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Created: August 8, 2003
Latest Update: August 8, 2003

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Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, August 2003.
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I've been listening to the Clear Channel debate on ownership of local radio stations for a while now. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) controls the distribution of ownership of our airwaves. The complaints that have most concerned me are that, as Clear Channel, gains control, local radio schedules and administration are increasingly run centrally. Jobs are lost. It's more efficient; but local ties are destroyed, as well as jobs. Also, when local people have decision-making power in local stations, local concerns can be more readily understood, and local people given a chance to air them, and local artists given greater opportunity to be heard. With centralized corporate control this is lost.

Now, this gets us to the kinds of power: sovereign and disciplinary. Sovereign power is "king-like" power. He's the king. He gets to do what he wants. Pretty straight forward and clear. My little cat, King Tut, understands that with no problem. So if the local guy in charge of the station hates you and won't let you have any airtime, it's pretty clear you're being treated unfairly, and it's also pretty clear how to fight it, if you can.

But what if the local gal in charge likes you just fine, but says she can't give you any airtime because "it's against the rules?" Now, who do you blame; who do you complain to, how do you fight that. That kind of power is "disciplinary" power. Nobody dislikes you; nobody tries to hamper you; it's the rules, stupid.

And you are far less likely to know someone who can help you when the source of the disciplinary power (or rules) is off in Chicago, or Atlanta, or New York, or wherever. This is problem of localism. And it's a major one today, not just in radio and TV and newspapers, but in our schools, in our local government who "outsource" half the local tasks. It is reflected in the fundamental tension between individual and community, and that tension grows as the community grows and amasses monopoly power over the rules, and the individual becomes less and less significant in the aesthetic process of independence.

Disciplinary power is harder to fight than sovereign power. It's harder to see. And it's harder to figure out who to fight with. There is no perpetrator. Nobody means you harm. But harm there is, caused through "rules" or tradition over which no one claims control, and everyone declares absolute innocence. This is what we call structural violence, violence seemingly caused by no one that hurts just as much or more than perpetrator violence. There's an excellent paper that goes into this in great depth: Power Goes to School: Teachers, Students, and Discipline By John F. Covaleskie.

Disciplinary power is the power that goes with bureaucratization in which people become numbers rather than persons with stories. It is not unusual for administrators to believe that clients have no stories. "Client" or "student" says it all for them. They make us disappear, and our voices are silenced. Clearly, this is as great a problem in our schools and our public agencies as it is with our radios and TVs.

I don't know what the answer is, but I'm pretty sure that whatever it is, it will have to do with the aesthetics of answerability, and with students, local folks, those who administer a safety net as well as those who need it discovering their voices. No matter how bad it gets with scandals and jobs disappearing and children deprived of learning, and the craziness of what we call voting, they can't take our aesthetics and our aesthetic process of answering all utterances away. So take heart, and learn the subtleties and diplomacy of answering disciplinary authority, and an occasional king or queen, if need be. jeanne

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