as a conflict between
a nurturing gift model and a hierarchical or patriarchal-exchange model.
Definitions and Discussion
First, how is community radio different from other kinds of radio broadcasting?
In practice, the definition of community radio is inconsistently applied, and can
overlap with other categories such as public radio, state radio, development radio,
and association radio,2 and even commercial radio—especially in countries that
have no enabling legislation for community radio licenses. However, in December
2003, the World Summit on the Information Society (see Civil Society Initia-
tive on Community Media) divided mass media into three recognized sectors:
commercial media, public service media, and community media. Each of these
sectors can be described in terms of a gift analysis.
Commercial radio is a radio station (or network) set up as a business. Its owners sell
advertising to raise revenue, and a money bottom line is usually the prime driver.
It is often said of these stations that in business terms the product is the audience,
which is sold to the advertiser for a profit, and that the content of the station is
simply a means to attract the audience so that the audience’s attention can be sold.
Station rankings are determined by surveying selected people from the potential
audience to find out what percentage of “market share” each station has captured,
in terms of gender and age and economic groupings. For example, males 18-34
living in families making more than $100,000 a year would be a pretty desirable
demographic, because it is relatively easy to get them to spend money on advertised
goods. It is also fairly certain that you can attract a sizeable amount of them with
the right bait. The preference for a male demographic tends to skew broadcasting
content towards lowest common denominator fodder for males, such as sports,
smart-ass commentary (and on television, sex and violence).
In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) formerly
interpreted the Communications Act of 1937 to mitigate the commercial nature of
broadcast media and require that it give something of value to the public.
The policy ... that became known as the “Fairness Doctrine” is an attempt
to ensure that all coverage of controversial issues by a broadcast station be
balanced and fair. The FCC took the view, in 1949, that station licensees
were “public trustees,” and as such had an obligation to afford reasonable
opportunity for discussion of contrasting points of view on controversial is-
sues of public importance. The Commission later held that stations were also
obligated to actively seek out issues of importance to their community and
air programming that addressed those issues. With the deregulation sweep
of the Reagan Administration during the 1980s, the Commission dissolved
the fairness doctrine. (Limburg)
Congress passed a law in 1987 to try to restore the Fairness Doctrine by writ-
ing into law what had formerly been only administrative regulations of the FCC.
However, President Reagan vetoed the bill, and other attempts have failed. Other
obligations of commercial broadcasters that have been dissolved since the 1980s
in the U.S. include obligations to air news and public service programming,
to give a right of reply against attack,3 and “to offer ‘equal opportunity’ to all
legally qualified political candidates for any office if they had allowed any person
running in that office to use the station” (Limburg). This final requirement was
suspended for 60 days by the FCC, shortly before the 2000 election, and resulted
in, for example, some Belo Corporation TV stations reportedly refusing to air
Democratic Presidential Candidate Al Gore’s ads.4 The suspension of the equal
time rule was supposedly in anticipation of a court ruling striking down the rule
on grounds that it violated broadcasters’ right of free speech; however, as of the
present writing the courts have not definitively ruled on this matter.5
The rhetoric of the broadcast regulation that emerged in the U.S. from the
1937 Broadcasting Act turned upon the issue of scarcity. Because broadcasting
spectrum was a scarce resource and was interpreted as belonging to the public,
this supposedly justified putting requirements on broadcasters to meet community
needs. In 1980, broadcasters were required to make an annual survey of nineteen
categories of potential community needs and show how they responded to this
with programming; by 2000, they were only required to keep a public file of any
community issues and programs they aired. Within this time frame, the Telecom-
munications Act of 1996 changed the rules to permit the same owners to have
almost unlimited numbers of radio stations. “Family owned” radio stations that
might have some human ties to the local community have virtually disappeared,
swallowed up and chased out by a very limited number of fiercely competitive
conglomerates (Mills and Schardt 2000).
The commonly stated rationale for permitting these ownership changes is
that with the availability of more kinds of media outlets (for example, cable TV
and radio, satellite radio and netcasting), there is no longer a scarcity of media
Since 1994, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has conducted
auctions of licenses for electromagnetic spectrum. These auctions are open to
any eligible company or individual that submits an application and upfront
payment, and is found to be a qualified bidder by the Commission. (FCC
In effect, by permitting a few of the largest cash- and credit-rich companies free
reign in enclosing the Commons, government is colluding in an artificially-enhanced
scarcity of broadcasting spectrum. In the words of former Clinton-appointed FCC
Chairman Bill Kennard: “Of course, spectrum has always been in short supply. But
never in history have we seen more intense demands on the spectrum resource.
We are in danger of suffering a ‘spectrum drought’ in our country.”6
In the words of Bebe Facundus, who was forced by economics to sell the
commercial women’s radio station she had created in Louisiana, “Only three
entities own everything [i.e., all the commercial radio stations] in the city of
Baton Rouge, and that’s happening throughout the country” (qtd. in Werden).
These conglomerate owners could buy up the most powerful stations with the
best reception and greatest audience reach; using economies of scale they could
undersell her in advertising until they drove her out of business, and they (and
the casinos) could hog and drive up the price of billboards used for radio promo-
tion. Facundus tried to make her station both attractive and useful to women in
her community—an example of how a commercial station that is locally owned
can cross over category and be oriented towards meeting needs. She put a large
amount of her own money into the station but was unable or unwilling to ab-
sorb a big financial loss as the conditions in the community changed. She also
says about her experience that she had a problem with male investors, whom she
had to buy out because “if men come in with any money they think they own
everything” (qtd. in Werden).
The loss of local ownership and local accountability is now recognized by the
public in the U.S., and has generated such a backlash against the FCC that in
October 2003 the federal regulatory body created a “Localism Task Force”:
... to evaluate how broadcasters are serving their local communities. Broad-
casters must serve the public interest, and the Commission has consistently
interpreted this to require broadcast licensees to air programming that is
responsive to the interests and needs of their communities. (FCC “Powell
A North Carolina TV station’s website contained this reporting about the FCC
hearing in Charlotte, which was attended by Chairman Michael Powell and other
Powell, one of three Republicans on the commission who backed the new
rules, has said he believes the issue of how broadcasters serve their local
community should be addressed separately from the ownership rules. But
he could not stop speakers from bringing up the ownership dispute at the
Charlotte hearing. “To try to talk about localism without discussing media
ownership is avoiding the issue,” said Tift Merritt, a singer-songwriter from
Raleigh who told the FCC members she was unable to get her songs on her
local radio station. Her comment drew applause from the packed hearing.
(“FCC Localism Hearing Draws Large Vocal Crowd” 2003)
In contrast to 1960, when “Payola” (companies paying to get their records
played on radio stations) was a crime, today in the U.S.: “Listeners may not
realize it, but radio today is largely bought by the record companies. Most rock
and Top 40 stations get paid to play the songs they spin by the companies that
manufacture the records” (Boehlert 2001). This affects not only local artists and
the local audiences who would like to hear songs on the radio that reflect local
culture, but they also shut out smaller and independent record-labels.
