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Allied Media Conference Showcases Media Literacy in Education, by Jessica Duda

The eighth annual Allied Media Conference from June 23-25 brought together an energetic mix of independent media makers, educators, and activists. Unlike most media conferences, the participants ranged from high school students to retired experts across a variety of ethnic, racial and international groups. Key note moderator Dani McClain of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reflected how this group’s vivacity was a reprieve from traditional media she recently entered - to pay her dues.

Led by Josh Breitbart and Jen Angel, Clamour ‘zine editors founded and organized the conference focusing this year on media literacy in education with the theme, "From Truth to Power Because Being Right is Not Enough."

Sessions and exhibitors discussed how new technologies are helping to expand noncommercial media resources and practices in print, audio, video and online. Conferees noted that new technologies and applications are only part of the solution as harnessing the source of "power" to tell the truth and channel it to the public more or less challenged the group to strengthen their own media distribution. In the key note, Jeff Chang posed a challenge to the group to create and implement a 20-year strategy for progressive, corporate-free media. Deepa Fernandes advocated including media reform in all social movements. Presenters included: WITNESS, National Black Programming Consortium, Radical Women of Color Bloggers, Fronteras Norteñas, and Free Speech TV. (See the Allied Media Conference for the full list of presenters and participants.)

The most immediate problems identified were media concentration, pervasive consumerism and advertising, and internet network neutrality. The recently passed Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement (COPE) Act of 2006 in the House of Representatives caused much concern about the future of public media in terms of internet network neutrality and cable access channels. Savetheinternet.org is the main online source to read more about the issue and advocacy initiatives.

Bob McCannon, Action Coalition of Media Education (ACME) addressed media concentration and the close relationship between advertising and content, such as in teen magazines, by explaining media literacy strategies for middle and high school students. Reaching out to teens is vital to teach the next generation critical thinking and the importance of media process as well as content. Watch for ACME’s upcoming annual Continental Summit, "Facing the Media Crisis: Media Education for Reform, Justice and Democracy" on October 6-8, 2006 in Burlington, Vermont.

Steve Mansour encouraged use of open source software by using it to create independent websites and vlogging – as opposed to "Feudalism 2.0" services, such as YouTube, Blogger.com, and others profiting off and controlling your free content. He provided suggestions for free open source services to create one’s own media sites, such as with Drupal and Audacity. Such open source platforms allow independent media makers to produce affordable and quality forms of expression online, such as www.homelessnation.org that Mansour demonstrated.

New technologies allow students lower cost and expanded reach. Two examples of a rising demographic in public media are the youth projects of
Radio Rootz and Meme Films. Another user of Audacity, Kat Aaron discussed how resource-strapped media organizations can still offer the time, creativity, and airwaves for youth to tell their stories and enrich public school curricula. Starting without a budget, Aaron and Deepa Fernandes created Radio Rootz out of Pacifica’s WBAI-NY to provide media literacy, activism and radio production classes now up to two middle schools and high schools in New York City - some schools offer class credit.

Rob Williams, Meme Films, screened and discussed how to produce youth videos on "Media that Matters in Minutes." He reminded us how smart kids are and their ideas to inform their own peers about health and media consolidation. He encouraged media teachers to organize student screenings at local theaters, on cable access and online.

It is also important to remember how to support and expand long-time successful public media, such as radio. Hannah Sassaman at
Prometheus Radio Project provided an update on the potential for the FCC to release additional Low Power FM (LPFM) stations in rural areas and the increasing legislative support to extend LPFM to metropolitan areas – currently unavailable.

Also, there are the exciting opportunities for noncommercial full power FM to acquire commercial stations, such as with the New Orleans-based
Public Digital Urban Broadcasters. to acquire a bankrupted commercial station. This opportunity is like others around the country that includes financing a radio license acquisition with donations and consultants, such as
Public Radio Capital or the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, converting a commercial license into noncommercial one, and having the choice to choose between a commercial advertising model versus nonprofit underwriting.