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Radio Engineer. Policy Advocate. Troublemaker...

The Prometheus Radio Paradox…

The Prometheus Radio Paradox…

Some might look at the Prometheus Radio Project and see a snakepit of confounding contradictions and impertinent impossibilities. Perplexing questions might come to mind, such as:

How can they build a whole radio station over a weekend with just volunteers, many of whom start without knowing which end of a screwdriver to hold?

How is it that these self taught activists, who get paid $11 an hour, go up against corporate lawyers that bill at $400 an hour– yet the Prometheus people win?

How are they a collective with no executive director, yet leaders in the movement for media reform?

Are they activists, or are they nerds? How could they be both?

Why were they been willing to engage in civil disobedience and risk arrest for going on the radio, something that big businesses just take for granted they have a right to do?

Why do they advocate for the voices of farmworkers and environmentalists and civil rights groups and neighborhood associations, but not make any Prometheus radio shows themselves?

How can they show up at a media ownership hearing wearing cheerleading outfits and bust their moves, and still get taken seriously as a force in telecommunications policy?

They’re radicals– so why do they try to change the system when they don’t even believe in it?

Some might call these contradictions or impossibilities. We prefer to see these things as fruitful ironies, or as puzzles for us to solve. Fundamental change doesn’t happen by doing things in the sensible way, the way others have done it. Opportunities lie in the ambiguous places where others have been reasonable enough to avoid. When we see ironic conundrums– that’s where we want to be, because we know that’s where the action is.

This zine contains a bunch of examples of another irony. We are an activist organization that fights for the access of social movements to media. We do everything we can to expose the unfairness of a press owned by a handful of giant corporations. Ironically, we have gotten some good press from them over the years! Why does the corporate media cover our struggle?

Well, they certainly could be covering it more. But when they do cover it, we think it is because it is too good a story for a journalist not to tell. And as much as journalists have taken the role of “stenographers to the powerful,” when they talk to us they know from their own experience in their industry that we are fighting for the good that they wanted to do in their profession. You can’t have an objective media owned by General Electric. It also doesn’t hurt that newspapers and broadcasters are generally owned by different owners. There is nowhere near this much coverage of our work on TV and radio over the years. Since the 1930s when broadcasters came onto the scene, the newspaper businesses have been happy to point our the misdoings of their media competitors in radio and TV– since they were fighting them for advertising dollars. We’ve done our best to preserve that competition with our media consolidation lawsuit in 2004, which helped to prevent a wave of media mergers between newspapers and broadcasters.

So as you check out the following articles, and follow the progress of our movement through the years, we hope you enjoy the ironies along with us and lend your brain to helping us figure out our greatest puzzle. If our movement is clever, can we really use strategic organizing to make small, apparently lame policy reforms in the current American system– reforms that will open up wide new possibilities of media in the hands of the people? And can these new media opportunities help to create victory for the radical fundamental changes we need for social justice and our planet to survive?

Read on, and join us in celebrating our ten years of struggle, ten years of enigma!

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