Archive for NCMR

People’s Production House at the National Conference for Media Reform

People’s Production House is participating in several workshops at the National Conference for Media Reform, taking place in Minneapolis this week.   Our workshops include Shaping the Internet the Fun and Easy Way, Media Reform and Social Change, and When Media Is the Second Issue: Connecting with Social Justice Organizations. Thanks to Free Press for all its work on this important gathering.

The highlight for me is the premier of our Digital Expansion workshop, Shaping the Internet the Fun and Easy Way,” which will be held Friday, June 6th, at 3:30pm in room 208 A.  Have you always wanted to take on the Internet policy wonks, the  geeks, the paid consultants, the corporate lobbyists, and the  politicians, but felt like you lacked the know-how? This highly  interactive workshop is for you. As part of this workshop, we’ll be sharing clips from our new youth-produced video, “Inside the Internet.” I’m helping with this workshop, along with Donald Anthonyson, Alexis Walker, Brian Garrido, and Abdulai Bah, who coordinates the Community News Production Institute.

Check the People’s Production House website for more details on where to find PPH staff and volunteers at NCMR.

On  Saturday, June 7th, at 9:30am in Auditorium Spin 2, PPH
Co-Director Deepa Fernandes will be part of a panel discussion, Media Reform and Social Change with Amalia Anderson, Mark Lloyd, and Medea Benjamin. They will be discussing how critical media reform is for other social change movements.

Later that afternoon, Abdulai will join PPH Co-Director Kat Aaron to delve deeper into this topic with When Media Is the Second Issue: Connecting with Social Justice Organizations. They are joining Nick Szuberla from Appalshop, Karlos Gauna Schmieder from the Center for Media Justice, and Alondra Espejel from the Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network to discuss strategies for connecting media reform with immigrant rights and other grassroots campaigns for social justice. Come with your own ideas to share in smaller breakout groups. That’s on Saturday, June 7th, at 4:30pm in room 205 C D.

Deepa and Abdulai will also be presenting at the Media Justice Fund breakfast at 9 am on Friday, June 6th, along with the Center for Rural Strategies and the Center for Media Justice. We’ll be talking about the full spectrum of our work to incorporate media  policy into our education and organizing with students and immigrants  in New York, Washington DC, and the Gulf Coast.

Recently, People’s Production House and the Center for Rural Strategies have begun discussing a shared rural-urban Internet policy agenda. This is crucial as we head into 2009, where Republicans and Democrats will try to divide us along these lines as they launch discussion on the Universal Service Fund, the spectrum dividend from
the digital transition, and the need for open handsets and open attachment standards on cellular phone networks. If you are interested in joining us as we continue this discussion at the NCMR, please send me an email.

In addition to these presenters, PPH Operations Manager Jacqueline Kook and DEI Video Team members Darnell Lubin, Kristian Roberts, and Helki Frantzen will also be there. You’ll find us all at the above sessions and at many of the other great workshops, panels, and social events. Please send us your recommendations. We look forward to
seeing you soon!


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Plugging the NYC GMC

Thanks to the wonderful people at the New York City Grassroots Media Coalition, I get to moderate a really amazing panel at the NYC Grassroots Media Conference on February 24:

New York’s Wireless Future

New wireless technology provides an efficient and affordable way to deploy new broadband infrastructure. You can use it to turn your local park into a hotspot or to give affordable access to all of your neighbors. Across the country, local governments are considering whether to build – or to let corporations build – wireless networks that cover an entire city. New York City is just beginning this process. This is the best chance in a generation, if not a century, to come together as a community to decide what we want and need from our communications infrastructure. This panel will bring you up to speed on the discussion.

The people on this panel are:

Michael Lewis, founder of Wireless Harlem Initiative, a New York based non-profit, which is advocating to bring affordable wireless broadband to Harlem in order to close the digital divide;

Laura Forlano, a Board Member of NYCwireless, a community wireless group in New York, and a Ph.D. candidate in Communications at Columbia University researching the socio-economic implications of the use of mobile and wireless technology;

and Bruce Lai, the Chief of Staff to Council Member Gale A. Brewer, the Chair of the Committee on Technology in Government at the New York City Council.

