[imc-oxford-features] FW: [IMC-Video] Towards a Critical Analysis of Media EmergenC

hamish hamish_campbell at hotmail.com
Fri Feb 18 02:52:27 PST 2005

Hi guys 

Have been a cuppule of intresting postes on the IMC video list. If you have
the time this one makes intresting reading.

Hamish xxx 

Towards a Critical Analysis of Media EmergenC


 From October 6th-9th, as the National Association of Broadcasters was
holding their annual Radio Road Show in San Diego, a group of media
activists converged to try to illuminate what is wrong with the corporate
media and to strengthen independent, community autonomous media. This
convergence was called the Media emergenC, highlighting the two themes of
emergency and emergence. With 4 days of talks, film screenings, marches,
panels, forums and independent media making, the media activists, mostly
composed of members of San Diego Indymedia and radioActive sanDiego, but
including media makers from as far away as New York and Philadelphia, tried
to confront the NAB as had been done in many other cities, but also to
challenge the independent media movement and push it forward. For an
overview of the events, see:

Independent Media Coverage

The Prometheus Radio Project, after trying out a community reporter program
at the Philadelphia NAB Radio Show in 2003, was eager to take this program
to San Diego in 2004.  Prometheus secured local reporters in Philadelphia,
as well as some community reporters who'd be coming in from the Chesapeake
Bay, and others from Baltimore, NAB press passes.
Community radio stations, primarily Low Power FM stations all over the
country, provided the press credentials to these reporters.  Then, these
reporters collected audio inside the NAB convention, which would otherwise
cost between $400-$700 for entry.  This audio was processed into headlines,
print articles, and longer audio pieces for some of these stations.

The same stations, for the most part, provided credentials to local San
Diego reporters, as well as reporters flying in from New York (!) and other
exotic places. These reporters went into the NAB in San Diego, and collected
a wide variety of audio for production.

What were the goals here? First, to form relationships between community
reporters and community radio stations all across the country.  It was
originally a hope of Prometheus and some of the participating stations that
these reporters and their contacts at the home stations might decide to work
together in the future, and provide regional/beat reporting to the local
stations even from far away.  This ties in to the larger goal of networking
stations to other stations more effectively, and sharing content/beats.

Second, to get representatives of independent media into workshops and
forums where they almost never go.  The National Association of Broadcasters
is a very closed organization, and its behaviors have a great impact on
community media and its ability to proliferate (ex. the LPFM expansion).  If
our reporters can hear about the planned strategies of  the corporate media,
and bring them to the stations who might suffer the impact, or those
community members who might want to fight for more accesses, then we've
succeeded in really penetrating the NAB.

Third, to teach ourselves audio production, and try to bring new community
producers into the larger stream (Free Speech Radio News, Critical Mass
Radio, Indymedia audio).  New blood!

Fourth, to form relationships between reporters.  New allies and friends!

Fifth, to create finished pieces that told the story of NAB resistance, in a
fashion that could be widely distributed amongst a wide variety of radio
stations and communities. Mixed between resistance outside, the
counter-conference, and reporting inside.

How many of these goals were met?

Were relationships between reporters and stations made?  Nope, not really.
We didn't turn in most of the audio, because we didn't finish producing much
in SD and followup work wasn't kept up after the convergence.

Did we get representatives into the NAB?  Yes.  And they asked amazing
questions of people who everyday community radio folks never get to engage,
like head counsel of the FCC, John Cody, and John Hogan, the president of
Clear Channel.  And they were present as community radio stations, showing
themselves to this community of commercial broadcasters, large and small.
That simple visibility makes a difference when the community of the NAB is
using its girth to affect regulations at the FCC.
If they, even for a moment, remember the motley crew inside the NAB, asking
challenging but well-thought out and responsible questions, then that might
make a difference.  (This is not a radical analysis, rather it is grounded
in changing the NAB and its constituents from the inside... 
are, however, interested in working on and discussing radical analysis)

Did we learn audio production?  I think so, to a large extent.  But in San
Diego we hadn't prepared an editing lab that made it easy for reporters to
edit their sound.  We didn't even prepare enough to have the right minidisk
recorders for all the community reporters -- some folks were relying on
little cassette recorders.  Arrgh!  We didn't prep the mass production
studio necessary for this kind of effort.  Next time we must:
a) Pick a few local folks to prep and organize a studio.  
computers that have enough memory for editing, and can also do file
transfers of finished and raw audio. b) Prepping the reporters so they have
a sound recorder that will actually transfer files cleanly to the editing
machines. c) Getting a few volunteers around the production studio at all
times to help folks out. d) Giving folks examples of good pieces to hear
ahead of time, for ideas on structure. e) Community handbooks with tips on
using Audacity/minidisks/etc f) Always having cables for transfer around. g)
Loaner/purchase of good mics. h) Some strict deadlines/time budgeted into
the schedule for production, rather than more gathering, or partying, or
protesting.  There's nothing like the feeling of a finished piece to
encourage a reporter to produce again. i) Good followup to encourage
finishing pieces that remain undone after the end of the convergence.

