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Radio for the People

Posted on Aug 7, 2007

By Amy Goodman

Rupert Murdoch is looking like the cat that ate the canary with his successful takeover of Dow Jones & Co. and its flagship newspaper, The Wall Street Journal. Media conglomerates like Murdoch’s News Corp. are among the most powerful corporations on the planet. His papers beat the drums for war while distracting with gossip and glitz.

    Yet people are finding innovative ways to fight back, to demand independent, community-based media. One such effort that you can join is the movement to create new, full-power, noncommercial FM radio stations in the U.S.

    This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. The Federal Communications Commission will open a one-week window, Oct. 12-19, during which nonprofit community groups in the U.S. can file applications.

    Think for a moment what a powerful, noncommercial radio station could do in your community. As the late George Gerbner, dean of the Annenberg School for Communication, said, we need a media not run by “corporations that have nothing to tell and everything to sell, that are raising our children today.”

    Community radio is the antidote to that small circle of pundits featured on all the networks, who know so little about so much, explaining the world to us and getting it so wrong. On community radio, you can hear your neighbors, you can hear people from your community: the silenced majority, silenced by the corporate media.


Square, Site wide

    Pacifica Radio, the network where I got my start, is the oldest public broadcasting network in the United States, founded in 1949 by conscientious objectors like Lew Hill. He created the concept of “listener-sponsored” radio—the radical concept that quality programming could be put out over the air that would be so different and so valuable to the audience that the listeners would give money to keep it going, and they have, all over the country. After Pacifica station KPFT went on the air in Houston in 1970, its transmitter was blown up, twice; it is the only U.S. radio station to have suffered such crimes. The transmitter was destroyed by the Ku Klux Klan. Why? Because the station allowed people to speak for themselves, and that challenges stereotypes and caricatures, which fuel hate groups like the KKK.

    Pacifica Radio is now part of a national coalition,, that is helping groups file for their own radio licenses. You can check out the availability of a license by entering your ZIP code at the website

    Independent community radio provided critical coverage of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. While Cumulus Media was banning the Dixie Chicks for daring to speak out against war, Clear Channel radio stations were sponsoring prowar rallies around the country. Roxanne (Walker) Cordonier, the South Carolina Broadcasters Association’s 2002 radio personality of the year, was fired by Clear Channel-owned station WMYI-FM in Greenville, S.C. “I was fired for being antiwar,” she told me. “I was told to shut up. People who retained their employment had the presence of mind to keep quiet.” She sued, and Clear Channel settled with her just before trial (for a sum said to be about a year’s salary). Four years later, she is back on the air, now buying airtime on a locally owned station. “People forget,” she says, “these are the public airwaves, and the public is not getting access to them.”

    From coast to coast, from Alaska to Hawaii to Florida to Maine, people are organizing to reclaim a small portion of the public airwaves. The October FCC application window for full-power, noncommercial FM licenses is an opportunity to make a meaningful, long-term contribution to your local media landscape—to help give a voice to the voiceless, to carry on the fine tradition of Pacifica Radio, to create a beacon for truth under which people can discuss the most important issues of the day: war and peace, life and death. Check out Start your own community radio station, and wipe that smile off Rupert Murdoch’s face.

    Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 500 stations in North America.

  © 2007 Amy Goodman; distributed by King Features Syndicate

New and Improved Comments

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By Mortagege, October 1, 2007 at 11:54 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hello, my name is Mortagege. Mortge calculator.  Mortgege.

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By Schroeder, September 1, 2007 at 10:19 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I don’t consider NPR an alternative anymore. It’s filled with a bunch of old codgers who are too invested in their stuffy intellectual east coast suburban soccer mom culture—I dry heave every time I hear that lazy lilting whine at the end of every word.

No, what we need more of is *local* radio. Most people have probably forgotten what that is anymore, but there was a time when that’s what radio was. In fact, radio was started to serve local populations. Now, it’s nothing more than a vehicle for ads to sell to locals, with programming originating somewhere else.

The same applies to NPR programming. Those bastards actually helped kill the Low-Power FM movement a few years ago because it threatened NPR’s interest in expanding its web through the use of repeater frequencies. That’s what the local NPR affiliate did, WWNO, taking over KTLN 90.5 in Thibodeaux. Meanwhile, other than NPR programs, all WWNO does is play cheesy jazz and classical music for doctor’s offices.

Unfortunately, for most people, it’s almost too late to apply for these licenses—and if you’re in a market like New Orleans which is saturated with banal commercial stations that play the same crap over and over again, there’s no hope of getting a local radio station at a time when the people need community talk radio to rebuild the city.