This builds on the panel I moderated at the National Conference for Media Reform on “Owning Our Own Media Infrastructure,” obviously with a very local twist.
You can get a more full understanding of why I think this is so important by reading the statement from The Ethos Group: “Thoughtful Infrastructure as a Platform for Media Reform.”

One key is that “convergence” – the term used to describe the transition from a diverse array of communication media (phone calls, email, music, television, film) to a common, digital medium – means we can use a public dialogue on wi-fi as a point of departure for a comprehensive reimagining of our entire system of communication.

The point of the “New York’s Wireless Future” panel is primarily to pass information from experts to anyone who’s interested in the topic. People’s Production House plans to follow up with another event, which will be more of a town hall session where everyone will be invited to share their needs and desires for a potential public wireless network in New York City.

I’m on a different panel at the GMC called “Dead Trees: Small Magazines and Newspapers in the Digital Age” organized by Chris Anderson. The title says it all. Another important piece of that larger discussion and I’m honored to have been invited into it. (More details on this one to follow.)

If the promise of plenty of yapping from yours truly doesn’t do it for you, pre-registering for the NYC GMC saves you $10. So go ahead and do it now, or sign up to volunteer. See you there.

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Reflections on the National Conference for Media Reform

WireTap graciously accepted an article I wrote about the National Conference for Media Reform. In it, I survey the relationships between Free Press and some of the groups that have been marginalized at past conferences. This year’s conference was different. Sort of.

I also recommend reading DeeDee Halleck’s assessment:

To achieve media justice we need to raise our level of commitment. Next Media “Reform” Conference needs to speak of strategies that go beyond internet petitions to Congress. An authentic movement needs to march and to encourage the sort of non-violent civil disobedience that helped to open the airwaves for low power FM.

DeeDee’s labels and mine – who or what is media justice or media democracy – don’t exactly match up. This might be because she is discussing the history of the movement up to early 2003, where I cover the media reform conferences that started in November 2003.Perhaps the divisions I describe came about later, after Indymedia simplified the path to one type of media organizing and Free Press co-opted the grassroots energy that fought off media ownership deregulation.

Under the heading “Media Justice History,” DeeDee describes a multiracial network of organizers using civil disobedience and direct action to fight corporate media, resisting pressure from reformist white men to use more mundane tactics.

There are important successes to learn there, ones I admit I am still fairly ignorant of. (I wasn’t even doing the movies on a roof in Brooklyn thing when they were “marching against the moguls” in 1996.)

As I wrote after the 2005 NCMR, however, I think we need to recognize more subtle divisions in our community. Seeing merely a distinction between media revolution and media reform, at least at this point, gives too much credit to the revolutionaries. It creates connections among them that don’t exist in reality, but that should – that must if we are to win.

It also locates the division at the level of tactics. There is a good side to that: by highlighting the absense of certain ones and advocating for their increased presence, you can promote a greater diversity of tactics, which this movement sorely needs right now. On the other hand, the antiglobalization movement was filled with examples of people who thought that more radical tactics equalled more radical politics. They don’t.

So I ask you to take the time to read my piece on WireTap (it’s kind of long, I know) and I encourage you to read DeeDee’s post (we’re all so lucky she’s started blogging) and then to work through these and related ideas on your own or with your friends and colleagues. And then publish them online.

I’m very excited to see Reclaim the Media hosting a conference reportback and discussion with Andrea Quijada in Seattle on January 29, for example. I look forward to hearing what comes of it.

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NCMR: Owning Our Own Media Infrastructure

Owning Our Own Media Infrastructure

We set out to make the case that ownership is leverage. We this with the fight over net neutrality, where the telcos aim to use their ownership of infrastructure to control content, as cable companies already do.