Several extreme failures by conglomerate radio stations to meet local needs
were widely publicized and became one of the main reasons for the FCC localism
hearings. For example:
In January 2002, a train carrying 10,000 gallons of anhydrous ammonia
derailed in the town of Minot, causing a spill and a toxic cloud. Authorities
attempted to warn the residents of Minot to stay indoors and to avoid the
spill. But when the authorities called six of the seven radio stations in Minot
to issue the warning, no one answered the phones. As it turned out, Clear
Channel owned all six of the stations and none of the station’s personnel
were available at the time. (“#17 Clear Channel Monopoly Draws Criti-
And then there was the report, also from the North Carolina, that the Bob and
Madison Morning Show on WDCG-FM had included a lot of hate talk directed
at cyclists, including discussion of how much fun it was to run cyclists off the
road. Cycling organizations’ protests got the station to promise to run road safety
announcements, but these public service announcements were reportedly also
parodied and derided by the morning show hosts (“Poor, Poor Broadcasters Might
Have to Endure Complaints at FCC Localism Hearings...” 2003).
So-called “shock radio” with hate elements, including sexism, has become
standard fare for many commercial radio stations across the U.S., especially in
the most widely listened-to time slots. Howard Stern, a shock jock syndicated by
a CBS subsidiary, got away with advocating rape, among other things (Pozner
1999). According to the New York-based NGO Fairness and Accuracy in Report-
ing (FAIR), hate radio is political.9 This assessment would seem to be borne out
by the fact that Stern’s show was cancelled from all the stations of the vast Clear
Channel network in February 2004. While CNN reported that this was because
Stern violated the FCC’s new decency standards (“Howard Stern Suspended for
Indecency” 2004),10 Stern himself was widely quoted as saying that it was because
“I dared to speak out against the Bush administration and say that the religious
agenda of George W. Bush concerning stem cell research and gay marriage is
wrong” (“Stern Feels Bush-Whacked, End is Near” 2004).
Hate radio for political purposes is far more widespread than just in the U.S.,
of course. According to Radio Netherlands (2004), “Hate radio killed more than
800,000 people in the last decade.” They maintain regularly updated listings of
examples of both hate radio and peace radio stations. Among the examples of
hate radio they list:
Radio TÈlÈvision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) is the most recent and
widely reported symbol of “hate radio” throughout the world. Its broadcasts,
disseminating hate propaganda and inciting to murder Tutsis and opponents
to the regime, began on 8 July 1993, and greatly contributed to the 1994
genocide of hundreds of thousands.
This hate radio station in Rwanda was succeeded in 1994 by two peace radio
stations, Radio Agatashya (“the swallow that brings hope” in Kinyarwanda) and
Radio Amahoro (“Radio Peace”). However, both these stations were short-lived
as a result of funding shortages.11 Since 1997, women’s programming has also
been used to promote peace.12
The association between women’s radio and peace has a flip side in that shock
radio, also described as “aggressive reality” radio, finds more of its listenership
among males (Dietrich 2003). Not surprisingly, it is also understood to be a tool
of a religio- Republican hierarchical ideology that has been struggling hard against
feminism and environmentalism in the U.S. Patrick Burkart (1995) analyzed this
Using Clinton’s election in 1992 as a basis for a backlash, talk show programs
directed momentum-building campaigns of mass fax and phone call petitions
to national politicians, especially in response to changing federal policies
towards abortion restrictions, discrimination against gays and lesbians, and
strengthening national educational standards.
America’s most ubiquitous talk radio personality, Rush Limbaugh, undermined
the reputation of feminism by popularizing the term “feminazis.” Referencing
early studies of Nazi radio, Burkhart (1995) found that America’s sneering right-
wing talk-jocks follow the same model—being absolutist and programming to
build a false sense of consensus. “Disagreement and dissent are programmed
out,” he writes, as a targeted marketing tool. Shows are “de facto ... reaching only
those audiences with lifestyles that support consumption of this entertainment
technology.” My own informal survey in 2002 showed Limbaugh was on the air
Austin, Texas, 34 hours a week.
Groups ranging from FAIR in New York (“Challenging Hate Radio: A Guide for
Activists”),13 to the Coalition Against Hate Radio in Portland, Oregon (“Groups
Demand End to ‘Hate Radio’” 2002), among others, recommend liberals to
mount campaigns that include calling in to hate radio programs. However, Burkart
explains that the shock radio programs today use technologies such as pre-screen-
ing callers and using a delay to allow editing calls even on live radio, in order to
build up a picture of monolithic public opinion supporting the host’s fascistic
pronouncements. As Genevieve Vaughan writes in For-Giving (1997):
An environment is created in which some ideas fit together and thrive because
they are validated as permissible and respectable, while their alternatives are
discredited. The so-called ‘free market’ of ideas, like the economic free market,
often promotes the benefit of a (genetically superior?) few while appearing to be
good for everyone.... Systems of ideas which have been taught us as the truth
back up the political and economic systems of which they are a part. (19)
Burkart’s (1995) analysis of right-wing radio is corroborative of that insight:
“Shock radio is a technocratic forum, portraying its ideological perspective ...
delivering daily, oracular, absolutist insights. Rush Limbaugh reminds his audience
regularly that he is the only voice of the truth in ‘the media.’”
Commercialism also has a role in less “mainstream” hate radio, whose purveyors
simply buy time from commercial operators that exercise no control over the
content. This, for example, appears on the website of famous Nazi sympathizer
With only a limited budget, anyone can buy airtime on hundreds of AM
or shortwave stations throughout America. Almost everyone listens to the
radio! Ernst Zundel urges his listeners to join the “Freedom Evolution” to-
wards Truth and Justice, by participating in this bold new venture in mass
Public Service Radio
Public service radio could mean many things,14 but you can get an idea of the
generally accepted range by looking at the membership of the European Broad-
casting Union. Its members are radio and television companies, most of which
are government-owned public service broadcasters or privately owned stations
with public missions. Support and control relationships between public service
broadcasters and governments vary. Stations and networks may be owned by the
government like Radio Mozambique (TV Radio World). They may be owned by
a foundation partly controlled by the government, like Swedish national radio
(Ruhnbro 2004). Or, they may be owned by a state-initiated private company,
funded by a dedicated tax and with nominal government control, like the BBC.
