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Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?  Inquiring Minds at the FCC want to Know

Hopi High School Selected for PBS Broadcast Site


Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer -- Inquiring Minds at the FCC Want to Know

Critics of the current FCC standards point to several characteristics of RF emissions that they argue make them more dangerous than ordinary electrical current.  First, RF current can radiate off into space, so that its effect can be felt a long distance from the source.  Second, RF current may penetrate deeply into substances without first causing surface burns.   In addition, RF current easily ionizes air, creating a conductive path through the atmosphere. Finally, RF emissions flow through paths that contain insulating material, like glass or wood.  A good example of RF current is the way a microwave oven can heat up popcorn inside a closed plastic container.

The proper limits for safe RF exposure are a matter of considerable debate – a debate that helped to prompt the FCC’s current action.  The question is controversial in part because of disagreement over how radio waves affect bodily tissue. 

In 1996, the FCC established RF emission standards for microwaves, cell phones, car radios, and many other devices in common use by measuring how much a device would heat up the extremities of a mannequin, although it is probably only teenagers who hold cell phones with their feet.  Ten years ago, the Commission announced that it was going to reeaxmine its standards, clarify its definitions, and issue new rules for manufacturers and consumers.  Last week, the FCC released its 201 page reportFirst Report and Order, Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making and Notice Of Inquiry.”  The First Report and Order as well as the Further Notice made very few changes in existing FCC practices.  It changed some of the standards for mobile devices, that is, RF emitting devices like cell phones that generally operate within 8 inches of the body, and it added the outer ear in the definition of “extremities” like hands and feet for testing and regulatory purposes.

The “Notice of Inquiry” (NOI) section will no doubt be the most controversial because the FCC proposes to reopen the whole question of what RF exposure limits are prudent.  In a bow to manufacturers, the FCC states that its intent is to “adequately protect the public without imposing an undue burden on industry.” No doubt some commentators will argue the importance of protecting the public regardless of the burden on industry.  In addition to numerical limits, discussion issues proposed the NOI include:

(1)  the information that manufacturers and others should provide to consumers;

(2)  methods for reducing exposure (other than lowering the limits);

(3)  alternative methods for evaluating exposure; and

(4) the costs of imposing “precautionary” limits that are lower than current science can justify.

The FCC is looking for hard scientific evidence and information, and has specifically said that “vague and unsupported assertions” will not carry much weight.  So if you feel a strange buzzing noise in your head when you stand next to your electric meter, the FCC will probably not give your contention serious consideration without more solid “scientific” data.  But let’s not forget that many public health hazards were ignored by the government and industry at first because there was no “scientific” evidence to support the public’s complaints even though the public had real and legitimate issues to present.

Comments and replies will be due 90 and 150 days, respectively, after publication in the Federal Register, which will probably happen in late April or in May. Watch “Community Radio Newsletter” for more updates.

 Hopi High Radio Program Wins Slot as PBS Student Reporting Lab Site 

Hopi High School’s broadcast program has been chosen as one of 37 PBS’s Student Reporting Lab Sites throughout the country and the only one in Arizona, course instructor Stan Bindell told Community Radio News.  The Hopi High radio program has participated in the “Feet on the Street” program of the Arizona Community Media Foundation for the last two years.  The Board of the Foundation and staffs of Radio Phoenix and Radio Ajo congratulate Stan and his students for this honor.

The selection of Hopi High as a PBS Student Reporting Lab Site means that PBS will help Hopi High with funding and mentoring for news broadcasting. Some of Hopi High’s students may end up providing segments for the PBS news hour or on the PBS website.  Leah Clapman, managing editor of education for PBS, said PBS is excited about getting reports from Hopi teens in the near future.  PBS Program Coordinator Thai Da Silva found Hopi High by researching schools with diverse Native American student bodies.

For more than decade, PBS NewsHour Extra has been publishing Student Voices, with written stories and photographs by teenagers from throughout the world showing how the news impacts young people.  “When it came time to ask teens to file video reports, however, we found that video journalism ethics and production skills were severely lacking,” Clapman said. “So, we began Student Reporting Labs in 2009 with six sites throughout the country. The idea is that for kids to produce quality video journalism that they need a strong curriculum, teacher support and mentors who can support the process from the start to finish. That’s what we’ve developed over the past three years.”  

“I want teenagers to understand the complicated media universe they live in, and to be able to construct better narratives, to tell their side of the story and to feel empowered with their community,” she said.  

PBS recently held a weekend conference in Virginia for the teachers who will be involved with the PBS Student Reporting Labs during the next year.  Stan Bindell was one of the 20 teachers in attendance from Alaska to Florida.  He said that the conference was “fantastic,” and an opportunity to meet with fellow teachers from all over the country.  Stan said that the purpose of the conference was to bring together experienced teachers who had participated in the program before, teachers with video courses, and teachers who had never done a video before.  He said that he went to many workshops in which he exchanged ideas with the PBS pros, developed a real sense of mission for the grant, and studied deeper ways of engaging the students.  He said that PBS officials will be visiting the Hopi High School program late August or early September for more program development.

Stan Bindell (the hirsute gentleman in ethnic Arizona garb) with the other teachers at the PBS conference

The funding for the Student Reporting Labs program comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for reporting about the dropout crisis and the National Science Foundation for reporting about science issues.  PBS will be looking for more funding sources during the coming year as Congress continues to cut funding for education.  


 ASU Students Create Youtube for Radio Phoenix Project
Under the guidance of Pablo Gomez, a former DJ with Radio Phoenix, whose show "Signal Flow" was on the cutting edge of electronica, a group of students in an environmental design class have created a Youtube video featuring the project they did for Radio Phoenix. The four students, Carrie Hardee, Randy Wright, Jonathan Whitbeck, and Pablo Gomez, had to make an artifact or object for a non-profit organization that would further one of the eight Millenium Development Goals of ASU.  The artifact had to be useful to the organization in completing its mission, the students had to participate in the use of the artifact, and they had to make a video of how they made and used the artifact. 

After consulting with Victor Aronow, president of AzCMF, they made a tri-fold table display describing the programing, mission, and history of Radio Phoenix for the Phoenix Urban Expo which occured in early December.  All the students spent some time working the Radio Phoenix table at the Expo and the tri-fold was a big draw.  The Youtube video is the result of their planning, construction, and participation.

Thanks to the four of you for thinking of Radio Phoenix and for providing us, not only with a new beautiful tri-fold, but with a video as well.