Message from Halimah, former WVKR General Manager

Dear WVKR,

How is my favorite independent radio station? I am writing on the off chance you are interested in my post-VKR life. For those of you I don’t know, I graduated in 2007 and was GM my senior year and finance director before that. After working a few different jobs (programmer at the Free Library of Philadelphia, Personal Assistant to the rich and famous), I find myself now at the Prometheus Radio Project in West Philadelphia, scaling back my workweek to be their part time Development and Communications Intern. Apart from not making much money or having health insurance, working part time is great because I now have time to work at a horse barn on the weekends and take a writing class. Plus, even though I am not on air, I get to satisfy that radio bug once again!

But enough about me, what I really want to tell to you about is the work that the Prometheus Radio Project does. In short, we build and advocate for Low Power FM (LPFM) stations and demystify broadcast technology. Before moving to Philadelphia I had never even heard of an LPFM Station but I think it is something everyone at WVKR should know about. LPFM stations are community run and capped at 100 watts, which reaches about 3 to 5 miles.  WVKR is 3,400 watts; I remember wishing we had farther reach, but compared to 100 watts, 3,400 is a lot! And unlike WVKR, many LPFM stations do not stream on the web. The community radio station in West Philly, WPEB, operates on 1 watt, and reaches about a 5-block radius. You can imagine how tailored these stations are to their communities. The people who listen to the station run the station, and therefore are intimately in touch with the needs and challenges that face their particular area. WVKR does this on a slightly larger scale; the wide variety of programming on WVKR has always been a point of pride for me. I was able to learn about Poughkeepsie and the Hudson Valley through other shows at WVKR, and I was able to participate in a community outside the Vassar campus through the airwaves.

Just like Prometheus stole fire from the gods, the Prometheus Radio Project’s mission is to free the airwaves from corporate control. We believe that people deserve to tell their own stories, to address their own needs, and to mobilize their own communities, and for that they need access to the airwaves.  I may be preaching to the choir here, since I know you already love independent radio (you are reading WVKR’s blog after all), but the way the current system is set up, people are always being spoken for, never able to speak for themselves. We want a return to localism and a diversification of media ownership.

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There’s me dealing with an unwieldy banner on a windy day in DC
during our Low Power FM Leadership days

PRP grew out of a pirate radio station in West Philly called Radio Mutiny 91.3 FM (coincidence? I think not!), which got busted by the FCC in 1998.  In response to the civil disobedience of the thousands of unlicensed radio stations at that time, the FCC agreed to allow hundreds of new, low power community radio stations. The Prometheus Radio Project was formed to hold them accountable to that promise and to make sure that radio licenses ended up in the hands of social justice organizations. In 2000, LPFM was created, and there are about 800 LPFM station operating today.

In 2003, the FCC wanted to relax media consolidation regulations to allow a single corporation to own as many as three television stations, eight radio stations, a cable operator, and a newspaper, creating the potential for a monopoly of all of the print and broadcast media in a single town. In a classic David and Goliath story, Prometheus went up against the FCC as a plaintiff in a lawsuit and won!

Currently, we are working on a campaign to pass legislation that would allow for hundreds, potentially thousands, of low power radio stations to be created. We just got back from D.C. where we marched, lobbied, and met with members of the Obama administration transition team.

There is lots more information on the website, including a library of articles, technical resources, and info on how to get involved.  I’d be happy to talk to anyone who is interested in the subject! Feel free to email me at halimah@prometheusradio.org.

I still wear my VKR gear all around Philly, pledge every year and listen online. By the time I die I hope I have 70 different WVKR T-shirts. Right now I have 6.

Keep in touch!

Halimah

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