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(en) Update on US struggle for microradio

From Kaidi Al-Muntaqim Allah <gda7@yahoo.com>
Date Sun, 23 Jan 2000 17:27:07 -0500

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

> From: Freeradio2@aol.com

FCC ruling won't affect low-power radio pioneer

The Federal Communications Commission may be ready
to sanction micro-power
radio stations, but the Springfield man regarded as
the father of the
movement apparently isn't interested.

Mbanna Kantako, who has operated the low-power
station now known as Human
Rights Radio 106.5 FM since 1987, will not seek a
license for his station,
and he is still under orders from the FCC to shut it
down, an associate of
Kantako said.

The FCC adopted rules Thursday to support the
creation of at least 1,000
low-power stations. Officials said they envision a
wide range of interests,
from foreign languages to regional music, getting
representation on the

The commission hopes that by May it will begin
awarding the noncommercial,
educational licenses to groups that want to operate
100-watt and 10-watt
stations - far less than the 6,000 to 100,000 watts
at which most FM stations
now operate. That would give broadcasters between 4
miles and 7 miles of
coverage area. Also, they could set up shop for much
lower costs, because in
many cases they can mount their antennas atop a
building rather than
constructing a tower.

Kantako, who founded his station as a medium for
tenants of the
now-demolished John Hay Homes, does not speak to
mainstream media outlets and
did not return calls for comment on Thursday.

But a University of Illinois at Springfield
professor who has been active
with the station said he is sure Kantako will not
seek the blessing of the
FCC, which as recently as September ordered him to
shut down or face fines.

"He basically sees this as power-structure control,"
said Mike Townsend, an
associate professor of social work. "Licensing is an
attempt to co-opt a
movement for social change."

Kantako this month will mark his 4,000th day of
broadcasting. His refusal
over the years to yield to FCC demands to stop has
made him a hero among
micro-radio operators nationwide.

Internet sites devoted to the cause of low-power,
community-based radio
stations frequently name Kantako and his station as
the foundations of the

"I think (the FCC ruling) never would have happened
in the first place if it
weren't for people willing to commit civil
disobedience," said Ron Sakolsky,
a UIS professor of public policy who in 1998
co-wrote a book, "Seizing the
Airwaves: A Free Radio Handbook," with Stephen
Dunifer. Dunifer operated the
micro-radio station Radio Free Berkeley in Berkeley,
Calif., until last year
and is the nation's foremost activist in the
micro-radio movement.

When founded in 1987, Human Rights Radio was the
voice of the Tenants Rights
Association in the John Hay Homes and was known as
WTRA. The station has gone
by various names - Zoom Black Magic Radio, Black
Liberation Radio, African
Liberation Radio - and carries everything from music
to speeches on African
and African-American issues.

Kantako and his family are involved in some
broadcasts, and Kantako offers a
daily news analysis of local, national and world

Efforts by the FCC to shut down Kantako's
then-1-watt station drew attention
from national print and broadcast media, taking his
message far beyond his
Springfield neighborhood and turning Kantako into a
folk hero.

"He was one of the first people to do it on a
regular basis, and he's the
only one who has done it continuously," said Kevin
Keyser, a San Francisco
filmmaker who visited Kantako for a documentary he
is making on micro-radio
stations. He hopes the film, to be called "Free
Radio," eventually will air
on PBS.

Keyser became interested in the topic after doing a
story on Dunifer's
station for San Francisco Fox TV affiliate KTVU.
Visiting similar stations in
California, Texas and elsewhere, he learned that
Kantako was a major
influence to many station operators.

"The two strongest influences in all this are Mbanna
Kantako and Stephen
Dunifer," Keyser said. "Dunifer for helping people
get set up in radio and
Mbanna more in being a force on the air."

When the Hay Homes were demolished in 1997, Kantako
was the last tenant to
leave. He took his station with him and now
broadcasts from his home in the
1100 block of North Fifth Street.

Kantako, who is blind, operates the 15- to 30-watt
station using a $600

Matthew Dietrich can be reached at 788-1509 or

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