In the case of National Public Radio in the U.S., you have a non-profit corpo-
ration indirectly funded by a line in the government budget, with the money
laundered first through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (a bipartisan
politically directed body) and then through a network of member stations that
are also listener-, donor-, and business-funded. Looking at these structures, you
can infer that public service radio is intended to be for the public benefit, but not
“by the people.” In many cases, the government makes show of an arms-length
relationship, but I think it is fair to say that these entities are expected to promote
stability in the present system and cannot afford to be radical. It is a fact, however,
that in the current climate of capitalist globalization even maintaining the status
quo can become radical by default.
Remember that radio itself is only about 100 years old. In 1894, Marconi
“made a bell ring using radio waves.” In 1902 there was a “public demonstration
of radio.” Not until 1906 were the first radio set advertised and the first music
broadcast on radio. Radio transmitters interfering with each other soon became
an obvious problem. The first U.S. law to regulate broadcasters was passed in
1912 (“Radio Broadcasting History”). This was, incidentally, the year the Titanic
sank, a ship that had a radio but couldn’t reach anyone with it. The nearest ship
did not have a 24-hour radio operator. It was also the period of the First World
War, and governments could certainly see the building power of radio for war,
not only at home but also in their colonies.
New Zealand passed the first law to require government licensing of radio, in
1903 (“A Brief History of Regulation of Radiocommunications in New Zealand,
1903-2003”), while it was still a British colony (“Timeline: New Zealand”). Private
broadcasting was introduced in New Zealand in 1923, but in 1936 the 22 private
broadcasters were nationalized to create a state broadcasting monopoly. In 1947,
New Zealand became one of many colonies that gained full independence from
Britain. Like other former British colonies (and most of the rest of the world) it
retained monopoly broadcasting and looked to the BBC for ideas. However, the
BBC’s programming was supported by government-levied licensing fees for radio
receivers, and New Zealand was too small a country to make much money that
way; hence, they took advertising, with its attendant pressure to make programs
attractive to wealthy businesses. They also bought the majority of their programs
In the mid-1980s, a New Zealand Royal Commission “advocated a strong public
service system with limits on advertising levels and a local program quota.” But
instead, national broadcasting was made into a state-owned enterprise that was
supposed to return a profit to the government. Bids for programs the government
wanted produced were let out for bidding to private companies. One big project
the government funded was the medical soap opera Shortland Street, “NZOA’s
major prime-time vehicle for representing a changing national culture.” Shortland
Street is a wonderful example of how government-funded programs can be politi-
cally shifted. Watched by 700,000 people every weeknight, the show has been
top-ranked drama in the country ever since its debut. But as its website describes,
the program has changed:
When Shortland Street began in 1992, “privatization” and “business practice”
were the buzzwords of a health system reinventing itself. The direction of
healthcare seemed to lie in the private accident and emergency clinics spring-
ing up around the country. The forward-looking clinic Shortland Street A&E
Medical was the way of the future.
Ten years later, faced with a decline in the demand for specialist private clinic
services, Shortland Street has become a public hospital, funded by a district
health board, and managed by a DHB-appointed CEO. Reflecting the heath
services most in demand in the fictional suburb of Ferndale, it provides a
24-hour accident and emergency service, community services (including GPs
and preventative health care programs), and elective surgery facilities.
The program had been initiated by the right-wing National Party during the
Labour Party interregnum of 1990-1999, with the obvious political aim of nor-
malizing privatized healthcare. Perhaps unfortunately for the Labour Party when
it returned, it wasn’t as simple to turn around broadcasting policy as it was to
change content. In 1991, New Zealand under the National Party had dropped
all restrictions on transnational ownership of broadcasting, and the results were
disappointing to some:
Although the introduction of competition has significantly increased the
number of television services available within New Zealand, there is heated
debate as to whether it has extended the range of programming on offer.
Critics of the reforms point to the cultural costs of the minimal restrictions
on commercial operators, the intensified competition for ratings points ...
the absence of any quota to protect local programming, to NZOA’s inability
to compel stations to show the programs it has funded in favourable slots;
and to the marked increase in advertising time which gives more space to
commercial speech and less to other voices. (Murdock)
The National Party had not only deregulated New Zealand’s broadcasting sec-
tor, it had made a gift of it to the corporations and corporate-controlled states
through the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS), an internationally
negotiated trade pact.
New Zealand deregulated its broadcasting sector and listed it as a covered
service under the GATS. It is thus constrained from reintroducing content
quotas, despite a change in government and a clear public will to re-regulate
the sector. (“Advancing Cultural Diversity Globally” 2003)
Most other countries have similar points of struggle to New Zealand’s. There
are governments that still maintain broadcasting monopolies, but far fewer now,
even in Africa and Asia. Zimbabwe remains one of the few governments that
maintain total monopoly over broadcasting. Recently a high-ranking minister
in Zimbabwe cancelled the popular national anti-AIDS TV soap opera Mopane
Junction, because funding had come from the Centers for Disease Control in the
United States (Khumalo 2004).
Canada is a country that still has a major government-funded public service
broadcaster. Through a combination of budget cuts and exponential growth of
its competition, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has lost ground
in the ratings, but is still the major opinion-testing ground of the nation, and
clearly courts more diversity of opinions than the U.S. commercial talk radio
referenced in the beginning of this article. Canada also has stiff requirements for
Canadian Content (CanCon) in the music played on its radio outlets; and the
province of Quebec has additional quotas for playing songs that include at least
With so much shared border and so much shared language between Canada and
the economically and culturally aggressive U.S., the results of dropping Canadian
cultural quotas and subsidies would be instantly noticeable and highly unpopular.
Canada was one of the countries that brought the 2003 Free Trade Area of the
Americas (FTAA) to a halt in the fall of 2003, largely over the issue of protection
of cultural diversity. Other countries share Canada’s concerns. The UNESCO
Executive Committee recommended in 2003 that a Convention on Cultural
Diversity be developed as a legally-binding international instrument, citing:
•There is a growing awareness that aspects of globalization are leading to
cultural homogenization and increasing the difficulties for local and diverse
•Bilateral and multilateral trade agreements make the situation worse by
limiting the ability of nations to support their own artists, cultural produc-
ers and institutions. Trade in “products and services” of the “entertainment
industry” is big business, accounting for an increasing share of the trade
balance of several countries.
•“Exempting” culture from trade rules has been ineffective in preserving
cultural sovereignty. WTO rules have been applied to cultural activities by
trade panels. Cultural policies are increasingly made to conform to trade
commitments. Developing nations cannot promote their own indigenous
artists and cultural producers even when they have the capacity to implement
UNESCO’s General Conference Approved the Convention on the Protection and
Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions on 20 October 2005.15
Sweden provides a tidy example of public service radio at the service of national
policy (see Ministry of Culture). The current guidelines for Sweden’s public
service broadcasting were vetted by a committee appointed by the government
that included members of all the parties in the Riksdag (Parliament). What they
accepted includes this definition:
In general terms the task of public service radio and TV can be described
as giving everyone access to a balanced and independent selection of high
quality programs with no commercial advertising. Among other things this
means that the broadcasts shall reach people throughout the country and
that the broadcasts shall be so composed that it ranges from programs of
general interest to the more specialized, at the same time as the citizens are
given new and unexpected choices of programs and genres. The broadcasts
shall be characterized by the fundamental democratic principles by which
the state is governed and shall meet the requirements of impartiality,
objectivity and independence of both state and private interests, and of
political, economic and other spheres of authority. All programs shall be of
high quality. Another important aspect is that the broadcasts shall reflect
the country as a whole and that programs therefore shall be produced in
different parts of Sweden.
