Thursday, May 17, 2007


Bush Radio...The Mother Of All Community Radio

Bush Radio A to Z

Cape Town’s Bush Radio: An
Austin Airwaves Assessment

“Cape Town’s Bush Radio is not just one of the best radio stations in Africa,
it is one of the best radio stations in the world,”
Austin Airwaves’ Jim Ellinger

I was very impressed by my visit to Bush Radio in Cape Town in February 2007. I have visited scores of community media groups around the world (100+ cities in 40+ countries/territories since 9/11), and few compare with the great resource provided by Bush Radio to the Cape Town community.

Programming in three local languages, Xhosa, Afrikaans and English, with half of the programmers women, the station reflects and promotes the best of the city. It also covers the myriad of social and political issues still facing post-apartheid South Africa with newscasts 20+ a day.

The station has a strong radio theater/drama department kept active with passion and enthusiasm by large number of volunteers. It is radio theatre that first brought “the theatre of the mind” to millions of radio listeners. And while it is just a memory to much of the modern world, it is alive and well at Bush Radio.

(My last assignment in southern Africa was to teach radio theatre in Chimoio, Mozambique, with great success.)

If A is for Africa, then Z is for Zane!

Zane Ibrahim, the Main Mentor of Bush Radio, has seemingly ascended to a lofty position somewhere between cook and bottle washer, beloved grandfather, philosopher...and troublemaker. His occasional visits to the station mean that everyone gets a ribbing, shares a story and a laugh…but nothing gets done until he leaves. With the day-to-day operation of the station well in hand by the great staff, Zane focuses his considerable energy and worldwide connections on keeping the station well funded and highly regarded.

I am proud to add my name to the list of friends and supporters of Bush Radio.
Their internship program for radio practitioners is highly recommended. Plus, the fact that Cape Town is one of the most beautiful big cities in the world doesn't hurt either!

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

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


NEW PP: Wrapped in Same Old B[S]

Article from the Sunday NYTimes Travel Section, with [my comments]

The New Passport: Stars and Stripes, Wrapped in the Same Old BS

The New Passport: Stars and Stripes, Wrapped in the Same Old Blue
Published: April 29, 2007

SYMBOLS: The theme of the new United States passport is
“American Icon.”

Flip through the new passport on the U.S. Department of State Web site ( See also: Security & Privacy of New E-Passport: Animation of each page layout:

WHEN I went to collect my newly minted American passport, [says the NYT's Neil MacFarquhar-har] I discovered that it came with a radically altered design that included sheaves of wheat, the rather large head of a bald eagle plus the flag wrapped around my picture. And that was just one page!
But the design overhaul wasn’t much noticed by people emerging from what they called the purgatory-length waits to obtain their new passports. [I have now been waiting 9 weeks... jim 5/1/07]

“Don’t you want to kill this guy right now?” Sharon Marks exclaimed to a fellow sufferer outside the Passport Agency in San Francisco. “What are you talking about, design? It’s such a tangled mess in there that we haven’t even looked at the thing.”
When Americans do open their new passports, they’ll see a document strikingly different from the old booklet. By July, all applicants will get the new design, with the State Department expecting to issue a record 17 million passports this year, up from last year’s record of 12 million.
The new passport, in the works for about six years, incorporates the first complete redesign since 1993. Given new international standards for post-9/11 high-tech security features, which transform the document into an “E-passport,” the State Department decided it was time for something completely different.

The new passport comes with its own name: “American Icon.” It’s hard to think of one that was left out. [Neil! How 'bout Three Mile Island, SF's Castro District, the Bridge in Selma, Alabama, the Gulf Coast/NOLA post-Katrina, the LA Uprising, the Dallas Schoolbook Depository, the WTC crater, Virginia Tech and Columbine, etc. etc.?]
The inside cover sports an engraving of the battle scene that inspired “The Star Spangled Banner.” A couple of lines of the anthem, starting with, “O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave,” are scrawled in what the State Department says is Francis Scott Key’s own cursive!

The short, 28-page version of the passport comes with 13 inspirational quotes, including six from United States presidents and one from a Mohawk Thanksgiving speech. The pages, done in a pink-grey-blue palate, are rife with portraits of Americana ranging from a clipper ship to Mount Rushmore to a long-horn cattle drive.
Certain riffs are not obvious at first glance. The passport opens on Chesapeake Bay, while the last page shows Diamond Head in Honolulu. (Guess? “From sea to shining sea.”)

“We thought it really, truly reflects the breadth of America as well as the history,” said Ann Barrett, deputy assistant secretary of state for passport services. “We tried to be inclusive of all Americans.” ["Really, truly"? Oh, bullshit...]

The outside cover remains the standard gold seal on midnight blue, with the addition of a small gold emblem on the front, a circle surrounded by two parallel bars, which is the international symbol that the passport contains a computer chip; in this case, bearing a digital image and biographical information about the holder. (The chip, buried in the back page somewhere above the moon, has been the source of some controversy out of fear of electronic theft, although State Department officials say it is locked.) [I am guessing it can be unlocked, or at least made "inop," with a hammer. Social Engineers, please report!]

The new passport was developed by a six-member committee from the State Department and the Government Printing Office, with then-Secretary of State Colin Powell approving the final icon theme. [Words fail me...] Others themes considered included American documents, the Wright brothers and space exploration. (The latter called for black pages, [NOTE: This NOT a reference to the sexual proclivities of any former Republican Congressmen...] deemed rather impractical for reading visas.)
“We think it is a beautiful document as well as the most secure,” Ms. Barrett said. “It’s a work of art.” [Your a real piece of work too, Ms. Barrett!]

Professional designers shown the passport to critique mentioned art as well. “It is like being given a coloring book that your brother already colored in,” said Michael Bierut, of the design firm Pentagram in New York City. A passport, not unlike a scrapbook, gets its allure from gradually accruing exotic stamps, with the blank pages holding the promise of future adventure, he and other designers said. But they find that the new jumble of pictures detracts from that.

“There is also something a little coercive about a functional object serving as a civics lesson, even a fairly low-grade civics lesson,” Mr. Bierut said. New passport bearers in San Francisco seemed divided. “It’s very patriotic,” said Cynthia Yacur of Folsom, Calif., relieved to receive one just days before leaving for Greece. “Co-oool pictures!! An eagle! A bison! Ni-iiice!! Every page is different! I like it!!!

Another Californian, Candace Serona, was less convinced.
“It seems to represent an idealized version of a country that is far from ideal right now,” she said, adding that the most positive thing was that at least the images embedded over her photograph hid some wrinkles.

Perhaps the ultimate judges will be border guards. [Oh! Great!]

Rick Davis, a retired NBC News correspondent, said he recently handed his over at Syria’s Damascus International Airport. The officer fingered it at length, gaping at the many pictures.

Finally he said haltingly, “You are a diplomat?” [Yeah, I'ma' frgn bribe for you, schmuck.]

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