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TUCoPS :: Radio :: sp000994.txt

Radio Contrabanda FM Barcelona


The airwaves are to the free radio stations what paper is to
the journals. Without airwaves free radio couldn't broadcast
and of course, just by chance, this area has always been
completely monopolised by the State. The State has, in
every country of the world, seized exclusive control of this
area and has only just conceded, above all because of
private initiative within the business world, a part of this
exclusivity in the form of Users Licences. Not even the
governments of the left, who currently hold power, have
deigned to make of the radiophonic medium an area for
communication and not simply an area of information
dissemination and other things which has always typified its
very character. For this reasons the free stations apart from
demanding freedom of speech, something which we could
say to a degree we have achieved, also demand the freedom
to transmit, which entails of course prizing a few crumbs
from the exclusive control of the airwaves by the State. We
want a slice, a simple slice so that what the powers that be
call freedom of expression can become a real possibility.
The concept of free radio in itself, is already a blow against
this concept of sovereignty of the State over the air waves
and the free radios in fact have not demanded legalisation
but rather the simple recognition of a basic right: the release
of a section of space on the airwaves.
   One might say that the free radios were born in Paris in
1978 when the International Federation of Free Radio
Stations was formed at a meeting of The Association for the
Liberation of the Airwaves (ALO) and the Federacione de
Radio Emitenti Democratiche (FRED) which ended up
being called ALFREDO 78. Many Spanish and Catalan
comrades were at the meeting which gave rise to the first
experiences of free Spanish radio in Catalunia in 1978 with
broadcasts by Ona Lliure first from Santa Maria de Corco
and since then in Barcelona currently from the Centre Civic
in the Calle de Blay en Poble Sec, Barcelona. Contrabanda,
the radio station I work with, has immersed itself in the
philosophy of free radio. Contrabanda is not a libertarian
radio station in the strictest sense of the term. At
Contrabanda there are libertarians but there are also others
who we might say are vaguely Marxist or people who
defend ideas of Catalan independence, ecology or feminism.
Personally I like it that way. I don't share the hangups of
others and it's a good thing that there should be a wide
variety of views on a free radio station like ours.
   Contrabanda started running in September 1988 when in
the course of a meeting of people from differing ideological
backgrounds, professions and so on it was decided to set up
a legal Cultural Association with the express intention of
founding a free radio station. Our first move was to find
premises, get subscribers to help get some minimal income,
buy equipment and put into effect a variety of initiatives
from selling 'solidarity bonds' or outings with food that we
provided to help raise cash. Another problem from the word
go was the passing of legislation in December 1988 which
allowed the minister to go ahead with his plan for a
complete clean up of existing free stations and pirate
stations (which put out publicity). The last one to be closed
down was Radio Pica. After that it became extremely hard
to even contemplate trying to set something up despite the
fact that there had been calls from them not least from the
International Federations which were backing up calls for
free radio in Spain.. It was all in vain. The new legislation
simply ended up promoting the interests of the private
companies and the state sector including military
communications and so on. Contrabanda, or the group that
was trying to get it on the road at the time decided that
there was no point in trying to do things the hard way and
for that reason it started negotiating with the Generalitat
(Catalan local govt. trans) and groups within it that might
listen sympathetically to the demands for freedom to
broadcast. It was felt that without this softly, softly
approach it would be impossible to broadcast transmissions
with an acceptable degree of quality since the prohibition
was a kind of Damocles sword, ever threatening, and laying
down the risk of seizure of equipment as had happened to
Radio Pica and it would not be feasible to transmit at will.
These negotiations took a long time before giving rise to,
thanks to a collective petition put together by the radio
stations and the parliamentary group Esquerra Republicana,
the introduction in the Catalan parliament of a motion, not a
law, calling for the recognition of the existence or the right
to exist for the free stations and that as a result of this the
government of the Generalitat should set up legally this
right to exist. Curiously, or perhaps miraculously, this law
got through. And I say miraculously because in the Basque
Country a petition for a similar project which was put
before the Basque parliament by Euskadiko Ezquerra was
rejected. The Generalitat, seeing itself forced to legislate on
the matter decided to set up an experimental period for free
radios until the end of 1990 which was permissible within
the framework of existing legislation. This is not what the
free radio stations wanted but they decided to put up with it.
Anyway, the authorities identified three frequencies which
would be made available to and could be used by the free
stations. At the time there were six of us in the metropolitan
area we split up the allotted frequencies. In January 1991
Contrabanda FM began transmissions along with Radio Pica
on 91.0 FM for 24 hours a day. Contrabanda from 3pm to
3am and Radio Pica the rest. This continued until Radio
Pica moved to 91.8.
   Contrabanda is a self-managed radio station. We work by
assembly; the means are collective. The people who make
the programmes pay to sustain the collective and all those
who make programmes have a voice and a vote on the
assembly. As I said earlier Contrabanda is legally speaking a
Cultural Association and amongst other initiatives we have
recently set up a Counterinformation Agency. Our
philosophy could be defined as the cultural melting pot. On
the one hand we should make it clear that we broadcast in
Catalan. We believe our language has been monopolised by
certain sectors of the bourgeoisie which has allowed the two
to be mistaken for each other. We aim to use the language
differently not so pure not so grammatically correct but
giving it other strengths. So our language is Catalan and our
philosophy that of the free stations that is to say to give a
voice to those who have no other platform. A number of
collectives put the programmes together. Some 36 to 40 go
out 21 of which are internally produced, 9 by outside
collectives and 6 by individuals. News takes up 31% of
airtime, culture 14.6%. music programmes 27% and the
other 26% is non-stop music. The collectives involved are
indeed varied for example there is a Serbo Croat broadcast
another called Demanem la Paraula, African Hour - a
programme put out by women from Guinea - and also the
Alternative News Agency which is yet another libertarian
group working in the information field producing two
weekly slots and with whom Contrabanda works closely on
an alternative news project. Then their is 'Immigrant
Viewpoint' made by Magrebine collectives, The MOC
Programme (Conscientious Objectors), The Red Missile
(Gay). This is what Contrabanda puts together in order to
allow for an open space for those collectives and individuals
who otherwise would have no way of making themselves
heard. The financing as I have said is partly dealt with by
'solidarity bonds' paid for by those who are not necessarily
connected with making programmes. They pay some
500ptas per month. May I say that the best way to support
the free radios is to tune in and listen to them in order to
ensure that there is another means of communication.
Contrabanda hasn't even been going for three years. The
first years have been taken up, as is always the case, with
fine tuning our technical skills and we now consider
ourselves in good shape both internally and externally.
We've come out well...
  In another field we've put together special programmes as
for example during the last general strike from 5am to 10pm
covering the developments from the doorstep of a
departmental store! The Working Woman's Day on 8th
March is another tradition. To finish I would simply like to
say that we call on you to help us in the ways we have
described. If we get this support from the people there is no
reason for us to lose this space we have found as has been
shown by the experiences of Radio Klara in Valencia and
others in the Basque Country. We hope one day to
celebrate our tenth anniversary.

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