Independent Media Still Remains Unequal

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on the radio for an hour during any program (music or
public affairs), count how many times you hear a woman’s
voice and even more rare, a woman of color speaking.
Even programs that pride themselves in being alternative
to the mainstream fail to accurately report on the contributions
of women locally and around the globe. Women have
been present throughout history. We continue to be present—
but simply unheard. And, unfortunately, a oneweek
or one-month commitment to women’s programming
in March, though helpful, is hardly enough to transform
the inequality.
It is the responsibility of media to document and accurately
present information to the masses. But, who makes
the decisions of what information and whose contributions
are presented to the public? Mainstream media has
failed time and time again to carry out this important function
within a democratic society, a function that has dramatically
eroded in the last 30 years, as the monopoly of
mainstream media is held in the hands of a handful of
huge corporations, predominantly run by men.
Independent media, unfortunately, while considering
itself accessible, responsible, and responsive to diverse
communities, unwittingly tends to repeat the male-dominated
culture of the mainstream industry, in both its operation
and programming. Hence, the work of carrying out a
democratizing ideal falls short, seldom creating the space
for those who have been excluded from media production
in the first place, to find opportunities to learn the skills
necessary to break the mystification of technology and
media access.
Moreover, rather than establishing a more collective
framework of independent media governance and production,
the bulk of the responsibility for learning about the
field, technology, and program production still falls on the
individual. A do-it-yourself tool belt and sheer determination
to swim upstream is all a women finds, when hoping
to enter this exclusive arena for the
purpose of producing independent
media that accurately documents and
reports on the lives and contributions
of women and other underrepresented
Wanting to be as true to the original
source of wisdom, creativity and
personality as possible without the filter
of my interpretation, I chose community
radio to create as direct as possible
a channel for those with little
access, to bring their voices and their
music to a larger audience. In the
process, I discovered that my methods
often differed from that of male sound engineers.
When planning to record, I met with the person ahead
of time. I answered questions about the process, and I
incorporated their suggestions into the recording. I
worked to demystify technology. Sound gear does not have
to be intimidating or mysterious. Yet, it can’t be denied
that the one who understands how gear works always has
the upper hand. Many male sound engineers seem to
enjoy this inequality of power. It allows them complete
control of the recording situation and the right to give
orders, without being questioned.
In contrast, I found that women sound engineers think
more about the audience and take a participatory
approach to recording. They see as the goal to assist the
performer or interviewee in creating the best audio experience
possible, because we know that a negligent sound
engineer can ruin the power of radio production. Luckily,
more women are developing skills as sound engineers and
actively share what they know with other women, in an
effort to breakdown the prevalent gender
divide found even within independent
media production.
Committed to a politics of liberation,
which includes the democratizing of
the media, I recognize the manner in
which independent radio can create a
space for listeners to remain anonymous
and thus more open to grappling
with controversial issues. The
listener at home or in the car has personal
control over their listening environment.
This factor alone can make
them more comfortable, heighten
their attention level, and permit them
greater accessibility to new ideas and different ways of
thinking about the world.
Thus, community radio offers more possibilities for the
accurate expression of women’s lives and their struggles,
since editing the content is not done to protect the interests
of big corporations. However, this requires concrete
opportunities for more women and members of underrepresented
groups to influence both the governance and programming
of a station, rather that remaining stuck in the
margins of well-meaning talk.

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