One may note within the description above a number of phrases that are typically
used for keeping station and programming decision-making within establishment
boundaries, such as “of high quality,” and “objectivity.”16 “Diversity,” explicitly
mentioned elsewhere in the guidelines, is largely described in terms of geography
and alternative languages. But we also see, later in the same document, indica-
tors that Sweden intends public service broadcasting should be something of a
counterweight to private media consolidation:
Public service radio and television enjoy high status and will become in-
creasingly important when there is greater competition. The Government
proposes that the fundamental principles for public service broadcasting shall
continue to apply and considers that there is broad agreement on having
well-established public service radio and television companies in Sweden in
the future. Vigorous public service radio and television can provide a strong
balancing force in a media landscape that otherwise risks being dominated
by a few actors. (Ministry of Culture)
In early 2004, there was a conflict in the UK around the independence of the
BBC from government control. I had imagined when I began researching this that
BBC was a government entity that had been granted independence by sufferance,
but when I looked into its history, I found that it was actually a private-public
partnership from its inception in 1922:
Though it was the Post Office that had initiated the meeting, it was the six
main manufacturers of radio equipment (the Marconi Company, Metro-
politan-Vickers, the Western Electric Company, the Radio Communication
Company, the General Electric Company, and the British Thompson-Houstan
Company) who were asked to form a committee to prepare the plan for
broadcasting in Britain.
The formation of the BBC involved companies making a capital investment
for setting up transmitting stations that would reach all of Britain, thus creating
a demand for radio receivers. The “new BBC was to undertake to sell only Brit-
ish-made sets, to pay to the Company ten per cent of the net wholesale selling
price of all broadcast receiving apparatus.” BBC was also forbidden to accept
money for carrying any message or music, except with written permission from
the Postmaster. In 1927, Parliament joined the troika with the Postmaster-General
and the corporate governors, and was nominally given “ultimate control” of the
BBC; but basically “broadcasting had become a monopoly, financed by licensing
fees on radio receivers, and administered by an independent public corporation”
(“The Unofficial Guide t the BBC”).
One of the stumbling blocks BBC had to get around when it began was op-
position by the British newspaper industry. Initially the industry won a ruling
saying that the BBC would have to buy and pay for its news from existing print
news services. Before long, of course, it outstripped these other sources—it still
pays rather well, but has its own relationship with correspondents. Recently the
conflict between BBC and newspapers has heated up again, though, and the crux
of the matter is related to gift giving.
In August 2003, a headline appeared reading, “Dyke to Open Up BBC Archive.”
Greg Dyke, Director General of the BBC, had announced that:
...everyone would in future be able to download BBC radio and TV programs
from the internet. The service, the BBC Creative Archive, would be free and
available to everyone, as long as they were not intending to use the material
for commercial purposes....
“The BBC probably has the best television library in the world,” said Mr
Dyke, who was speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival.... “I believe that we
are about to move into a second phase of the digital revolution, a phase which
will be more about public than private value; about free, not pay services;
about inclusivity, not exclusion.... It will be about how public money can be
combined with new digital technologies to transform everyone’s lives.”
Dyke’s announcement of free content fell in the middle of a spate of decisions
by other UK news agencies that they were going to start charging for content
on the Internet. An analysis appeared on the University of Southern California’s
Online Journalism Review:
The BBC has the most popular British news website by far, with 16 to 20
million unique users per month. But it has pockets £2 billion ($3.32 billion)
deep, filled with taxpayers’ money. While it does not run advertising, most
commercial newspapers believe that the BBC makes it harder to compete
and survive because it poaches potential readers and subscribers.
The BBC response is to claim the public service defense. “We believe that
the news we provide is a valuable service for the UK’s license fee payers,” said
Pete Clifton, the newly appointed editor for BBC News Online. “It delivers
to them, on an increasingly important platform, a rich source of BBC News
content which they may have missed elsewhere. This content, paid for by
them, covers news from local to international, and we feel it is right to make
this available on the Web.”
Newspapers are eagerly awaiting the British government’s online review,
which will report on the market impact of BBC’s Web business next year.
Many in the industry want curbs placed on the BBC Online; they hope the
online review will make recommendations to that effect.
All of the United Kingdom’s bigger online news operations are focused now
on growing profits—and doing that is naturally more difficult in a market-
place where one of your competitors is deeply subsidized and giving away
top product for free. (² hAnluain, 2004)
This controversy reflects a very deep conflict in societies around the world
between models of socially-provided goods and services that are collectively sup-
ported for all, and individual payment on the barrelhead for everything (even
essentials of life like water). In the case of public service radio in the UK, “free”
access to information and entertainment was made possible by over-the-air
broadcasting to all who have the receivers, and those who bought the receivers
paid for this information through dedicated taxes. Now public access, to what
is essentially collective wealth, is being vastly extended by the BBC’s opening its
archives to all who have sufficient Internet tool access, and this is considered an
attack by those who need a condition of scarcity to help them make money on
It is important to note that the resemblance between the issue of information
access and water access is not merely coincidental. Both are the subject of ex-
tremely heated trade negotiations, legislative activity, regulatory interpretations,
and court fights all over the world, brought by a corporate sector that seeks to
privatize valuable resources in both the material and the information commons.
New laws formed in these arenas are extending copyrights, so that the products of
creativity are not coming out into the public domain. They are newly criminalizing
the copying of “intellectual property” even for individual use, research, or critical
analysis. They are giving broadcasters and distributors new ownership rights over
material that they did not create. And they are extending enforcement jurisdic-
tion not only to those who actually copy or share protected intellectual property,
but to those whose services or equipment designs are used in these newly illegal
activities. That means Internet service providers (ISPs) and engineers being held
liable for what might be done by others. ISPs in some places are being subpoenaed
to provide the names of their users who might potentially be sharing music files,
for example, and coerced to provide this information under penalty of law.17 As
pointed out by attorney Robin Gross (2003) of the organization IP Justice, these
new laws and trade regimes contravene an international human right, Article 19
of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “Everyone has the
right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold
opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and
ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
This brings us then to the final section of this article, and a discussion of com-
Community radio is the form most clearly concerned not only with people’s
ability to seek and receive information through media, but also with our ability
to “impart information and ideas” to one another. As Genevieve Vaughan (1997)
has pointed out, “‘Co-muni-cation’ is giving gifts (from the Latin munus—gift)
together. It is how we form ‘co-muni-ty’” (25-26).
