Wednesday, May 02, 2007


FCC: Four Hours After the Next Disaster

Four Hours After the Next Disaster

Austin Airwaves, back in New Orleans, 18 months post-Katrina, at the National Federation of Community Radio Broadcasters national conference. Jim Ellinger had just one question for the FCC...

At the NFCBinNOLA in April, there were a couple of workshops dealing with disaster preparedness and contingency plans for CR stations threatened with or forced off the air by natural or other disasters. Both workshops were excellent and provided a range of useful information and contacts. Good work by the NFCB.

In addition to the two workshops, the NFCB wisely booked Mr. Leon Jackler to speak in his capacity as Director of Public Safety, Outreach & Coordination for the new Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau of the FCC. He spoke at the
"FCC and Disaster Preparedness" workshop on April 12th.

Being the only suit and tie in the room full of CR activists, suffering from a cold, and reading from prepared text, Mr. Jackler, might have felt a little uncomfortable. A couple of us, including the NFCB's marvelous Carolyn Caton and myself made a bit of an effort to make him feel welcome.

Among his very first words were, "I'm not with the enforcement division!" That drew a few chuckles...but only a few.

Mr. Jackler spoke on a range of issues regarding radio/ communications, pre-, post- and during "major events;" disasters. Not all the information was specific to NCE stations, but gave a good overview of the Commission's perspective and plans, post-9/11.

When is came time for questions, I asked Mr. Jackler the following...
"Welcome back to your alma mater New Orleans! Please take one of the reality tours to see the devastation first hand."

"During the height of the Katrina disaster here on the Gulf Coast, when some federal agencies seemed to be creating as many problems as solving [waving my FEMA ballcap...], a number of unlicensed stations went on the air, providing urgent, even life-saving, information. Because of the extent of the disaster, the Commission's Enforcement Division did not, or could not,
enforce the taking down of these unlicensed stations. However, around the first of the year, the Enforcement Division did in fact take down a couple of stations here in New Orleans, notably
Radio Uprising and Radio Harlequin, even though these stations were working to 'stay on the air anyway they could,' and were providing 'incredibly important,' 'key messages to the general public.'"
[repeating his own comments to the group.]

"My question sir. As we prepare for the next disaster, has there been any discussion or consideration at the Commission for having, say, a higher level of tolerance for unlicensed stations that are providing emergency information during a disaster, especially when many or most of the licensed stations have been knocked off the air? Thank you."

Mr. Jackler responded,

"The Commission does not and will not have varying levels of tolerance for unlicensed stations, and we will continue to take them off the air as we discover them. What I would suggest as the best path to follow is what your group, Austin Airwaves, did for the evacuees in the Houston AstroDome. Petition the FCC for Special Temporary Authorization and we will make every effort to respond in four hours time. The Commission responded to hundreds of such requests during the disaster, but I believe yours was the only one in the country for a entirely new radio station."

"We certainly recognize the value of radio in a disaster," he concluded.

[Dramatic pause]

"I need to remind you sir, that KAMP, the AstroDome LPFM station, was kept off the air by local Harris County officials..."

FEMA Rejection Form:

[Another dramatic pause]

Looking a little flustered, Mr. Jackler responded, "I did hear about that. Nevertheless, your group followed what the Commission believes to be the best way of dealing with a situation following a major event."

jim ellinger
Austin Airwaves

His contact info:
Mr. Leon J. Jackler, Esq.
Director of Public Safety,
Outreach & Coordination
Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554
(202) 418-0946

NOTES: I submitted this blog to Mr. Jackler as a courtesy and to confirm his comments, which I have PARAPHRASED. However, I did not hear back from him. I also confirmed the content with other radio folks who were in attendance.

Legendary NOLA CR WWOZ:

NOLA NPR affiliate:

This looks great, Jim! Yes, "Radio Uprising" and "Radio Harlequin" are correct. I just want to say thanks for your support and advocacy in this matter. You remember our name when others have long forgotten! I have a great deal of respect for the work that you do. Truly, Mikkel Allen, NOLA

In today's Democracy Now!, Jeremy Scahill's report on the exclusion of poor blacks from the rebuilding of New Orleans underscores the need for the support of a new struggling LPFM in the Algiers area of NOLA.

Q: What's Bush's position on Roe v. Wade?

A: He really doesn't care how people leave New Orleans.

New Orlean's IndyMedia:

"And your town Jim, Austin, Texas, has opened its heart to us here in Algiers and New Orleans. Thanks for the work with the station. Thanks for all you have done. Thank you!"
Malik Raheem, former Black Panther and longtime housing activist in
Algiers, (across the river from NO) speaking on WBAI/Pacifica Radio in New York City 12:30am 9/14/05

Texas Weeklies' coverage of the battle for KAMP Radio:
Austin Chronicle
San Antonio Current
Houston Press

Partial List of news stories covering the blocking of KAMP Radio going on the air by Republican operatives in Harris County (Houston), during the height of the Katrina/FEMA Disasters:,ferguson,67701,2.html

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