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The Background

The observations in this chapter are drawn from ethnographic fieldwork mainly conducted from 2004 to 2008. That fieldwork was primarily oriented to the activities of the Philadelphia-based Prometheus Radio Project, an organization working to promote low-power FM (LPFM) community radio, both legislatively and by building new radio stations in partnership with community groups. This chapter aims to address the wider phenomena of media democracy activism and advocacy, not merely radio activism. Yet the ethnographic vignettes presented here must be understood as constitutively related to my research on radio activism; often, my observations of other groups occurred at points of interaction with the radio activists. While the points I make about the relational positioning of groups vis-a-vis one another are meant to shed light on the dynamics of media democracy activism generally, the radio activists are perhaps somewhat overrepresented in this account due to their centrality in my fieldwork. Nonetheless, the chapter is meant to offer a representative, if not exhaustive or wholly symmetrical, account of the shifting alignments and points of rupture between different constituents of the media democracy movement. This illustrates the overlapping and conflicting articulations of media democracy and media change that underpin the movement.

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