Homelessness Marathon: NPR radio broadcaster seeks input from HPN

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Mon, 2 Nov 1998 06:46:46 -0400

Homelessness Marathon - NPR radio broadcaster seeks input from HPN &
homeless people

FWD 1 Nov 1998
From: Jeremy Weir Alderson <radio@lightlink.com>

>>Tom, I'm making plans now for next year's [homeless] maathon [radio
>>broadcast].  Are you still interested in it?

>Yes, Jeremy!
>I'd be glad to post announcements on the Net and call-in to the "nobody"
>show on homelessness.
>One possible topic: anti-homeless laws and police sweeps of homeless
>people from downtown business districts especially.  Among other places,
>this is happening a lot in the USA and Canada.
>Another related topic is the FCC's efforts to bust microradio stations,
>thus helping to restrict political discourse to the parameters set by
>corporate media.

Hi Tom,

It was great to hear from you.  You immediately managed to hit upon two
issues becoming central to next year's marathon.  Let me give you a brief
outline of the event and you'll see.

The next marathon will take place from 7pm, Wednesday, January 27 to 9am,
Thusday, January 28, 1999. It will be uplinked to the NPR satellte, which
means that any of over 400 stations around the country will be able to
broadcast it if they want to.  I'm also going to look into getting a
stream server for internet broadcast, but that's something that's not set
yet (by the way, being on the NPR satellite doesn't make you an "NPR
show," just that they've rented you distribution time).

Instead of having "guests," I'll have "co-hosts."  I'm using the term
"co-host" because this time around I expect to have more callers.  I'm
going to have people with cell phones going around and making sure the
homeless have a chance to call in, among other things.  So there'll
probably be less time for talking with co-hosts than there was with the
guests last year, but I'm hoping for more dialogue.  Also, next year I
want to broaden the topics covered by the co-hosts a little bit.  For
example, I want someone on to discuss the Pentagon budget and someone to
discuss general economic trends, such as neo-lberal economics and IMF
"adjustments."  I want to include these things, because if you don't
understand where the money's going, you can't understand why it's not on
the streets.

I was hoping that for next year's marathon, I would be able to recreate
one of my favorite parts of last year's marathon when you and Paul Bodell
of the San Francisco Coalition for the Homeless stayed up talking with me.
I'd like to invite the two of you to be co-co-hosts if you're interested.

Next year's marathon is going to originate from Philadelphia where it will
be hosted on the ground (I'll host on the air) by the Kensington Welfare
Rights Union. You may be familiar with the KWRU. Last year they made what
they called an "Economic Freedom Bus" tour aruond the country taking
testimonies from poor people.  With the KWRU's assistance,
about a third of the marathon will focus on Philadelphia as an example of
an American city dealing (or not dealing) with the problem of

Also, next year, instead of breaking for NPR news,I'm going to pre-record
a series of 8-minute breakouts to be read by homeless people. Some of the
topics already scheduled (though there's much work to be done) include:

	- A recitation of anti-homeless ordinances passed around the
country (your point exactly).

	- A recapping of poverty and hunger statistics in America (to
refute those who say it doesn't exist).

	- A listing of movement victories on behalf of the poor and
dispossessed,i.e. laws that have successfully been challenged, legislation
that's successfully been blocked, etc.  We never hear about our victories
because the press doesn't report them.  I'm even thinking of awarding a
"Legion of Honor" to people who've fought for the poor -  though I have to
admit it's a bit hokey and I don't really believe in giving out medals for
the cause, so I'd only do it if eveyone understood that it was done in

Also, after my experience with Barney Frank, I'm not inviting any more
politicians on the show, unless they show that they've done more than
merely posture about being on the right side of the issue,

This brings me to your second point about micropower radio.

