Radio — Fighting marginalization in the community radio and television sectors

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On this week’s episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Laith Marouf and Kristiana Clemens. They are involved with the Community Media Advocacy Centre (CMAC), a new organization focused on advocacy in and for the community radio and television sectors, particularly with respect to access and equity for marginalized communities.

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It is easy to fall into assuming that something which is positioned as somehow outside the mainstream — an organization, a project, a political tendency, a media outlet, or whatever — is therefore automatically different from and better than the dominant default in all respects. Of course those of us who have been involved for any length of time in efforts labelled “grassroots” or “community” or “progressive” or “radical” in whatever sphere know that such spaces are best understood as opportunities to push against the harms and marginalizations that are woven through our social world and as works in progress, not as final victories already won.

Laith Marouf is staff with CMAC and Kristiana Clemens as the organization’s president. They and the other people involved in CMAC all have long-term experience working in grassroots broadcast media — predominantly in the community radio sector, but some relevant to the community television sector as well — both in a range of local stations and in national organizations that represent these sectors. Marouf and Clemens are deeply committed to community media, but their experience has shown that racism, settler colonialism, misogyny, homophobia, and other axes of oppression that shape the broader society are also at work in most community media spaces and organizations. One manifestation of this is that while community radio stations in the larger urban centres in Canada often make space on-air for Indigenous, racialized, ethnic, and linguistic minorities, that is seldom reflected in the staff or governing boards of even these stations, while stations in smaller centres often significantly underrepresent marginalized communities at every level. As a consequence, the national organizations are similarly unrepresentative. As well, when Marouf, Clemens, and others have, in the past, pushed stations and national sectoral groups to take issues of equity and access seriuosly, the response has often been hostility and resistance. And, finally, the federal regulatory framework that governs broadcast media as a whole is implemented such that it, too, systematically furthers the marginalization of already-marginalized voices, stories, communities, and struggles.

The impetus for the founding of CMAC in 2015 was a desire to push for progress on issues of equity and access for marginalized communities in the community media sector, without having to navigate the constant resistance from within existing local and sectoral organizations. The group’s focus so far has been pushing for changes at the policy level around issues of access and equity with the federal regulatory body responsible for broadcast media, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC); offering support to Indigenous communities and to ethnic, racialized, and linguistic minority communities in navigating the liscencing process; and doing educational and capacity-building work related to community media with those communities.

Marouf and Clemens talk with me about the importance of challenging settler colonialism, racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other forms of marginalization in community media contexts; about the value of intervening in policy processes; and about CMAC’s work.

To learn more about the Community Media Advocacy Centre, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show in general, visit its website here. You can learn about suggesting topics for future shows here.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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