Since the first community station started broadcasting to Bolivian miners in
1947, the movement’s development has been uneven in both geography and
time, but now it is growing fast. As of 2005, Jordan licensed what is probably the
first community station broadcasting in Arabic. In 2006, both the UK and India
finally opened to more than a few experimental licenses; and Nepal, where the
monarch tried to suppress community news, had a revolution with community
broadcasters as heroes. In 2006, Mexico, which had legalized community radio,
illegalized it again by privatizing broadcast regulation; Indigenous communities
have literally fought battles to remain on the air. In 2003, the World Bank an-
nounced it intended to put 100 community radio stations on the air in Africa,
raising debates about what constitutes community radio, and whether it is distinct
from “development” radio and other potentially donor-controlled models. There
is no single exemplar by which community radio can be defined.
**Some stations are owned by not-for-profit groups or by cooperatives
whose members are the listeners themselves. Others are owned by students,
universities, municipalities, churches or trade unions. There are stations fi-
nanced by donations from listeners, by international development agencies,
by advertising and by governments. “Waves for Freedom.” Report on the Sixth
World Conference of Community Radio Broadcasters, Dakar, Senegal. (“What
is Community Radio?”)
The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (Association Mondiale
des Radiodiffuseurs Communautaires [AMARC]), based in Montreal, promotes
mutual support among community radios around the world. They organized
the Dakar conference of community broadcasters referenced above, as well as
eight others since 1983. AMARC has members that are licensed and members
that broadcast illegally; members that are free-standing stations, members that
do community radio in the permitted niches of state broadcasters, and members
that share frequencies with stations that may have incompatible aims to their
own. If you go to the AMARC website <www.amarc.org> and click on “What
is Community Radio?” you’ll find instead of one definition a series of quotes
submitted by members in different regions. For example, from Latin America,
where community radio stations are numerous and are often strongly linked to
Radio stations that bear this name do not fit the logic of money or advertising.
Their purpose is different, their best efforts are put at the disposal of civil
society. Of course this service is highly political: it is a question of influenc-
ing public opinion, denying conformity, creating consensus, broadening
democracy. The purpose—whence the name—is to build community life.
“Manual urgente para Radialistas Apasionados.”
In Latin America, there are approximately one thousand radio stations that
can be considered community, educational, grassroots or civic radio stations.
They are characterized by their political objectives of social change, their
search for a fair system that takes into account human rights, and makes
power accessible to the masses and open to their participation. “GestiÛn de
la radio comunitaria y ciudadana.”
From Canada, where community radio is obligated by government to promote
diversity and Canadian culture:
The tone of each community radio station is well modulated in the image
of its listeners. The important thing is to seek out differences. Community
radio is an element of closeness, a bridge, a step toward the other, not to
make the other like us, but to have him become what he is. It is not a ques-
tion of having more, but of being, that is the real mission of community
radio stations in Canada. Isn’t the most meaningful definition of culture the
act of making people aware of the greatness they possess? Alliance des radios
communautaires du Canada (ARC) Canada.
Free, independent, lay radio stations that are linked to human rights and
concerned about the environment. They are many and pluralistic. They refuse
mercantile communication. They scrupulously respect the code of ethics of
journalists and work to disseminate culture by giving artists broader expression
within their listening audiences. They have association status, democratic opera-
tion and financing consistent with the fact that they are non-profit organizations.
They are solidary toward each other and constitute work communities that
make it possible for each member to fulfill its mission to the utmost. Charte
de la ConfÈdÈration Nationale des Radios Libres (CNRL), France.
From the Philippines, where radio was very powerful in mobilizing People
Power that overthrew the Marcos dictatorship:
Stations collectively operated by the community people. Stations dedicated
to development, education and people empowerment. Stations which adhere
to the principles of democracy and participation. TAMBULI, Communication
The historical philosophy of community radio is to use this medium as the
voice of the voiceless, the mouthpiece of oppressed people (be it on racial,
gender, or class grounds) and generally as a tool for development. AMARC
Africa and Panos Southern Africa.
A far-reaching example of community radio organizing, started by women,
originated in Africa during the period when government-controlled radio was the
rule across the continent. In 1988, the Zimbabwe chapter of the Federation of
African Media Women (FAMW) resolved to get more rural women’s participation
into broadcasting, and came up with the idea for radio listening clubs (Matewa
200218). These professional women communicators contacted women in rural
villages, asked them to listen to the radio as a group, and then recorded the rural
women’s comments and questions. Next the journalists took the rural women’s
questions to public officials and asked them to respond. Programs combining
these elements were aired on Zimbabwe Radio 4. The rural women listened to
the programs, again responded, and the series went on in this vein. Eventually,
having observed how little it took to make the recordings, the rural women asked
to be given their own recording equipment, and told the professional journalists
they were no longer needed during the discussions (Karonga 1999).
Radio listening clubs spread first to other countries in the Southern Africa
Development Community (SADC) region, and then to other parts of the world.
It became a model for other feminist and community media projects in film,
video, and still photography. And it’s been copied by governmental and non-
governmental development agencies seeking to accelerate social change. In Media
and the Empowerment of Communities for Social Change, Chido Matewa (2002)
writes of radio listening clubs: “Grassroots participation is what sets this project
design apart and distinguishes it from other rural radio which is in line with the
agenda setting theory of McCombs and Shaw, i.e., that the media agenda (MA)
leads to the people’s agenda (PA).”19
According to Matewa, radio listening club membership declines when radio
sets become more available in villages, so expansion has been in ever more remote
areas. Another problem may be that the association of radio listening clubs with
state radio, and the adaptation of the radio listening club model to the aims of
development agencies change the experience from participatory to didactic, and
reduces its value as a gift. One gets a hint of local contempt for such coercion
in a speech delivered by Kate Azuka Omunegha (2003) at the World Forum on
One thing that seems to be glaring in Nigerian media is the near absence of
women as newsmakers. One possible reason for this is the new news value,
which privileges prominence, who is involved. Closely related to this again
is the idea that Nigerian media seem to work with what we call the ideology
of developmental communication. The media are seen as the mouthpiece
of the government.
As more governments have opened up space for independent broadcasters,
though, some community radio stations have been created that incorporate values
from radio listening clubs and also consciously draw on the values taught by Bra-
zilian popular educationist Paolo Freire, values such as starting with people’s own
lived experience, concientizacion (a word that is very popular in Latin America,
but whose closest common North American equivalent is “consciousness raising”),
and emphasis on dialogue that involves respect and working together.
