Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Tribes use radio to connect on reservations where phones are rare

While cell phones and computers have come to almost every neighborhood in America, many Native Americans are still waiting. Until the technology reaches these reservations, Native Public Media wants to use radio to bridge the communications gap. The group seeks to put a radio station in each of America's tribal communities, because in many, radio remains natives' main contact with each other and the rest of the country, reports New American Media.

“On some Navajo land, they still don’t have telephone lines and sometimes people can’t afford cell phones – and even if they can, reservations are often black holes for cell phone service. A lot of reservations are nowhere near connecting to the Internet,” Loris Ann Taylor, executive director of Native Public Media, told Neelanjana Banerjee. “In this landscape, the radio is their information highway.”

Currently, the group is encouraging native broadcasters to apply for non-commercial educational broadcast FM licenses while the Federal Communications Commission is taking requests for frequencies. The application window is open today through Oct. 12, and Taylor said it is the best chance to add more stations.

The greatest success in Native radio has been Native America Calling, a live, daily radio call-in program that broadcasts from Albuquerque, N.M. Founded 12 years ago, the show now draws 500,000 listeners over 52 stations in 15 states and two countries. Like other Native radio shows, it often is the best source for information about local health issues. (Read more)

Cristina Azocar, president of the Native American Journalists Association, says the strength of Native America Calling comes from its recognition of diversity. “They help recognize the differences among us, which mainstream media doesn’t when it comes to Native issues,” she says. “You can really see the diversity of opinions around Indian Country by listening to the show.”

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