Saturday, February 6, 2010

Whose news, whose issues, and whose culture, produced by whom, and to what end?

Those were the main issues on my mind on February 3, 2010, as I headed toward 522 Valencia @ 16th Street, in San Francisco, for a public conversation about the future of KPFA Radio, with Steve Zeltzer, Riva Enteen, Jack Heyman, and Associate Bay View Editor J.R. Valrey.

I certainly didn't have all the answers but I had a few points:

1) The station needs a Program Council, which is essential to the community radio model. Since the Program Council was undermined years ago, and still hasn't been revived, I suggest that any individual or collective who wants to do a show take their proposal and/or demo tape to the public comment period of a Local Station Board (LSB) meeting and say they're bringing it to the LSB because there's no place else to take them, even though a Program Council is essential to the community radio model.

I honestly believe that if enough of the great proposals that I think this community is capable of come in, they're going to have to respond.

And, though I know this is problematic, with regard to the by-laws, I think the elected LSB should be the Program Council. I think the by-laws should be amended to make it the Program Council, because when people vote for LSB members, they do so, most of all, in hopes of effecting programming. This is what democracy looks like, imperfect though it may be, and it could hardly be less perfect than the top down management the station has now.

2) If the Program Council could be revived, I'd like to see collectives arise to produce weekly or monthly shows on issues like mass transit, higher education, energy, land use/urban planning/"Redevelopment," and, war'n peace.

We need a new show just to keep track of all the wars the U.S. is involved in at this point, including all the covert U.S. wars in Africa, managed by AFRICOM, the U.S. Africa Command, and those becoming less covert, as in Somalia and Yemen. Democracy Now is the War'n Peace report, but I think we need a weekly show devoted just to what the U.S. military, the Pentagon, the recruiters, and the defense contractors are up to this week, and, what anybody's doing to resist, with local emphasis.

Allowing communities and coalitions organized around issues like these a chance to pitch and produce a show could widen the station's base of support by widening the number of people who feel they have a stake in the station and thus have a reason to volunteer and contribute.

3) The station should make more creative use of volunteers. Of course someone has to answer the phone during pledge, but that shouldn't be the only thing volunteers are invited to do. Station support communities, or communities who want to support a particular show, could do a lot to get KPFA broadcasts, segments, and the KPFA logo, out into the world via the Web, just by forming groups that make a point of getting them posted to the social networks like Facebook, the Youtube, DIGG, StumbleUpon, Newswvine, and Reddit. Volunteers could also admin Web pages for communities concerned with particular issues and/or shows on the station's website.

This would also make more people, and communities feel they have a stake in the station and a reason to support it.

4) KPFA's going to become an anachronism, soon, if it doesn't get a better grasp of the Web, browsers, and social networks.

The "KPFA community," and the wider Pacifica community, could become its own social network on the Web, or possibly a network within a larger coalition of some sort.

5) The station is spending way too many human and material resources on ephemeral broadcasts because its Web presence is so negligible. Each news and public affairs need to be posted to the station's podcasting channel, with tags and its own URL, sent to the Internet Archive, and indexed in Google News. Other media makers, advocates, list managers, organizers, and social networkers need to be able to find and repost KPFA segments they remember hearing much more readily without knowing how to download and edit them in an audio editor, tag them, and give them a URL, meaning finding an appropriate place to upload them to the Web.

As it is now, the best anyone can do if they want to post a segment of a two hour Morning Show broadcast, or an hour long Flashpoints broadcast, to the Web, is to post a link to the whole audio archive with a note saying, e.g., "The interview with J.R. Valrey about the Oscar Grant case, and his own, is 1 hour and 22 minutes in"---unless they have the time, skill, and patience to download, edit and post the audio.

Here are just a few examples of my own efforts to give life after broadcast to the KPFA News and Flashpoints broadcasts that I've been on myself:

San Francisco recruits; Blue Angels over the Bay

Greens fight for rights in Kagame's Rwanda

Here's a longer segment, close to half an hour, from the KPFA Morning Show, about the privatization of Candlestick Point State Park, in Bay View Hunters Point. I edited this out after downloading the whole two hours, because I thought it was so important, and because resident Nyese Joshua did such a kick ass job as a guest representing the Bay View community.

But, once I'd done the download and edited out the segment, as I really think KPFA staff should, I didn't have time to make a little movie to go with it, so I just slapped the KPFA logo on for posting to the Web.

(Note: To post pieces lengthier than those commonly on the Youtube, one has to put up with a brief advertisement at the outset, as here, on the Internet station, Current TV. The same is true of Vimeo, but KPFA could, I'm sure, obtain Directors' status, so as to post longer pieces on the Youtube and escape the ads. Just hold on about a minute, and, keep in mind that the fight to stop the privatization of Candlestick Point State Park ain't over yet.)

Whose park, for what purpose? Bayview, the Lennar Corporation, and Candlestick Point

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