There are community radios in Africa consciously promoting those values. The
one I visited, Radio Ada, was first set up to serve the coastal fishing community
of Ada, but because they could uniquely fill a need for local, participatory radio
programming in the Dangme language, they ended up serving the entire region
of about 500,000 Dangme-speaking people, half of whom are not literate. The
station’s mission as reported on the website of their funder, UNESCO, is “to
support the development aspirations and objectives of the Dangme people, give
a voice to the voiceless, sustain the growth of Dangme culture, and encourage,
promote and contribute to informed dialogue and reflective action” (“Ghana:
Radio Goes Up in the Air”).
I visited Radio Ada in 2003, in the company of the coordinator of the Ghana
Community Radio Network, and was fascinated by a description of how they work
on reflective action in the public sphere. First, I was told, they ask the people what
their problems are, then whose responsibility it is to deal with the problems. Then
they go to those responsible, often public officials, and ask what they have done
to meet their commitments around the problem. Then they give everybody time
to think and work on the problem. This groundwork is done before beginning
any recording, so no one is shamed on air before they’ve had a chance to improve
their practice. I was told that this was normal procedure for all four stations in
the Ghana Community Radio Network.20
Another African station that grew directly out of the radio listening club move-
ment was Radio Mama, the women’s station in Kampala, Uganda, regrettably
shut down by the Ugandan government on January 8, 2004 (reportedly for not
having paid its license fees) (“Mama FM Closes”). According to an interview I
conducted in 2002, Radio Mama had been assigned a broadcasting frequency
that could not be picked up on car radios, a staggering handicap for developing
an audience. (Note: Radio Mama has re-opened!)
The issue of who is the audience, in other words, who is the recipient of the
gift of radio, is a crucial one for community stations. To be community stations in
the sense of “giving gifts together,” the audience and the operators of the station
should be interrelated categories.
Radio Ada co-founder and Deputy Director Wilna Quarmyne (2001) clearly
subscribes to this view. She is originally from the Philippines, where she was also
involved in the community radio and popular education movements. She writes
that the approach to training in the station’s activities was
...originally developed in 1997 for and at Radio Ada, the first full-fledged
community radio station in Ghana. The approach is continually being en-
riched and has succeeded in enabling a group of volunteers with no previous
training or experience in broadcasting to operate a full-scale, 17-hour-a-day
service entirely on their own. Some of the volunteers have grown into train-
ers. The approach has also been extended with positive outcomes to other
member stations of the Ghana Community Radio Network, as well as to a
prospective community radio station in Ethiopia.
In some stations, the radio audience may be virtually coterminous with the
presenters. The legendary Margaretta D’Arcy is an AMARC member who runs
Radio Pirate Women in Galway, Ireland, a pirate (unlicensed) station that oper-
ates during periodic Women’s Radio Festivals, using a transmitter small enough
to fit in a purse. When asked how many listeners the station had, D’Arcy stated
that listeners were completely unimportant—that what is important is that the
women talk on the radio, they listen to each other, get all fired up, and then they
go out in the street and they demonstrate!
Another type of pirate radio is represented by the movement of small, unlicensed
radio stations that sprang up across the United States, mainly during the 1980s
and 1990s. Often organized by young people under the philosophical banner of
anarchism, some of these stations followed a model of open access, allowing all
comers to express themselves without any restriction, with DJ’s cursing frequently,
while others, such as KIND in San Marcos, Texas, had the open blessing and
participation of the local establishment (Pyle 2001; Markoff).21 However, un-
licensed radio stations are still proliferating in many parts of the world, such as
Mexico (Calleja 2006) and Haiti, where community radio licensing is unavailable
to local or indigenous communities. These stations’ equipment is often seized or
destroyed by authorities, as by virtue of its signal it is impossible for a broadcast
station to be truly clandestine.
Larger and more permanent community stations around the world usually
have doors open for volunteers but also have some kind of long term paid
staff for facilities management, and may also have staff setting programming
policies. To maximize the gift-giving potential of community radio, leadership
should ideally be nurturing and give way (Vaughan 1997: 96) to the needs of
the organization, promote horizontal giving, and promote “abundance through
the cessation of waste” (Vaughan 1997: 98). However, most stations also exist
in a context of patriarchal hierarchicalism that can be insidious. In the United
States, for instance, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting gives money to
noncommercial radio stations that meet certain criteria, which in recent years
have included having not less than five full-time paid staff members. This can
provide an opening for stratification, and be in conflict with the kinds of values
that often emerge from collective activity, where paid positions are often part-
time or rotating jobs that help subsidize people of small financial means who are
also volunteers. Professional aspirations of staff to earn higher salaries without
moving on can lead to cutting in other areas (Gerry 1998), and staff desires to
minimize conflicts and hassles and streamline decision-making for themselves
can lead to imposition of rules and loss of flexibility. Allowing breaking of rules
so as to be flexible for some people and not others is then a likely source of
cronyism and dissatisfaction.
Another entrÈe for hierarchicalism is provided by the “ownership structures” of
most noncommercial stations. In order to qualify for noncommercial frequencies,
receive public funds, and offer tax-deductible status to donors, stations generally
have to have boards of directors. In the U.S., only one state, Wisconsin, even
permits nonprofit organizations to have a cooperative structure, and even those
have to have boards of directors (Stockwell 2000). Directors have the legal liabil-
ity for the station, the rights to change its bylaws and approve its budget, and
are in effect treated by the law as the owners of the station. (And as volunteers
have sometimes found when they tried to go to court against boards of direc-
tors, “ownership is nine-tenths of the law.”) A famous recent struggle within the
five-station Pacifica network turned in part on directors’ decisions to change the
board from elected to self-selected, and a suggestion that they would change the
bylaws to allow board members to make a profit from activities performed for the
station. In both staff and board hierarchies, you can see a potential for imposition
of one/many structures, where the one or ones who are staff or board substitute
and take over from the many who are volunteers or listeners (or both). This pat-
tern can be found not only in community radio, but in many kinds of nonprofit
organizations. A corollary of such a development is that volunteer contributions
are devalued and raising and spending money takes over as the dominant activity
of the organization. In the case of U.S. community radio, the Corporation for
Public Broadcasting promoted such substitution by changing the way it awarded
public funds. Where formerly stations’ “match” for public funds they received
could include volunteer hours assigned value in monetary terms, this was changed
so that stations had to raise actual dollars to match the federal dollars they might
be given (Anonymous 1995). This discounting of volunteers’ gifts of their labour
and denial of economic means to support that work seems related to the follow-
ing statement in Vaughan’s book, For-Giving: “Free gift giving to needs—what in
mothering we would call nurturing or caring work—is often not counted and may
remain invisible in our society or seem uninformative because it is qualitatively
rather than quantitatively based” (1997: 24).
