The Prometheus Radio Project is a non-profit organization created by activists to fight for a more democratic radio dial. Founded in 1998 by veterans of the pirate radio movement, we were at the forefront of the fight that led to the creation of the new LPFM service by the FCC. This was one of the most dramatic victories of public interest media groups in recent years. Following this early victory, Prometheus continues our work by helping small citizens groups across the United States navigate the baffling government communications bureaucracies and by demystifying the obscure technical arcana that community groups must master to recapture a sliver of the airwaves for their neighborhood's use. Activist in our approach but scrupulously law abiding in our practices, above all we are community organizers, bringing people together politically to reinvigorate democracy through citizen control of the public channels of discussion which invigorate a free society.
Background: Media justice advocates and community groups fought for over ten years to win passage of the Local Community Radio Act, that was finally passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in January 2011.
This legislation mandates the government, specifically the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to issue new noncommercial FM radio licenses all across the country to nonprofits, including for the first time in major cities. These non-commercial stations could broadcast local news, independent music and arts, and other diverse programming not heard on commercial radio.
The new licensing opportunity for community radio presents a radical departure from the status quo in our media system, valuing localism over consolidation. Media ownership in the United States is highly concentrated in the hands of a few giant corporations. Clear Channel alone owns thousands of radio stations, more than anyone else, as well as billboards and entertainment venues across the country. Consolidation has all but destroyed diversity of voices, investigative reporting, and local programming on the air.
Community groups, radio pirates, and media activists struggled for years against media consolidation that marginalized many and served as a megaphone for corporate power. We pushed instead for local access to the airwaves. Radio, like other forms of media, can be a powerful organizing tool when it's controlled by people using it to address issues affecting their communities. Democracy comes to life when groups produce media and tell their own stories. That's why this issue is so important to so many. After years of community organizing coupled with legislative action, a powerful grassroots campaign successfully pushed the Local Community Radio Act through congress, winning the opportunity for local groups to control a piece of the broadcast airwaves.
In November of 2013, Prometheus helped hundreds of community groups apply for new low power FM license. Now we are getting them past the final hurtles in the bureaucratic process and preparing them to launch their stations.
Prometheus is leading the largest expansion of community radio in U.S. history. We are supporting hundreds of community organizations and social justice groups apply for and build their own radio stations.