Smile Politely

Turn on, tune in, drop by

One of the wonderful things about the Champaign-Urbana community are the diverse activities that find their way to the town. Vendors come for summer events like the Taste of Champaign. Artists perform during the Blues, Brews, and BBQ Festival. And this week there will be another event drawing people in from out of town: Grassroots Radio Conference. Hundreds from across the country will be visiting the Urbana area on July 26–29 to be a part of the future of community radio. 

The Grassroots Radio Coalition held its first conference in 1996. Each year, the conference provides skill-building workshops, discussion forums, and panel presentations on a variety of relevant topics. Volunteer-based community radio stations are cultural institutions in their communities, reflecting the unique concerns and passions of the people who live there. The openness and collaboration of this type of diverse programming relies heavily on passionate volunteers and donations from listeners. These stations not only provide progression in cultural expansion, but allow ordinary citizens the opportunity to be heard using a medium that can reach large audiences. In turn listeners can support station programming and community efforts.

The 2012 conference will be partnering with Free Press, Prometheus Radio Project, Media Action Grassroots Network, the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative, WRFU 104.5 – Radio Free Urbana, WEFT 90.1 FM, Illinois Public Media, Urbana Public Television, Volo Broadband, Makerspace Urbana, and Grassroots Radio Conference 2012 will take place at the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center in Urbana.

Founded in 2001, the UC-IMC is a grassroots organization that fosters the creation and distribution of media emphasizing underrepresented voices and promoting empowerment and expression through media and arts education. Located in the historic downtown Urbana post office, the UC-IMC includes a low-power radio station (Radio Free Urbana 104.5 LP-FM) among its many projects.

Highlights include a Friday night keynote by New York Times best-selling author Joe Torres, a bus tour of UC2B, Urbana-Champaign’s new public broadband system, and a celebration of WRFU’s new radio tower, which will enable the station to reach the entire Champaign-Urbana community. Registration is $125 ($75 for low-income attendees). “We’re calling it ‘The Future of Community Radio’ because we’re at a crucial juncture for radio,” says GRC co-organizer Austin McCann. Congress passed the Local Community Radio Act in 2010, which means that more than 1,000 new community stations might be going on air in the next few years. Meanwhile, digital technologies have opened up a new frontier for radio stations. McCann asks, “What do we want this new media landscape to look like? How can we best use this incredible opportunity to grow our democracy?” He wants to use this conference as a fun and challenging space to have these conversations while learning indispensable tools about how to start and run radio stations.

This event is open to the public and free for GRC registrants. Tickets are available here or at the IMC during the conference.

Conference Highlights:

Friday, July 27, at 8:00 p.m.

Joseph Torres, co-author of the New York Times bestseller News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race & the American Media.

Saturday, July 28 at 8:00 p.m.

SPEAK Café featuring Hakim Bellamy


For questions about the conference or registration you may email Austin McCann or call (217) 344-8820

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