It was also our goal to extend the debates over media ownership to include our ownership, instead of just talking about restricting corporate ownership. Because we are just as capable of owning our own infrastructure as we are of limiting theirs.

So that was the final goal of the session: to say that yes, you can do this at home.

Here are the different kinds of ownership (and examples or notes) we discussed that could be “our own” –

  • community ownership (LPFM)
  • public access (PEG cable channels)
  • common ownership / no ownership (open source software, unlicensed spectrum)
  • personal ownership (your content)
  • cooperative ownership (some rural electric utilities)
  • non-profit (unlike a small business, it can’t be bought or sold)
  • municipal ownership (some utilities, most roads, and now some wireless and fiber optic broadband networks)

In addition to discussing different kinds of ownership and their application to different media, we discussed some of the benefits of ownership, including

  • Enhanced distribution / Aggregating audience
  • Accountability (if you have proper governance)
  • Leverage (having an alternative makes corporations more responsive)
  • Economic engine / Source of sustainability

Sydney Levy from Media Alliance brought up the issue of redlining, saying that one of the best arguments for municipal or other non-corporate ownership was that it could be an antidote to the discriminatory practices of those corporate owners. I agree to some extent, but anyone who travels from a wealthy neighborhood of any major city to a poor neighborhood knows that municipal ownership does not necessarily mean equal levels of service. Thus the importance of governance and accountability, whoever the owner.

Related to that, Hannah raised what I thought was one of the strongest points in the discussion. She said that when you expose young people to an environment like a community radio station or Manhattan Neighborhood Network’s Youth Channel (which Tony Riddle described), one in which they control their own media, they figure it should always be like that. And of course that has political ramifications that go beyond communications and media.

On a personal note, I came to these ideas from my work in independent media, thinking about the importance of distribution and the weak point of relying on corporate infrastructure to send our independent media around the world. When I saw the work of the Champaign-Urbana Community Wireless Network, I realized that we could build alternative infrastructure that could put the telcos out of business.

You can listen to the mp3 of the panel here.

I really appreciate the care and attention all of the panelists paid to their presentation. I think we delivered one of the stronger panels at the conference, one of the few that challenged its audience to expand their frame of thinking about all of the issues on the table at the conference. I also want to thank Free Press for accepting this proposal from me and Becca.

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NCMR: Envisioning the Future of Independent Media

Envisioning the Future of Independent Media

Moderator: Linda Jue, Independent Press Association
Jeff Chester, Center for Digital Democracy
Wally Bowen, Mountain Area Information Network
Roberto Lovato, New American Media
Kathy Spillar, Ms. Magazine



These are pretty smart individuals, but the panel didn’t quite gel, in my opinion. They brought out ideas that were maybe too big to fit in an hour and a half on a Sunday morning.

The case Jeff Chester makes has an if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them air about it. And for all of its high rhetoric, his plea seems oddly narrow: a for-profit Indymedia.

Wally Bowen gave a similar presentation to the one he offered on our panel, except he highlighted the work of, MAIN’s nationwide ISP, and offered to share revenue from it with any referrers.

I understand that Linda Jue basically had to tell the story of the IPA’s life and death, but that’s obviously not the future. Neither is the history of Ms., but the model of a foundation or large organization publishing a proven movement magazine is worthy of examination and repetition.

Roberto Lovato from New America Media was quite the cup of coffee, though. (DeAnne Cuellar handed him some information about the Allied Media Conference, so hopefully that will be a step towards increasing the participation of ethnic media, particularly from the midwest.)

One thing on the panel as a whole: As a rule, whenever you’re going to have a discussion about the future of anything, you have to include young people. And if you hear yourself say something like, it’s all about the young people, the best thing to do is stop talking and find one of them and start listening.

More detailed notes below. mp3 here



Jeff Chester – the industry’s vision of our future is digital dreck.

We’re not going to have media that supports widespread social justice unless we do it ourselves.

We need a strategic intervention and it needs to be a commercial intervention.

The vision they have the future is to be able to be at every point of the distribution system. It’s about making a buck.

