Christina Dunbar-Hester – Low Power to the People: Pirates, Protest, and Politics in FM Radio Activism


The MIT Press, ISBN-13: 978-0262028127, English, 304 pages, 2014, USA

One of the last bastions of independent media in USA, low-power FM (LPFM), has been regulated by law through the concession of frequencies, and was made finally available to citizens in 2000, after vibrant protests across the country. Radio as a community media has been explored since its beginnings, but in the post-digital era its not easy to recognise its potentially strategic role. In this book the author focuses on the practices of an activist organisation, “Prometheus Radio Project” in Philadelphia, formerly a pirate broadcasting group, which made extensive use of LPFM from 2003 to 2007 and had to fight hard for its survival. The technical infrastructure has allowed for a specific type of community support, emphasising the local over the global dimension, being also a fully scalable media. Between the lines and openly in the last chapter Dunbar-Hester discusses the cultural meaning usually associated with technologies, and how microradio has its own specific role in creating free, easy to set and manageable spaces for communication. These spaces can easily be DIY and she points out how the Prometheus Radio Project also taught people how to build their own radio hardware, a tradition often experienced in ham and pirate radio communities. The political value of microradio as documented here can be extended and further experimented reclaiming parts of the available spectrum and integrating them with other (locally and remotely experienceable) networked technologies.