Waves on the Web

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For the left, the media has always been a battleground - on the one hand multinational media empires directing the editorial content of newspapers, television and the radio, and on the other ordinary people, trade unionists, campaigners or activists, trying to get their point of view across.

The advent of the internet led many to believe that this would change. Certainly the web has allowed many more people to put their point of view across, inform and educate. Unfortunately things aren't that simple - the major news and comment pages on the internet are still those of big business or the normal major media players. So while we shouldn't have illusions that alternative news sources are going to change this unequal relationship, we should advocate and encourage their use.

So it's nice to hear news of one of the latest additions to the web's collection of independent and alternative news sources - Radio LabourStart. Its tagline is 'News, views and songs to fan the flames of discontent'.

Recent developments in internet technology mean it doesn't require huge technological knowhow to broadcast live audio over the internet. It's allowed activists around Indymedia for instance to create one-off internet broadcasts during major anti-capitalist events. Radio LaborStart syndicates its news from the US-based Workers' Independent News Service, which has been providing union-based news for several years over the internet.

There are many more online radio stations - LaborStart's host, live365.com, hosts well over 20,000 stations. In fact it's rare to find a mainstream station that doesn't broadcast over the web. However, it has to be said that the alternative attempts are often more interesting than the bland, syndicated news and playlists of mainstream radio.

There's a longer list of alternative stations which offers such promising-sounding stations as 'Steal This Radio', 'Radio Free World' and 'Radio for Peace'. Such stations are by their nature transient and often amateur, and it's interesting to compare them to the illegal pirate radio stations of the past, but once again they do show the desire to challenge the mainstream in every possible way.