We need a widespread movement to create a web 2.0 environment that makes revenue and supports our people.

We have to be where the young people are. We gotta be out there to influence young people, who already think the online world and offline world are one.

read, publishing 2.0, Zlick [?]

The next big economic investment will be at the community and city level for social networking, local search will be huge. There is an opportunity to create hybrid business models. We have to create these services that are sustainable. We should try to shape this new media behemoth to make a saner world.


Wally Bowen, MAIN

We’re media activists, but we’re sending our money to media corporations. MAIN helps people spend their money locally, keeping our dollars in our community.

Struggle to get the word out about our model because we’re not in DC, we’re rural, but it’s a model from the New America Foundation

We need to bring community wireless down into the lower, more usable bands.

FCC docket 04-186 “White Space”

Comments until January 31

We can use new spectrum for more than just a hotspot. We can send a signal up to 20 miles out.

Community radio stations, public access stations should all be their own ISPs.

MAIN uses wireless connections to distribute content across their multiple platforms to build an audience.

We got to create collaborations.

We want to share revenue., national ISP, offers hosting, colocation. Indylink will share revenue for every referral.


Kathy Spillar, Ms. Magazine

How do you create media that impacts social justice.

Brief explanation of how the Feminist Majority Foundation came to own Ms.

We view Ms.’s role as advocating ideas and strategies and impact policies to improve people’s lives

Key role in strengthening and buildng the feminist movement.

Women have very little ownership of our own media.

If we tried to start the feminist movement today, we couldn’t get our message out without owning our own media. Then we had things like the fairness doctrine. And the media covered the movement, even if only to ridicule it, but that still helped it grow.

Over 56% of women self-identify as feminist. The younger the more likely.

We’ve captured the hearts and minds of the public, but where do we go from here?

You can create a new groundswell around an idea, a new strategy, an analysis. Then you can impact the mainstream media. You can use Ms. Magazine to impact the public discourse and eventually decisionmakers.

Example of their exposé of the Mariana Islands. They didn’t stop with publishing: got on radio, held protests. Eventually the coverage of the Abramoff scandal started addressing the Mariana Islands along with all of the other issues. In the recently-introduced minimum wage bill, there’s an increase in the minimum wage for the Mariana Islands and there will be hearings in the Senate.

Owning our own media is important. We’re developing our web platform. We’ve got to own our own media to have an impact.

We’re part of the Media Consortium, trying to do for ourselves what the corporate media does.

Support independent media. Become a member of the Ms. community.


Roberto Lavato, New America Media, the largest “ethnic” (though we’re all ethnic) media
Speaking as an individual.

First, congratulate you on separating yourself from the partying riff-raff [ahem].

New America founded by Spanish-speaking, Chinese-speaking people who realized they could impact their media by coming together.

We’re a trade association to build joint advertising platforms with offices around the country, including soon Atlanta. The South is part of any strategy to fundamentally change the United States.

We also share content across language groups to foster communication across communities. The future of independent media has to look something like that.

I don’t want to present myself as a minority because then I’d have to guilt-trip you about this conference and approach you as a professional Brown person, which I’m not (any more). Instead as a fellow traveler, soldier-in-arms.

Our society in US is more similar to the de facto dictatorship of El Salvador, where I’m from, then ever before.

I want to talk about language I left activism to commit to the word. I want to talk to you about two words, Media and Reform

[told he has three minutes left]

The media is global. People in Latin America have racist attitudes towards Africans in part because of the exportation

Reform is anathema. It needs to leave and it needs to leave quickly. You need to get outside of this nation-state.

The future of independent media

The language and practice of media reform is inadequate to addressing the totalitarianism-lite, the el-salvadorization of the United States.

Take inspiration from Oaxaca, where when the media didn’t serve them, they took over the radio station.

We need to ramp up the militancy, a word that has gone out of fashion that we need to bring back.

Maybe take some inspiration from Hugo Chavez’s dealings with Verizon.


