RADIO FOR THE 99 PERCENT: After years of grassroots campaigning by media activists, the airwaves are clearing for community radio. On March 19 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made room on the spectrum for new low-power FM stations, which will be licensed to locally based nonprofits, by dismissing thousands of applications for translators rebroadcasting distant stations.
“This is a major opportunity to transform the radio dial and to put media back in the hands of our communities,” says Brandy Doyle, policy director for the Prometheus Radio Project. With a range of a few miles and a start-up cost of as little as $10,000, low-power radio provides an accessible means of spreading local news. Such stations “can be real extensors for building community power,” says Milena Velis, an organizer with the Media Mobilizing Project, particularly in low-income, immigrant and working-class neighborhoods.
The decision is a final step toward implementing the Local Community Radio Act, which Congress passed in 2010 to remove decade-old restrictions on community radio. Nonprofits will have the opportunity to apply for a spot on the dial in a licensing period that could begin as early as next winter. That window, says the FCC, presents “a critical, and indeed possibly a last, opportunity to nurture and promote a community radio service” in underserved urban communities. ZOË CARPENTER
DEMS DIVIDED OVER HONDURAS: Almost three years after the military coup that deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, the Obama administration is still shoring up Porfirio Lobo’s illegitimate regime, while the country’s human rights situation continues to degenerate. On March 10 Fausto Evelio Hernandez was killed, the eighteenth journalist slain in two years. The month before, 360 prisoners died in the most horrific prison fire in modern history, when their guards threw away the keys and held back firefighters for thirty minutes.
Congress, though, is finally pushing back against the administration’s support for Lobo. On March 9 ninety-four members of Congress signed a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, calling for a suspension of police and military aid to Honduras. Spon- sored by Democratic Representative Jan Schakowsky, the letter has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO and by nine major unions.
That letter came just a few days after an unprecedented appeal to Clinton, written by Democratic Representative Barbara Mikulski and signed by seven senators, that expressed alarm over human rights violations, including killings of civilians by Honduran security forces. It was the first time senators had jointly addressed the crisis in Honduras.