Tuesday, 27 January 2009

[creative-radio] Digest Number 2550

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1. MEDIA-BRAZIL: Free Speech and an Open Mic
From: George Lessard

1. MEDIA-BRAZIL: Free Speech and an Open Mic
Posted by: "George Lessard" media@web.net themediamentor
Date: Mon Jan 26, 2009 10:03 pm ((PST))

MEDIA-BRAZIL: Free Speech and an Open Mic
By Mario Osava


SAO LUIS, Brazil, Jan 26 (IPS) - Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da
Silva "betrayed" community radio stations, said Magno Cruz, the head of
Radio Conquista, speaking at a round table discussion at the International
Laboratory for Free Media, held in the capital of the northeastern state
of Maranhao.

The struggle of these alternative radio stations (originally called
"pirate" stations because they broadcast without a license) was one of the
topics discussed at the Jan. 22-24 meeting whose aim was to launch
networking, promotion and training processes for the so-called "free

Blogs, videos, grafitti, theatre and other means of expression besides
radio broadcasting were discussed at dozens of workshops that drew
activists from several parts of Brazil, especially Maranhao state, where
the family of former Brazilian President José Sarney (1985-1990)
practically monopolises the media.

Cruz was angry that Lula had entrusted the Communications Ministry to
"people who are against us, in spite of our support for him in the 2002
electoral campaign," when the former steelworker won his first term as

Raids by police armed with machineguns, confiscation of equipment and
threats of shootings and arrests have interrupted Radio Conquista's
broadcasts several times since 2004, Cruz reported.

This community radio station, founded in 2001 in Coroadinho, a Sao Luis
slum neighbourhood where violence is rife, has reopened each time it was
closed down, thanks to the efforts and support of the local population,
who managed to purchase new equipment.

"We didn't think the Lula administration would close down the radio,
although we were warned by friends," Cruz said. It was an "immoral and
horrifying act, when it is common knowledge that many other stations that
call themselves community radios are handed over to mayors, lawmakers and
other politicians, and are never closed down," he complained.

Radio Conquista employs more than 60 youngsters from local poor families,
encouraging them to stay away from drug trafficking and crime. Whenever it
is on the air it "curbs violence" in the neighbourhoods where there is
reception, said Cruz, who was sentenced to a year in prison for presiding
over the association that runs the radio station.

His prison term was commuted to community service in a poor neighbourhood,
where he taught math but also shared his knowledge about community radio,
turning necessity into opportunity, he said.

Radio Conquista's experience is similar to that of a large number of
community radio stations in Brazil, which survive in spite of heavy-handed
action against them by inspectors and regulators in the Communications

Thirteen community stations were closed down in Sao Luis in December 2004,
and only Radio Conquista survived, said Cruz, who declared that his radio
"will continue broadcasting."

The fight for a change in the regulations and to keep community stations
on the air is part of the free media movement, created at a June 2008
national forum held at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, which
organised last weekend's Laboratory in Sao Luis.

The World Forum of Free Media (WFFM) is taking place in Belém, the capital
of the northern state of Pará, on Monday and Tuesday, overlapping with the
World Social Forum (WSF) which is meeting there from Tuesday to next

At Belém, the Ministry of Culture will announce an awards programme for
alternative communication initiatives providing useful services to local

Prizes for 40 local or regional projects and 10 programmes with national
coverage will range from 50,000 to 120,000 reals (22,000 to 52,000
dollars), said Taciana Portela, the Ministry's representative for
northeastern Brazil.

Policies to make communications more democratic were also debated at the
Laboratory. Azril Bacal, a Peruvian with a doctorate in sociology of
communication and a member of the WSF's Working Group on Communication,
criticised the fusion of capital and media interests in the present
"neoliberal" free market model of globalisation.

Antonio Martins, editor of Le Monde Diplomatique Brasil and one of the
organisers of the Laboratory, said that "horizontal" free media deserved
the same support granted by the state to large media corporations,
including tax exemptions, government advertising contracts, and access to
television and radio frequencies.

Broadcasting is an activity that cannot continue to be the exclusive
preserve of a few privileged entrepreneurs with large amounts of capital,
at a time when technology and social change is creating opportunities for
new and varied forms of communication, said Ivana Bentes, the head of the
School of Communication at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and a
promoter of the WFFM.

Community experiences like TV Roc, in Rocinha, one of the large "favelas"
(shanty towns) in Rio de Janeiro, and Casas Brasil, an experimental
government programme that created 76 "telecentres" equipped with
computers, Internet access, distance learning programmes, libraries,
theatres, multimedia and other activities, were presented at the
Laboratory, which was attended by 450 people, most of them students.

The Laboratory "stimulated the diverse languages" of self-expression, in a
state where a monopoly of the media and government advertising resources
restricts access to communication, the head of the Communications
Department at the Federal University of Maranhao, Francisco Gonçalves, one
of the meeting organisers, told IPS.

Participants at the workshop on blogs decided to create one themselves,
for dialogue and mutual cooperation.

"It helped me to improve the aesthetic appearance of my blog," said Marcos
Cartágenes, who has been blogging in Sao Luis for the past three years.

But Juliane Oliveira, a journalism student from Santarém, a city in Pará,
said "it would have been better if we had had an information technology

Other young people set up a radio station during the meeting, calling it
"Na Marra" (Born of Necessity), and made their first broadcast on
Saturday. "I learned a lot from this workshop; now I'll be able to teach
my colleagues," said Dougras Ferreira, from the poor region of Baixada

Lozángela dos Santos, who is from the same region, makes video
documentaries and also has experience in telecentres. She said she
"expected more" in terms of learning about her field, but added that the
Laboratory gave her "more knowledge about communication, the domination of
media by big capital, and the alternatives." (END/2009)

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