Linda Jue

George Washington Williams fellowship helps find and promote people like Roberto.

Asks for hands of former IPA members.

Gives a brief history of IPA, born out of the spirit of and need for collaboration coming out of the Media and Democracy Congress. Describes some of the programs they ran.

We made the case that it is possible to publish on eco-friendly paper.

My programs were aimed at making sustainable writers and editors to work in independent publishing and journalism, to help diversify.

IPA introduced into the foundation world the whole notion of supporting infrastructure for independent media.

We fellowshipped Roberto, Protap Chatterjee [sp?]. Campus Journalism Project.

When we acquired Big Top, we were severely under-capitalized. We couldn’t cover the lag-time in the cash flow.

There was also tension between social advocates on the staff and people who came from the corporate publishing world. These issues could have destroyed the organization on their own. It’s too bad we didn’t get to see how that turned out.

The founders and others are considering relaunching something like the IPA, but without the newsstand distribution arm, which was the tail that was wagging the dog. There’s a need for it.

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NCMR: Independent Media as an Organizing Tool

Adrienne Maree Brown, The Ruckus Society (moderator)
Shivaani Selvaraj, Philly IMC Media Mobilizing Project
Jenny Lee, Live Arts Media Project
Kat Aaron, co-Director of People’s Production House

listen to the mp3 of this discussion

(Adrienne was just telling me I don’t take credit for things. I hardly think that’s true – see every blog post where I crib other people’s ideas – but I’ll take her advice and admit I proposed this session. I was pleasantly surprised that it was accepted by Free Press. These are some of the most inspiring folks in the movement, along with all of the people they work with.)


Adrienne Maree Brown, The Ruckus Society

This is media that changes the producer, the participant, and hopefully the receiver forever.

We’re going to talk about it, then we’re going to do some popular education workshops so you walk out of here knowing how to do this in your own community.


Shivaani Selvaraj, Philly IMC Media Mobilizing Project

I love being an organizer. I have an agenda for building a social movement in this country. I have experience with different models of organizing:

Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Compaign inspired by MLK
Media Mobilizing Project of the Philly IMC
Media Empowerment Project, affiliated with the United Church of Christ

Today going to focus on MMP:

The media is less about informing the public, more about transformation. Fighting for a just media alongside fighting for a just society.

Working with taxi workers, hotel workers, anti casino, anti gentrification, and a collaboration with Head Start, which is poor-led. We help with political education, an analysis of power, a discussion of frameworks.

Nijmie Dzurinko, also with MMP:

sharing a story about the casino fight. We got involved because we live in a time when the state is doing whatever it can to enhance profit, making up shortfalls in their budgets from federal cuts.

Neighborhoods were having trouble because of the images being fed to them, the inability to get information about what kinds of profits

Focused on completing 4 or 5 minute-long pieces that engaged key issues, broke down casino-propaganda machine. Showing how different groups that had been divided along racial and economic lines were united in this issue. Worked with groups to complete the pieces, then distributed 500 DVDs around the community to get people involved.


Jenny Lee, Live Arts Media Project

Ilana described phase 1 of LAMP in the previous session. I’m going to talk about phase 2.

LAMP grew out of Detroit Summer, which was started over 10 years ago by veterans of the Detroit Black power movement.

Addresses the school crisis in Detroit, in particular the dropout crisis, which is
evacuation from the auto industry has crippled the city
DPS closed 50 schools
95 more will close by 2008
Catholic schools all closed last year.
Those that remain are increasingly militarized. Dress code that lead to suspensions that lead to more dropouts.
DPS is now the number one employer in the city, which makes the union extremely powerful.

The goal of LAMP was to center young people’s voices in this debate.

We trained youth to do interviews with other youth, they interviewed other young people, as well as the principals.

We saw that the process by which we actually make the media is a method of organizing.

After the summer, they completed the CD, and started thinking about distribution. How to get it into schools and into community centers?

The production process had yielded a supportive network of educators.

The way we distribute it is also an organizing tool.