Many community stations run on very little funding, but even they have fi-
nancial needs for equipment, for electricity, for materials, and usually for at least
some paid staff that can spend the concentrated time to coordinate volunteers
and keep things running smoothly. Whether the funds come from NGOs, foun-
dations, the government, or business advertiser/underwriters, they often come
with some kind of mandate, pressure or temptation to modify or abandon a social
change agenda. Even listener donations can tempt community radios to play to
the richer elements of society. One of the most frequently heard debates within
listener-supported radio is whether the value of the program should be measured
by how much money is donated to the station when that program is on the air,
and whether shows that don’t raise enough money should be dropped, even if
they serve a disadvantaged audience.
A related conflict is whether the value of a station can be measured by the num-
ber of its listeners. Commercial radio stations use commercial measuring services
to come up with audience “ratings.” The sample of people asked to give data on
their listening habits is supposedly randomly selected from fixed demographic
categories (e.g., males 18-34). Standings in the Arbitron ratings are used to rank
stations in terms of “market share” both geographically and demographically,
and these figures in turn are used by stations to set advertising rates. That is the
process by which the invisible product of human attention to radio is made vis-
ible and sold.22 Similar methods of audience measurement have been adopted by
National Public Radio (NPR) in the U.S. Their audience surveys include asking
whether their listeners use or buy long lists of products, but have little (usually
nothing) about the listeners’ social change activities. Starting in the 1980s, a
well-publicized goal of their audience research department was to “double the
NPR audience,” and the announced plan for doubling the audience was to have
stations program so that the same people would keep listening longer. This led
to a conscious effort to program more for the well-off white male, the same
demographic that commercial radio found most desirable. While some editions
of The NPR Audience noted that older women are actually more generous and
consistent listener-donors, they were considered a shrinking part of the audience,
and of course they were less attractive to underwriters. (Underwriting is a form
of quasi-advertising that NPR, PBS, and most U.S. public radio and television
stations now pursue heavily.)
Within U.S. community radio, two divergent streams of thought emerged
around the question of audience. One faction believed and promoted the concept
that pursuing similar strategies to NPR’s would be good for community radio and
give it more listeners, more money, and greater stability. Their approach was to
change stations so that there would be more paid programmers and hosts, a more
consistent sound, and more mainstream kinds of music and information. This
was similar to the usual public radio formula, and often included airing offerings
from the major public radio syndicators, NPR and Public Radio International.
Programs most likely to be cut included women’s programs and other kinds of
programs run by collectives or groups, the reason given usually being that shared
responsibilities and changing hosts led to inconsistent air-sound. The other com-
munity radio faction, however, developed a very different self-identity, rejecting
some of the advice that was being promoted to them through the collaborative
efforts of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB) and the
Corporation for Public Broadcasters. In 1996, breakaway stations from NFCB
created a new annual conference, the Grassroots Radio Conference (GRC), “as a
reaction against the homogenization of commercialization of public radio.” The
founders of the GRC, Marty Durlin of KGNU in Boulder, Colorado, and Cathy
Melio of WERU in Maine, wrote an article explaining their movement. I excerpt
here from a version found on the web:
You can recognize a grassroots community station anywhere in the coun-
try. There is a freshness you’ll not hear elsewhere due largely to the variety
of voices and connections the station has with its community.... Local
programming is the backbone of community radio, [but] another element
that connects grassroots stations are the independently-produced national
programs many of us broadcast, including Alternative Radio ... WINGS
(Women’s International News Gathering Service), National Native News,
and Making Contact.
These national programs connect the grassroots stations, while our local
programs ground us in our own communities.... Sometimes the perfor-
mances of inexperienced programmers are rough...[but] those new voices
become competent and creative broadcasters before our very ears.... It is
insulting the intelligence of people to think that they can not accept or
appreciate variety of programming.... We believe in expanding the audi-
ence for the variety, not reducing the variety to expand the audience....
Important principles to maintaining a community involved grassroots
station are: participatory governance, with active committees involved
in decision-making, community and volunteer involvement in all major
decisions, openness on the air (no gag orders!), elected volunteer representa-
tives serving on the board of directors, open access to the airwaves, active
recruitment and ongoing training of volunteers, commitment to diversity,
consideration of those under-served by other broadcast media, and diverse
programming. (Durlin and Melio)
The GRC has done much to strengthen the self-identity and resolve of com-
munity radio in the U.S., and its model has had a strong impact. Throughout
the eight years of GRC conferences, it has also provided a national venue for the
struggles of volunteers and listeners to reclaim the five-station Pacifica network
from its runaway board. Many of the GRC stations were affiliates of the syndi-
cated programming distributed by the Pacifica network, and organized among
themselves to support striking Pacifica news reporters and withhold affiliation fees
in support of the struggle. After the volunteer-listener victory and re-organization
of Pacifica, GRC co-founder Marty Durlin was overwhelmingly elected to chair
the reclaimed board of the Pacifica Foundation, in March 2004.
In 2002, at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Brazilian popular
education activist Moema Viezzer took me to visit a special community radio
station. It had been set up with city government support for the use of the youth
at the conference. They were broadcasting primarily via loudspeaker to the youth
camping area, and to a landless-persons’ camping area nearby. The studio was a
large log building with a packed earth floor, and inside were rows of computers,
and a complete broadcasting studio. Over the microphone was a sign, which
Moema Viezzer translated for me: “A microphone is not a piss pot.”
What did this mean? I wondered. Finally, this occurred to me: radio is gift
giving, and gift giving is transitive (Vaughan, 1997: 36).23 When you speak into
a microphone, you don’t do it to relieve yourself. You do it to reach people with
something that will meet their needs.
An earlier version of this article, “Gifts of Sound,” appeared in The Gift/ Il Dono: A
Feminist Analysis (special issue of Athanor: Semiotica, Filosofia, Arte, Letteratura
15 (8), edited by Genevieve Vaughan (Rome: Meltemi Editore, 2004).
Frieda Werden is the co-founder and producer of WINGS: Women’s International
News Gathering Service; the Spoken Word Coordinator of CJSF-FM, Vancouver; ice
President for North America of AMARC and President of the International Associa-
tion of Women in Radio and TV.
For examples of gift economy proponents, see the speakers listed on the website of
the 2004 International Conference on the Gift Economy at www.gifteconomyconference.com.
An example of an association radio station serving the community is, Meridien FM
in Tema, Ghana, owned by an association of women journalists. An example of a
station formally owned as a commercial licensee functioning as a community station
is Radio Ammannet in Amman, Jordan, founded by Daoud Kuttab. Radio Amman-
net is hosting the 2006 conference of the World Association of Community Radio
“Corollaries to the fairness doctrine— the ‘personal attack’ and ‘political editorializing’
rules—were thrown out in October 2000 by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for
the District of Columbia” (Lee).
See WINGS #4-01: “Revenge on Big Media: Dallas’s Cat-Killers.” Radio program
produced by Mary O’ Grady for Women’s International News Gathering Service and
released in 2001.
