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Whither Activist - Progressive - Liberal Radio?

In this weekend's show, we planned to spend an hour talking about Low Power FM (LPFM). And we still plan to - these small, independent community voices play a growing role in educating and inspiring their hyper-local listeners. But along the way, we've discovered this particular topic is particularly ripe for listener input - on the very future of liberal radio communication itself. Your role, expounded on, just over the jump.

You can't spend too much time looking into LPFMs past and present before you realize the tendrils reach into oh-so-familiar ponds of media murk: corporate ownership, of course, but also the less predictable battle between Corporation for Public Broadcasting entities and the "little guys"; the quandary, as ever unsolved, over how to make a living creating unabashedly liberal programming; what the hell is happening to the business of radio. (Note to our younger readers: see, people used to power up this boxy thing that had nothing to do with the internet, and sounds would come out ... ).

So this weekend, we'll delve into LPFM as planned. But we'll take the time to go beyond it too. What's the future of radio where liberal voices and information are concerned? Who's listening now - and where will they be listening tomorrow? And the key question: what roadmap can we plot for liberal voices to take the greatest possible advantage of "radio", in its various forms, to inform, educate, entertain, and motivate?

Moreso than any show we've done under the In Deep banner so far, we want to incorporate as many voices as possible. Please share your own experiences - as a broadcaster, as an activist, as an audience member seeking out the good stuff. Post here, or email us, any of the following:

  • your own tales from the trenches at Pacifica, small community stations, larger news organizations;
  • the spoils of your search for good political information, well delivered, be it via traditional broadcast, podcasts, satellite radio, you name it;
  • adventures in corporate radio;
  • kudos to liberal/progressive/activist pioneers of eras past, and how that informs what you look for now.

Finally, let me make room for the naysayers, too. If you think radio is dead - as an art form, as a business, as a venue for political speech - we'll incorporate that into the show, too.

The future of "radio", be it terrestrial, analog, digital, satellite, can only be guessed at. What's sure is that, even as you're reading this, informed and impassioned voices on the Left-to-Center spectrum need a secure beachhead to build on - to reclaim our place in the larger dialogue. What wisdom can you add to this history, this plan? angie [at] indeepradio [dot] com (Email me), or post your thoughts below in the comments section. And please, share this all around! We're recording on Thursday and will incorporate the early input into the show, then continue this conversation here.


And more to ponder

This is of course not a discussion of Pacifica, per se. But it's the longest-established, largest remaining network of liberal bent in the US, and it's going through hell. For purposes of our topic tomorrow, it's worth analyzing what's going on there, so as not to retrace their steps in any future efforts. For the same reasons, we're including a post-mortem of Air America in the show as well.

Pacifica is hardly ready for a post-mortem! But Radio Survivor's Matthew Lasar offers this analysis of what's brought Pacifica to where it is now. You'll find more here. Here's Matthew:

I have a long history of opinionated opinions about Pacifica radio, having written several books on the network.

Basically, I think that Pacifica radio is drowning in democracy.

Don't particularly need to be interviewed about this matter (you'll find no shortage of experts on Pacifica), but just wanted to share. Here are my five reasons (from the article) why Pacifica's democratized boards need to go.

Pacifica can’t afford them, even if the organization goes to electronic balloting. This is a network mired in expenses and inadequate levels of support from the station’s listener subscribers. The expectable “unexpected” expenses that invariably come up make these elected boards, which cost $378,023 in 2010, a luxury that Pacifica cannot afford. The network desperately needs to put its money into talented on-air people, not governance. That means not only scotching these elections, but dramatically reducing the size of the boards themselves.

Second: These elected boards don’t help Pacifica radio. I don’t even consider the people who are elected to these bodies to be board members. They’re really just the leaders of factions representing the interests of air-time seekers or air-time holders around the five Pacifica stations. Thus, the possibility of having boards that really work together to raise money or solve problems is dissolved in factional conflict that Pacifica now subsidizes via expensive elections.

Third: These elected boards politicize everything at Pacifica. I hear board members complaining about Pacifica workers obstinately challenging and arbitrating their layoffs. Of course they do. When you have elections in which candidates are constantly complaining about how we need to change Pacifica’s air sound, the employees of the network are always going to experience any decision made about them as political. So are their listener fans.