Did we form relationships between reporters who weren't previously working
together on projects?  Hells yeah!

Did we create finished pieces?  Again, no.  Any future convergence, as I've
already mentioned, should include more of a focus on production and the
importance and pride of completed production/training of new volunteers. We
did, however, half-finish one audio piece that can be found
here: http://radio.indymedia.org/news/2005/02/3652.php

There were a few finished pieces produced by members of Free Radio Santa
Cruz, and one of these was broadcast on Free Speech Radio News. The Free
Radio Santa Cruz members did not have press passes to get into the official
NAB event though. Their pieces were entirely about the Media emergenC

One success of the independent coverage of the Media emergenC was the live
radio production. Throughout all 4 days of the conference, radioActive
sanDiego did interviews with people around the country on the topic of media
consolidation and independent media. These interviews ranged from Michael
Albert to Conglomco to the Arab-American Anti Discrimination Committee. In
addition, the conference itself was broadcast live on radioActive sanDiego
and was picked up and rebroadcast by a local pirate radio station, 106.9fm.
In addition, people at the street actions were able to call in their live
reports and share their experiences with listeners. For example, see

Street Actions

There was one main street action. This was a march from the NBC building
downtown to the steps of the awards ceremony for the NAB. On the lawn in
front of the NAB awards ceremony, we deployed a sound system and staged a
mock awards ceremony. The march and theatre went well, with over 100 people
in attendance who were all very enthusiastic. Nevertheless, in the end, the
Media emergenC received little corporate media coverage. This could've been
helped by having more direct action.

Here it seems like one of the major problems was just a lack of serious
dedicated people towards getting our message out in the media. Three
organizers worked on press releases a lot, but only Hannah from Prometheus
did any follow up work. I think that what has to be done to really get the
story in the media is to have a whole media team of a few people on the
phone with the corporate media all the time. It's a traditional attitude of
indymedia folks to not want to work with the corporate media at all.
It's often decried as counter-revolutionary by some folks. But I think that
its just another part of the resistance. As long as we have this huge system
around us, we have to work within it to fight it, like buying PVC for
lock-downs. But PVC can be stolen, some might say, but we have not done any
serious work on the issue of how to steal the audience of the corporate
media. I've heard of some people claiming to do mini pirate broadcasts that
take over corporate frequencies, but never heard of it materializing.


Were there too many traditional critiques and not enough anarchist, or more
radical critiques?

We did not have enough discussion of anarchist critiques; subverting the
media  hierarchy should have been a more prominent focus. It seems like
here, we were just running up against some of the limitations of indymedia
being unassociated with any explicit politics. While it could be an
opportunity to move beyond more traditional theories of revolutionary
change, in fact it seems more like a bunch of people who have their own
theories (communist, marxist, anarchist, etc) who simply don't agree.
There are lots of widely varying political philosophies in our own imc, so
to say "lets make this more anti-authoritarian" might not work. Is the
indymedia principle of "organizing using anti-authoritarian methods"
enough? Do we ever use the space of indymedia to consciously move beyond
traditional political organizing strategies?

Did we show that there's a growing indymedia movement and did we move that

Again this seems like a problem created by our scheme of bringing big name
speakers instead of bringing kick ass media activists. We said many times
"the problem with finding speakers is that in indymedia, no one is supposed
to be more important". That seems like the problem with our method was right
in front of our face.

One possible problem was that there was lots of intro content, not much
discussion on moving indymedia forward, very little work done on the issues
around oppression and difference and very few people of color in attendance
at all. These issues are obviously very difficult ones. Did we do enough
outreach in communities of color and in Spanish? We tried to have a
pre-event in a neighborhood of people of color, but only two of us worked on
it and it was not done very well.

But again I think this gets back to the issue of inherent limitations in the
"Indymedia" model. Does the phrase "independent media" mean anything to
people who are not in the movement? Are we effectively communicating to
people the fact that we're trying to get people of color's voices into the
media? Does "media" mean anything to people?

