In April of 2014, federal agents raided the studios of 106.1 TOUCH FM in Boston, Massachusetts. They took turntables, microphones, transmitters, pretty much everything. The reason was simple: the radio station was operating without a license. But that raises questions: could the owner get a license? If not, why not? And why did he need one in the first place?
Just because something’s law, doesn’t make it right. I like to call us the Rosa Parks of radio. The Harriet Tubman of radio. The Nat Turner of radio. The Malcolm X of radio. Everyone deserves a voice.
— Charles Clemons
This is a story about how radio regulation has evolved over its one-hundred year history, and whose interests that regulation serves. It is also a story of media diversity — of two independent and black-owned radio stations that once broadcast on Boston’s airwaves, but have been silenced.
Finally, it is the story of Greg Lawson — a man who always keeps the radio on, and listened as the stations he depended on disappeared, one after the other.
- The Titanic’s Role in Radio Reform
- Unlicensed Grove Hall radio station shuttered
- Rich Media, Poor Democracy: Communication Politics in Dubious Times
- A Political-Economic History of FCC Policy on Minority Broadcast Ownership
Radio Silenced was reported and produced by Ian Coss and edited by Nancy Mullane, Life of the Law’s Executive Producer. The story’s Senior Producer was Tony Gannon. Our Post Production Editors are Kirsten Jusewicz-Haidle and Rachael Cain.
We want to thank Jason Loviglio, Chair and Associate Professor of Media and Communication Studies at the University of Maryland for sharing his scholarship. Professor Loviglio is the author of Radio’s Intimate Public: Network Broadcasting and Mass-Mediated Democracy. And we want to thank Julie Caine, Producer and Editor at KALW in San Francisco for her early production work on Radio Silenced.
Our engineer was Howard Gelman of KQED Radio in San Francisco. Music in this episode was composed and produced by Ian Coss.
This episode of Life of the Law was funded in part by grants from the Open Society Foundations, the Law and Society Association, and the National Science Foundation.
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