The FCC hasn’t even *formally* announced the October application windowyet. How can organizations possibly prepare everything that needs to be done before then?

I have a different solution.

How about we lobby the FCC to allow communities to review how well radio stations are serving them, and grant those communities the right to reassign one license every two years to a new entity if they decide the station isn’t serving them well enough.

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By the pre, August 14, 2007 at 10:39 am Link to this comment

August 13, 2007

= = = = = = = = =

A once in a generation opportunity, hundreds of Full Power FM radio
licenses are available to community groups across the country.

You only have two months to prepare your application, you and your
community group can do this - if you act now!

Please go to and fill out the form.

(make sure you fill out the questionnaire, and put “democracy now!” in
the How did you find out about question.)

Get more information at

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By Omas, August 10, 2007 at 8:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It would be great if the author (Amy Goodman) could at least brush up on her writing skills and stop the incessant misuse of the word “like”. Did she never learn how to use “such as” when citing an example?

The subject matter was fine, but I prefer well written social commentary.

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By Sally Bishop Merrill, Ph.D., August 8, 2007 at 8:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

WE down here 9 miles from the Mexican border have a lovely little PBS TV and / NPR radion station sponsored, amazingly, by the local Dioceses, ... so quite a bit of Roman Catholic programming, but also the standards of NPR and PBS…. I am a “Prime Circle Member,” valuing it very highly, esp. the “all Things considered,” program, and possibly hearing from Amy Goodman….. We are a VERY conservative area, but there are incrasing numbers who resist the establishment. We need help getting them, and keeping them supporting our alternative. I fear that if I try to start an alternative, odious as SOME R.C. politics are (and really, it only comes to Father So and So offering prayer now and then, and we ALSO get those nice RADICAL “Maryknoll” Sisters, and “Ask a Franciscan,” ... and of course NPR staples… ) ... we progressives down here will be spread too thin. Education is scarce, culture closely guarded, but rich, ... music wonderful here in the Frontera culture, ... and a WALL, completely UNNECESSARY, as we already do much diplomacy, catching of illegals and helping of those who WANT to and DO come legally….but we support secure borders, better Coast Guard and Border Patrol funding and staffing, training, and education programs for the Mexicans who might be tempted to flee through our ranches without care waiting on this side.  Who would help us? We are only a few, ... and we need YOU ! Contact me at “” THANKS.

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By Chaseme, August 8, 2007 at 10:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Oh, I love this idea. Thank you Amy for posting this information. I’m reminded of Michael Franti’s ‘Stay Human’ album as he acts out a skit of hosting a “listener-sponsored” radio program while the songs in the album are played. It’s very well done and the music is fantastic!

There is one song titled, ‘Soulshine’ which would be a perfect title for a “listener-sponsored” radio station. Imagine a radio station that supplies a little light to the souls that are afraid of the darkness, because they don’t trust the moon to guide them. Imagine a radio station that supplies nerves to those who are afraid to unravel their navels so that they may ingest the sun. Imagine giving courage to think in a very fresh and vigorous fashion about the future of America…I love it!

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By j12, August 8, 2007 at 6:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What I want to know is what programming can you have on one of these stations? Local talk, which would be hard to find talent for, or national alternative news programs. Where can I find more details about programming?

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By oldspags, August 7, 2007 at 9:24 pm Link to this comment

somebody tell me how to get to try for one of these stations, how much money do i need? do I actually need talent, or is full oh bs enough to get started on?I studied Labor History at Pitt so I have some knowledge of how it started. Really, they don.t jus give these things away do they? I’m waiting with baited breath,I,ve always wanted to spew thew crap,I know I can, my mother sait I spoke my first words at 5 months, and havn’t shut up since.

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By ardee, August 7, 2007 at 6:02 pm Link to this comment

The facts are that over 90% of political talk radio in this nation is right wing. Some large markets have no alternative to right wing radio at all (Philadelphia for one example). In some areas (like Cleveland) very successful liberal talk shows have been thrown off the air and replaced with shows that now rate at the bottom of their respective markets.

Clear Channel, mentioned negatively above, is a carrier of a number of AAR shows, Thom Hartman’s being one, so the examples noted above might very well be local decisions and not corporate ones.

When the return of the Fairness Doctrine was discussed recently right wing propaganda immediately began to mount against its return and with vehemence and illogic as is the modus operandi of the far right. They are quite adept at usurping the discussion, sidetracking it with obvious and egregious lies that somehow become “fact”.

It seems that ratings for shows like Limbaugh and O’Reilly are slipping badly in many areas. When matched against liberal talk radio they actually lose to them. I do not expect them to go quietly.

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