Chicago’s Local Broadcasters Speak Up

Local and independent broadcasters around Chicago are speaking up as the date of the fifth FCC hearing on media ownership draws near. The Sept. 20 public hearing will be an important chance for local media outlets to raise their voice about the vital role they play in their communities. They are eager to highlight the ways in which independent radio, TV and newspapers consistently serve the public interest, while Big Media turns its back on local communities.WVON: ‘Level the Laying Field’

“WVON is the only African-American-owned radio station in the third-largest market in America and, until last year, operated on a shared frequency,” said Melody Spann-Cooper, president of WVON. “We stand as the best example of why the FCC must look at alternatives that will increase minority participation and level the playing field. It is the only way to ensure that the broadcast industry becomes more inclusive and better reflects the true diversity of our country.”

These independent broadcasters are helping diverse local voices get on the air and presenting vital stories that no one else is covering. While the Internet is an increasingly important tool for people to make their voices heard, these local outlets are reasserting the role of broadcast media in our society.

Radio Arte: Minorities Usurped by Big Media

“The voices of Latinos, youth, women and other groups are being usurped by the special interests of media companies that produce programming that is all too often homophobic, misogynistic, anti-immigrant and absent the diversity found in our communities,” said Silvia Rivera, general manager of Radio Arte 90.5 FM. “Radio Arte rejects any additional media consolidation and challenges the FCC to adopt rules that open up ownership opportunities for Chicago’s marginalized groups.”

It is not only the owners and managers who are speaking up. Often, it is those who work on the front lines of the media who see most dramatically the impact that Big Media has had on journalism, the arts, and local communities. Labor unions who represent media workers across Chicago are also concerned about Big Media’s slash-and-burn techniques which leave people out of work and underserved.

IBEW: Consolidation = Lay Offs

“Because we represent Telemundo workers, we know first hand that media ownership consolidation has led to massive staffing cuts in local newsrooms,” said Jesus Sanchez, Organizing Coordinator for IBEW Local 1212. “We have a huge concern that Telemundo is one of only two major Latino networks where Spanish speakers can get their news and stay informed as to what is happening in their communities. If the cuts continue, where will the Latino community get their news?”

Chicago Independent Radio: Let’s Foster Alternatives

The FCC is coming to Chicago at just the right time for the newly launched Chicago Independent Radio Project. The project’s founder, Shawn Campbell, argues that we must not only fight Big Media, but also work to foster vibrant alternatives to the corporate media conglomerates.

“The media landscape has grown increasingly homogenized at a time in our country’s history when independent voices are more important than ever,” Campbell said. “It is crucial that we raise our voices in opposition to further media consolidation, while at the same time, working to ensure there will be more media outlets that truly are serving local communities and broadcasting in the public interest.”

In a city as diverse as Chicago, those who are working constantly to ensure that diversity is represented on the airwaves are speaking up this week to tell the FCC to stop media consolidation and hold Big Media accountable.

89.5 FM: ‘Flattened’ by Consolidation

“This is what it comes down to for me: What kind of world do you want to live in? Do you want to live in a world where all the images you see, all the music and news you read and hear, and all the other media you consume is produced, owned, and controlled by the same five companies? Or do you want to live in a world where what you see and hear accurately reflects the diversity of your own community and the greater city and world?” asked Robin Archer, host and producer at 89.5 FM, “The consolidation of media ownership flattens the media landscape, reduces consumer choice, and makes it that much harder for all of us to be media makers in addition to media consumers.”

A broad and diverse range of local and national groups is urging its members to attend the hearing and testify about the impacts of media consolidation. They include: the Benton Foundation, Chicago Access Network Television, Chicago Media Action, Chicago Urban League, Chicago Westside NAACP, Children Now, Common Cause, Communications Workers of America, Community Media Workshop, Community Renewal Society, Consumers Union, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Females United For Action, Free Press, Future of Music Coalition, Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, Illinois Campus Compact, Illinois PIRG, Latino Council on the Media, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Mid-Atlantic Community Papers Association, Midwest Gap Enterprises, Prometheus Radio Project, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Radio-Television Broadcast Engineers Union I.B.E.W Local 1212, South Austin Coalition, the Bobby E. Wright Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center Inc., the Media and Democracy Coalition, the Newspaper Guild-CWA, United Church of Christ, Office of Communication Inc., We The People Media/Residents’ Journal, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign and WRTE Radio Arte.

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