“Section 315 of the Communications Act—the section that imposes an equal time
requirement for all broadcasts featuring candidates—may itself be unconstitutional”
I am using the U.S. as my primary example because I am most familiar with the
process there, and because the process of enclosing the commons there is very
stark. However, as will be discussed in the section on government radio, there is
more than one way to ensure control through scarcity. Genevieve Vaughan’s (2002)
theory of the gift economy posits that the creation of scarcity is one function of the
exchange economy: “The exchange paradigm requires scarcity in order to maintain
its leverage. In capitalism, when abundance begins to accrue, scarcity is artificially
created to save the exchange-based system. Agricultural products are plowed under
in order to keep prices high. Money is spent on armaments and other waste and
luxury items, or cornered in the hands of a few individuals or corporations in order
to create and maintain an appropriate climate of scarcity for business as usual to
continue. These mechanisms have other advantages which also reward successful
exchangers with social status and power and penalize gift givers by making their gift
giving (in scarcity) self sacrificial. A context of abundance would allow gift giving
to flower while a context of scarcity discredits gift giving by making it painfully
For information on the technical feasibility of alleviating scarcity of broadcasting
spectrum through new methods of spectrum-sharing see, for example, the New
America Foundation’s Wireless Future Program <http://www.newamerica.net/index.
Chairman Michael Powell is the son of the U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. To see
what is the “community” of media owners in the U.S. (and transnationally) today, see
the web page “Who Controls the Media?” maintained by the National Organization
for Women, as part of their campaign against lifting media ownership restrictions (see
Summarizes coverage by Jeff Perlstein from September 2002.
See collection of back articles from FAIR on http://www.fair.org/media-outlets/talk-
radio.html. In 2005, the Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC) opened
the door to shocked broadcasters by licensing U.S.-based Sirius Satellite Radio. While
Canada’s content standards are different from those imposed by the FCC, The Howard
Stern Show likely offends both. For the broadcast industry interpretation of CRTC
standards regarding ethics, violence and sex portrayal, visit www.cbsc.ca and click on
These new “decency standards” are also quite political, a reversal of the entire trend
toward deregulation of media content pleasing to the fundamentalist sector of the
U.S. political right.
Radio Netherlands describes the funding crisis of Radio Agatashya: “In June 1994 it
was pledged a U.S.$20,000 grant by UNESCO, which it never received, and turned
down a French government gift of 250,000 French francs owing to the French military
involvement in Rwanda. It was funded by the UNHCR, European Union and the
Swiss government.... The radio has been off the air since 27 October 1996, mainly
due to a funding shortage.”
See Case Study 9: Rwanda – Urunana (Hand in Hand). Online: <http://www.com-
“Call in to the show. Call the on-air line during the show and try to challenge the
racism, sexism or homophobia calmly and directly. It often doesn’t take much to
demonstrate the absurdity of bigoted arguments. If several people call in, it can change
the entire show” (“Challenging Hate Radio: A Guide for Activists”).
In the U.S., the term “public service radio” is sometimes applied to emergency radio
communications used by police and fire departments, and “public radio” is used for
the noncommercial broadcast stations.
The press release with a link to the full text of this UNESCO convention can be found
on the web. See <http://portal.unesco.org/culture/en/ev.php-URL_ID=11281&URL_
DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html> accessed March 28, 2006
See, for an example of such discussion, Noam Chomsky’s book Objectivity and Liberal
Scholarship (1967), which discusses objectivity as an ideological mask for championing
mainstream self-interest against mass movements for change.
Robin Gross, speaking at the World Summit on the Information Society 2003, can be
heard in radio program WINGS #52-03 Copyright and Human Rights, streamable
from web page http://www.cas.usf.edu/womens_studies/wings.html.
See Chapter 5: “Participatory and Development Communication in Zimbabwe.”
I can’t resist commenting that the “MA leads to PA” formula might be phrased in a
more feminist manner: “MA leads PA.”
N.B.: “We are not using the violent methods of the system but are looking for other
ways to change it from within” (Vaughan 1997: 23).
The pirate radio movement in the U.S. was greatly diminished by the availability of
low-power FM licensing for under-served communities, starting in the year 2000
(Sakolsky 2001). For more on low-power FM licensing today, see the Prometheus
Radio Project’s website, www.prometheus.org.
I should mention here that community broadcasters, including both FIRE (Femi-
nist International Radio Endeavour/Radio Internacional Feminista, based in Costa
Rica) and the great community station Bush Radio in Cape Town, South Africa, are
coming up with new and appropriate ways of not only measuring but valuing their
Also: “[G]iving to needs creates bonds between givers and receivers. Recognizing
someone’s need and acting to satisfy it, convinces the giver of the existence of the
other, while receiving something from someone else that satisfies a need proves the
existence of the other to the receiver” (Vaughan 1997: 24).
“#17 Clear Channel Monopoly Draws Criticism.” Online: http://www.projectcensored.
“A Brief History of Regulation of Radio-communications in New Zealand 1903—2003.”
html#fn09. Accessed March 6, 2004.
“Advancing Cultural Diversity Globally: The Role of Civil Society Movements.” October
1, 2003. Online: http://www.incd.net/Conf2003/INCD_papers2003_Convention.
htm. Accessed March 10, 2004.
Anonymous. [Pacifica] Program Director Meeting (Part II). Albuquerque, New Mexico.
February 28, 1995. Online: http://www.radio4all.org/fp/pdmeet1.html.
Boehlert, Eric. “Pay for Play.” 2001, March 14. Salon.com. Online: http://dir.salon.
Burkart, Patrick. 1995. “Radio Shock: Talk Radio Propaganda.” Bad Subjects 23 (December
1995). Online: http://www.eserver.org/bs/23/burkart.html. Accessed March 6, 2004.
Calleja, Aleida. 2006, April. AMARC-Latin America. Speech at the National Federation
of Community Broadcasters, Portland, Oregon.
“Challenging Hate Radio: A Guide for Activists.” Online: http://www.fair.org/activ-
Chomsky, Noam. 1967. Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship. Online: http://question-ev-
Civil Society Initiative on Community Media. Online: http://www.worldsummit2003.
de/en/web/229.htm. Accessed January 25, 2004.
Dietrich, Heidi. 2003, October 17. “Polite Market: Area Not Known for Shock Radio.” Puget
Sound Business Journal. Online: http://seattle.bizjournals.com/seattle/stories/2003/10/20/
story3.html. Accessed March 6, 2004.
Dorf, Michael C. 2003, August 22. “Why U.S. Law May Keep the Terminator Stuff
Off the Air Until After Election.” CNN.com/Law Centre. Online: http://www.cnn.
com/2003/LAW/08/22/findlaw.analysis.dorf.arnold/. Accessed March 5, 2004.
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