Monday, April 06, 2015

Radio Heliopolis

Heliopolis is a slum in the district of Sacoma, in the southeast area of Sao Paulo, Brazil. It's population is about 100,000. This is far from the only slum in Brazil. Currently about 6 percent of the Brazilian population live in slums.  that's 12 million people.  Like many other slums in Brazil, it was built illegally;btu over time it was urbanized and began offering legitimate utilities like wifi.  More here.

In 1992 the station began as a series of horn speakers installed on poles. Because there were few phones in the neighborhood, requests came on written slips of paper hand delivered by neighborhood kids. In 1997 they got a transmitter and began broadcasting on 102.3. Interference complaints prompted them to move to 98.3 FM. The station slowly built up to a staff of around 200 people. The station even had a LGBT-friendly mid-day program "Afternoon Gossip" hosted by station manger Geronino "Gero" Barbosa. Local council woman Sonia Francine had her own music program, The station won an award from the Art Critics of Sao Paulo Association, and was the topic of a documentary produced by Itau Cultural Institute. More here.

But there was a problem. That transmitter still wasn't legal. In 2004, Anatel ordered the closure of Radio here. Heliopolis. But they returned, determined as ever. Then on July 20th, 2006  federal police officers and the National Telecommunications Agency (Anatel) shut down Radio Heliopolis following an order search and seizure order issued by the 9th Federal Criminal Court. Their equipment and computers were seized and the station managers Joao Miranda and Geronino Barbosa de Souza were interrogated. The station looked doomed. The laws in Brazil date back to it's military dictator ship under the regime of Getulio Vargas. For obvious reasons their enforcement is poorly received by many groups. But the current government of Luiz InĂ¡cio Lula da Silva has made a habit of being flexible. Between the years 2002 and 2003, over 7,000 pirate radio stations were shut down by the Federal Police. To resolve this problem the Lula government formed an inter-ministerial group to study community broadcasters. More

Radio Heliopolis was off air for months while quiet negotiations were made. In October of 2006they were granted provisional permission to return to the air on 97.9 FM.  Ultimately it was decided not to penalize that station. They would be forced to decrease its power from 50W to 25W, and lower it's antenna height to reduce interference. In March of 2008 the stations' operation was authorized by the Ministry of Communications with a new frequency of 87.5 where they remain today. More here.