Journalist’s take on Grassroots Radio Conference

This weekend of May 13-16 was extremely busy and exciting for KMUD staff and volunteers. Rather than tell our experiences in our own words right now (we're tired, OK?), here's part of an article by Gavin Dahl of There's a link to the whole article a few paragraphs down.

Hosted by the Southern Humboldt County community radio station KMUD, the fifteenth annual Grassroots Radio Conference brought together hundreds of broadcast enthusiasts for a weekend of workshops and skill-shares. Topics included community journalism, legal compliance, technical wizardry, and social justice.

Maka Munoz of Palabra Radio and Ana Martina of El Otro Lado began their workshop on building a network for immigrant-rights radio content by asking attendees to share stories from home. The group of two dozen heard about inaccurate media portrayals, a controversial gang injunction, widespread profiling, and the separation of families by detention and deportation. Representatives from 15 immigrant radio projects will converge at the upcoming Allied Media Conference (June 17-20 in Detroit).

Pete Tridish and Maggie Avener of Prometheus Radio offered insight into how the airwaves are being reshaped in response to new technologies, and worked with the attendees to strategize about ensuring the grassroots has a place on tomorrow's spectrum. Rip Robbins of KSVR Mt Vernon, WA and Elizabeth Robinson KCSB Santa Barbara, CA supplied information on limits to on-air expression. Low-budget stations have to be careful to avoid sanctions from the FCC, the IRS or the law.

Compliance with radio royalty structures supporting musicians were explained by Clay Leander of KPFA Berkeley and attorney Michael Couzens. SoundExchange collects royalties for labels and artists from webcasters. Congress has been lobbied hard about the Performance Rights Act, which seeks to force broadcasters to pay royalties to performers, not just songwriters and copyright holders.

David Pakman explained his production process, syndication, outreach, marketing and value added content. He is host and producer of Midweek Politics, a political talk show with 40 TV affiliates and 40 radio affiliates. He Dan Roberts has produced The Shortwave Report off-the-grid since 1997. He demonstrated the basic equipment he uses to share international perspectives gleaned from shortwave transmissions. His program airs on dozens of community radio affiliates in North America. Both programs are made available free online.

Govinda Dalton and Christina Aanestad of Mendocino County-based showed off their veggie oil-powered remote broadcasting studio. The converted school bus is home to studio equipment, LPFM antenna, satellite dish for web streaming uplink, wind turbine, solar panels, even a wood stove inside the bus. KMUD also tours inside their emergency-response broadcast trailer, which was parked outside conference headquarters all weekend.

Claude Marks of the Freedom Archives demonstrated projects that re-purpose historical archives of community radio and social justice movements. "Healthy programming has to have roots," he said. Community radio reporters were embedded in the movements of the fifties, sixties and seventies, not with the military. "It's a subjugated history," Marks says. "The movements were attacked. So last year we anticipated the repression of Black Panthers by producing our documentary Legacy of Torture and that meant that the press couldn't just run with the cops' story."

Cointelpro 101, the new film by the Freedom Archives, will debut at the US Social Forum (June 22-26 in Detroit). Marks is wary of society's short-term memory, seeking to protect the stories of uprisings and dissidence from misinformed representations. And he also hopes to inspire new generations of community journalists to learn of traditions of resistance and have the courage to risk getting into the line of fire to tell important stories. He says, "The history isn't all made in the studio or over the phone."


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