Wanted to apply creative methods to distribution, as with production. That process needed to centralize youth as well, so they turned to popular education to develop the popular education curriculum.

The teaching is also an organizing tool.

Played a clip about criminilization of youth in the schools. The montage of interviews went right into a hip hop song about it, “12 Steps to Oblivion.”

Jenny then asked the audience what stood out to them in the track and asked a few other questions to bring out the impact it had.

Taking the CD on tour.


Kat Aaron, co-Director of People’s Production House

Kat’s also a producer of Wakeup Call, on WBAI, of which her co-director, Deepa Fernandes, is the host, Everyone who works at PPH is a media maker and a media teacher. We partner with groups to help them make media that supports their organizing. Radio Rootz which works with kids, media production and media literacy. And CNPI that works with low-wage workers.

We organize for media justice

Participatory media is about creating and distributing media but also understanding how it works, how it gets to you. “Opening the doors to media is not the same as media justice.” Different people are told different things about what stories are valuable, who is important.

Not that everyone will be a journalist, but emphasizing to young people that their stories are important and helping them figure out how to communicate.

We teach people how to edit, which is incredibly important so it’s not them gathering stories that the experts edit. We want people to be able to leave our organization, so they need to have the full range of skills.

One of the groups CNPI works with is street vendors. A POC and mostly immigrant workforce, they call themselves the smallest of small businesses. They get ridiculous fines. They had been attending City Council hearings on those fines, but when they came as press, it allowed them to confront Councilmembers in a different way. Their presence at the City Council hearings has an impact on the decisionmaking because the Councilmembers know someone is watching.

Played clip from Domestic Workers United. DWU went to Albany to make their case and they brought their own reporters.

They play these clips not just on WBAI, but around their community for other workers and the people they are trying to organize.

The summer program matched a group of youth with a community organization, which helped teach the youth about organizing. Instead of just publicizing their own
work, they all chose to address issues in their community that were not being discussed.

Played clip from group that addressed the issue of South Asian gangs, which no one was addressing. Now the community organizing group uses the piece to kick off discussions around their community.

Everyone asks, how do you engage people in discussing media policy. Kat ran a small workshop they use to teach 12-year-olds about media consolidation. Everyone writes down their own, idiosyncratic station play list. Then you crumple them up and force them to collaborate, which ultimately yields the lowest common denominator.

(Here’s my station:
Wakeup Call
Radio Rootz hour
LAMP hour
BBC World Service
Yankee games
Brooklyn Hip Hop hour)

End with big plug for Allied Media Conference, where these discussions and models are the main focus of the conference.

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NCMR: Saturday afternoon…

A little wiped out from the early morning Media Democracy Fund breakfast (7:30 amd) followed by the panel I was on (9:00 am), I’m not taking as detailed notes as I was yesterday.

The Funding Exchange’s Media Justice Lunch was enjoyable. There were 100 or so people there, they went around and had everyone introduce themselves. Then we played a quick ice-breaker game of media bingo, hosted by MAG-Net (Media Action Grassroots Network).

We heard two stories – from New Orleans and from PCUN (Piñeros y Campesinos Unidos Noroeste). That was great, but I wish we could heave heard a bit about the local situation. There were folks in the room from the Concerned Citizens of Crump Neighborhood Association and other groups dealing with the longstanding, cancerous, racist, toxic pollution from the Velsicol plant.

Now I’m at “Make the Music with Your Mouth, Kid: Hip-Hop Activism for Media Accountability.” Davey D’s talking about “operational unity.” Instead of just complaining about BET not doing this or Hot 97 not playing that, find the people that are playing it on their website, public access show, or whatnot and help them get to the next level.

Davey and Rosa Clemente both referenced history quite a bit – Frederick Douglass, Robert Williams, Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King. That’s making me excited for Deepa Fernandes’s plenary speech since I think she’s going to connect some of that history to today and this conference.

I guess this is a good time to plug this musical response to the shooting of Sean Bell.

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