Where I feel I've succeeeded is that I've now created a vehicle for a
national teach-in and day of protest about homelessness. I started the
Homelessness Marathon alone in a doorway in Ithaca New York, broadcasting
on one tiny station (WEOS in Geneva, NY). I felt that was well worth doing
and I'm proud of it. So my sense of satisfaction doesn't depend on this
being a BIG event, but it would, indeed, mean a lot to me and, I think, to
others, to see it grow.  My dream is to have it carried in many cities
across the country and to have the broadcast coordinated with candlelight
vigils and sleep outs and concerts or whatever on behalf of the homeless.
I believe this has a chance of working, because I believe the "silent
majorty" is on our side now.  I think people know they've been getting
screwed and they're fed up with it, which is why there were successful
strikes at GM and UPS.  And I think millions of ordinary Americans wish
they had a vehicle through which to say "enough" and demand a reversal of
our national priorities. So, the Homelessness Marathon can be a big
success if people all around the country seize this opportunity.  But the
biggest stumbling block right now is the radio stations.  I'm still a
few days away from the first official announcement about the event.  I
haven't even announced it yet over the DACS (don't ask me what that
stands for) which is the system by which stations are alerted to upcoming
events on the NPR satellite.  So I CANNOT say that radio stations across
the country are being uncooperative.  In fact, I believe there WILL
be some radio stations that will want to carry this event.  The question
is, will there be a match between where the event is broadcast and where
people wish to be actve?  On this score, I can say that the
radio stations in Philadelphia are NOT being helpful.

In one night, I'm going to put more homeless people on the air than all
four non-commercial stations in Philly put together have probably put on
in a decade.  You'd think, given that they're using the public airwaves,
that they'd feel some committment to ALL segments of the public, but they
don't seem to.  All but one of them has turned the idea down outright --
including even the university-owned stations, WRTI and WKDU.  Only WXPN is
still even considering the plan, and I'm not sure how seriously.

This, of course, brings us back to the question of micro-radio.
Micro-radio wouldn't exist if the richer stations were actually doing the
job of serving the public, but as you well know, whole segments of the
national discourse are shut off from the airwaves, whether you're talking
about left-wing ideas or alternative rock not put out by one of the major
labels.  Unfortuantely, I don't think many micro-broadcasters have
satellite dishes with which to receive and then retransmit the marathon.
But the issue of media access is one that certainly should be raised
during the marathon.

You might think that the Pacifica radio network would be a likely
candidate for transmitting the marathon, but I don't think any leftist of
good conscience should work with them.  I'm trying to keep an open mind
about it.  Amy Goodman of "Democracy Now," if you've ever heard it, says
she'll come on my show and address Pacifica's problems, but basically,
they seem to have turned into anti-democratic, fake leftist union busters
who are hpocritically degrading the left.  So, as far as they're
concerned, unless they can convince me that it's MORAL to collaborate with
them, I won't even approach them about the marathon. Havent we seen enough
already about what happens when you start making compromises with
basic ethical issues?  The left has got to stand for something.  Plenty of
fighters for social justice have given up their lives, so I think the loss
of a few Pacifica stations really isn't much of a sacrifice.

My own feeling is that, in many places, if people want radio stations to
broadcast the marathon they'll have to pressure the stations, first by
just politely calling to see if they're interested and eventually maybe by
demonstrating and asking the public to withhold contributions. After all,
most non-commercial stations are dependent on contributions and most of
their listeners are probably sympathetic to the homeless.  So I think
there's a real chance to win some victories here and push it in the face
of these NPR affiliates, to make them understand that they don't have a
license to ignre the poor forever.  HOWEVER, let me stress again that I
haven't even announced the marathon to stations yet.  There are sure to be
some community stations and college stations and even NPR stations that
will take at least a part of it.  So it's wrong to get angry before any
offense has been committed. It won't be long before we begin to get some
idea of the radio stations' initial, unpressured response, and we can
assess the situation then.

Well, that's a brief overview of the next marathon and where the planning
stands.  If people want it, it will happen.  It will happen even if people
don't want it, but how effective it is will depend on a lot more than just

You have my permission to post this, if you want to.



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