Also, a number of people have told me that the theme we used "media
emergency" was hard to understand and doesn't mean much to people. i don't
know what would be clearer, but something like "books not bars" is

So, these problems seem to stem from the lack of inclusion of people of
color in the organizing process, based on a lack of dedication on our part
to include them (ours as in the organization). We had our events at
locations focused on communities of color, but those folks didn't come to
our events. How could we have included our hosts better?

Critiques of content, structure and Indymedia

Some people felt that not enough people came to the conference part. 
issue taps at the fundamental type of media we are making. Are we trying to
convert others (media as propaganda) or trying to educate ourselves more
(media as self-critical)? When one of the speakers at our conference asked
about who owned NBC, almost everyone in the audience replied "GE!"
How do we move beyond the choir? Should we? In other  words, does the
structure of indymedia facilitate the possibility of media that is a) not
parasitic on the corporate model, b) not propaganda, c) self-critical,
educational, e) empowering, and f) challenging.

In her essay The Language of Tactical Media, Joanne Richardson discusses the
parasitic limitations of indymedia:

"Indymedia critiques the pretensions of mass media to be a true, genuine,
democratic form of representation; it opposes the false media shell with
counter-statements made from a counter-perspective - a perspective that is
not questioned because it is assumed as natural. My Italian friends who work
with Indymedia showed me a video they co-produced about the
anti-globalization demonstrations in Prague and asked what I thought. I
replied that it was a good piece of propaganda, but as propaganda it never
examined its own position. In this video you see a lot of activists who came
to Prague from America, UK, Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy, etc;
occasionally you even get ossified Leninist bullshit from members of
communist parties. What you really don't get is any reflection of the local
Czech context - many locals denounced what they saw as an attempt to playact
a revolution by foreigners who invoked slogans from an ideology the Czechs
themselves considered long obsolete. The confrontation of these different
perspectives is absent from the video, since it is meant to promote
Indymedia's own anarcho-communist position, raised to the level of a
universal truth. And in this sense it was as strategic and dogmatic as
mainstream media; it was only the content of its message that differed."

But is it just propaganda? What does it mean to be tactical? How can we have
a self-inflected politics that includes and contests the ideas of Power and
Representation?  Is the goal to educate others or ourselves? 
do you go beyond the parasitic, binary dependance on corporate media (i.e.,
counterconference, counterinauguration, anti-x, counter-y)  How do you
become more creative, politically? How can we expand our political

We don't believe that Media EmergenC was just propaganda with different
content. The local music, local spaces, local radio and local networks
involved in the organizing and actualization of the event represented a
broad range of methods, forms, and analyses of media, the NAB, and radio.
Our main purpose with Media EmergenC, and perhaps with Indymedia too, is to
produce a safe and autonomous space to rethink and remake our own political
imaginations. We hope to construct spaces within the airwaves, the streets
and cyberspace that allow such imaginations to flourish.

The structure was very much like a traditional conference: audience vs.
speaker. We tried to subvert that with the workshops. But how do we go
beyond the "conference" model. Should we? Maybe it should have been set up
more like a media lab, where every participant could come in and make media.
what if we transformed the World Beat Center into a huge media lab with
different mediums in different corners? That would've radically changed the
whole dynamic of "presenter" and "listener" What would a media lab look
like?Could it be:  Media Hobbyism, Biomedia, Cybermedia, Robotic Media,
Gendered Media, Ethnic Media, Indigenous media, Insurgent Media, Foreign
media. Perhaps we should learn from the  FreeCooperation conference that
took place on a campus of the State University of New York, late April 2004.
This conference seemed to extend beyond the stale politics of panelism and
the traditional conference model:

And then there's Radio, that beautiful device of political polyphony that
precipitated the entire conference. Since the enemy was a radio lobby,
should we have focused everything on radio? Yes: it would have been more
specific, effective, technical, creative. No: perhaps, less interest, and we
should work on broadening the debate. Perhaps the radio kids who got inside
the NAB should have had a report back on Saturday at the conference.


We've written this self-critical document in the hope of creating more
critical dialogue within the Indymedia community and the independent media
movement. It is our hope that people will read this, give us feedback and
make more documents like this critiquing their own events and actions and
circulate those for discussion as well. We hope that this can be read and
discussed at the upcoming Indyconference in Texas  this month
(http://www.indyconference.org/). Above all, we hope that people can think
hard about the questions and challenges that we've posed here, which are
constantly  manifesting themselves in the work of creating our own media
structures, and come up with new methods and ideas  which are more inclusive
and more effective and incorporate those methods and ideas into their work.

By any media necessary,
       San Diego Indymedia - Prometheus Radio Project -radioActive radio
       and all the others who participated in Media EmergenC.

Links and stories about "Media EmergenC"

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