Fourth: Most Pacifica station subscribers don’t even participate in these elections. In KPFA in Berkeley’s 2010 election, about 84 percent of subscribers voted for nobody, despite receiving mailers from two different slates, an official ballot, listening to incessant candidate forums over the air, and doubtless being begged by their friends to vote for one slate or another.

Fifth: Elections are not necessary to protect the Pacifica stations. The biggest concern following the upheaval of 1999-2001 was that the board might sell one of the Pacifica stations, and that can be prevented by language similar to or stronger than the current by-laws, which give Pacifica subscribers, as “members” of the Foundation, the right to recall board members and weigh in on “the sale, exchange, transfer or disposition of any of the Foundation’s broadcast licenses.”

Meanwhile, we continue to take your input as we develop this discussion: recording tomorrow, airing this weekend, rolling on eternally in this comments section.





Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

Provocative thoughts on Pacifica

I specifically mentioned Pacifica in my original post (and in a similar post on Daily Kos) because it has a unique role in progressive radio history - and a future awash in question marks. Myron Bytz, Media Director of the Progressive Radio Network, specifically cites that network's loss of listenership in his email to us this morning:

Saw your post on Kos today about the state of left-wing political radio. We believe Pacifica -- especially in the large markets on the East Coast -- has to a large degree been usurped by certain special interests and ideologies, which tend to alienate the audience rather than include them, to discourage rather than energize them. There is a sense in which much progressive radio seems to feel that listeners need to have their "truth" stuffed down their throats, and attempt to do so without the self-reflection and rigor that, for example, won so many over to the side of Barack Obama in '08.  We believe you must treat people not like cattle to be herded, but rather like they can handle the complexities and gray areas inherent in political reality.

At our internet streaming network, (Progressive Radio Network) this is our mission: to prioritize ideas over ideologies. To empower our listeners to help create positive change, not stand idly by letting the world's problems steamroll over them. We try to challenge them 24 hours a day with over 60 unique shows, which we offer commercial-free and without any fund drives.  We aggregate -- and link back to -- articles and editorials from the most important progressive news sites. And we're happy -- nay, ELATED -- to report that, as mainstream cable news and Pacifica are shedding viewers and listeners, our listernership has doubled in the past year, with thousands of new people coming each day, with no signs of slowing down.

We know our mission: To help inspire change. To that end, we offer a home to whistleblowers (Through our partnership with The National Whistleblower Center in DC), union leaders (through our American Jobs Alliance Radio Hour), and third party political organizations (through our frequent exposure for their candidates and leaders).

Please check us out and let us know what you think of our humble station. We believe we offer not one unique perspective, but many. We are always adding more, and would be honored if you would consider us partners in this uphill climb!

Very Truly,
Myron Bytz
Media Director
prnsocial [at] gmail [dot] com

It is indeed an uphill climb, Myron! Thank the gods enough of us think it's worthwhile.

The sad part is, the wrestling over Pacifica - with  no end in sight - is costing us all a valuable asset in our fight to get vital information out to the public.

Myron's points will be part of our conversation recording tomorrow. While the conversation here has no end date, we'll need all your comments by tomorrow that you care to have included in the show itself.

Watching here and at angie [at] indeepradio [dot] com!



Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

Just an Idea

Hi Angie,
Been on the show before ("Malice in Wonderland - A Tea Party Fable" Book), just wanted to alert you to my latest project wherein I Roast Mitt Romney Seuss Style for tying his dog on roof of car If anyone wants to support me and my work, they have visit the link and take a look :)

Meanwhile keep up YOUR great work,


Thanks! More, please.

Micheal, the topic could really benefit from your experience you garnered with Malice in Wonderland.

What radio outlets were willing to give you exposure?

How did you crack through to "mixed" audiences - or did you find that wasn't possible?

What was your impression of the liberal hosts you guested with? Individually, did they have the prominence, the time slots, that more conservative hosts did? Did you sense they were pulling any punches?

How much "traditional" media did you do, versus online or satellite venues?

Thanks! And your Seuss parody looks FAB. Good luck!



Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

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