In many urban areas, Pacifica and its affiliates offer the only counter to the Republican/Democratic duopoly narratives.
“Flashpoints and Hard Knock Radio challenge the Democrats’ commitment to war, austerity, and globalization.”
The Pacifica Radio Network is a lifeline to grassroots stations across the US, including those in the Deep South with substantial Black audiences. Some people want to pull it apart and let each station go its own way, but the network should be kept together because it’s one of the few institutions that sustains a coast-to-coast anti-war, antiracist, and environmental justice community. Black Agenda Radio should upload its programming to the Pacifica Radio Audioport so that it can be downloaded for play on stations in Flint, Michigan; Athens, Georgia; Bisbee, Arizona; College Station, Texas; Carrboro, North Carolina; Immokalee, Florida and in larger cities that include Atlanta, Richmond, Lexington, and Nashville.
Countering the Sinclair Media Group narrative
In many of these cities and regions, grassroots radio stations are the only broadcast counter to the Sinclair Broadcasting Group’s warmongering, racist, and anti-environmentalist invective. Many of these grassroots stations are affiliates of the Pacifica Radio Network, which includes not only five major metropolitan stations—in Berkeley/San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Houston, New York City, and Washington, DC—but also 200 affiliates, most of which are much smaller and operating on the barest of budgets, with the exception of KBOO-Portland, KGNU-Boulder, and WMNF-Tampa.
Pundits often point to Wisconsin, one of the perennial swing states, as though it were the lone battleground that turned the 2016 presidential election for Trump, even though the state has only 10 electoral votes and Trump won by 77 (304 to 227). New Hampshire, Virginia, Colorado, and Minnesota were the only swing states that swung blue, nowhere near enough to secure a win for Hillary Clinton. Trump won Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Nevada, states in the Rust Belt, the Heartland, and the Deep South. (Excepting Nevada, the sparsely populated Western state whose biggest industries are gambling and gambling tourism.)
“Trump won Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Nevada, states in the Rust Belt, the Heartland, and the Deep South.”
This is not to reduce US politics to the corporate duopoly of Democrats and Republicans, only to point out that the Sinclair Broadcast Group fervently supported Trump and it has enormous influence in these states, especially their rural regions. (Far more influence than Russian bots or the $100,000 worth of Facebook ads said to have been purchased by Russians interfering in US elections.) Sinclair owns or operates 193 television stations nationwide; some compete in major metropolitan areas but far more are in rural regions. In California, Sinclair operates primarily in the sparsely populated central, eastern, and especially northeastern rural counties, not in Los Angeles County or the San Francisco Bay Area.
Countering the duopoly narrative
In many urban areas, Pacifica and its affiliates offer the only counter to the Republican/Democratic duopoly narratives, although the Democratic Party narrative commonly prevails, as it does at Pacifica’s flagship station KPFA Radio-Berkeley. But even KPFA gives more voice to the Bernie wing of the party, not the Clinton wing.
Pacifica doesn’t challenge the Democrats’ commitment to war, austerity, and globalization as much as some of us might like, but with significant exceptions. One is Flashpoints, an hour-long, frontline investigative news magazine that airs every weekday at 5 pm in Berkeley. Another is Hard Knock Radio, a hip-hop culture and politics show that airs every weekday at 4 pm in Berkeley. A third is the weekly Project Censored Show, which airs on Friday afternoons between 1 and 2 pm in Berkeley.
“Pacifica Audioport is a lifeline to many small stations and their communities.”
Many stations throughout the Pacifica Radio Network air Flashpoints and Hard Knock Radio, and more than 40 stations from New York to Hawaii air Project Censored. Most affiliate stations air Democracy Now, and many air Counterspin, Making Contact, Letters and Politics, and other shows produced in and outside Pacifica. The Pacifica Audioport is the website where they can download programming produced at other stations, and it’s a lifeline to many small stations and their communities.
Smaller stations are nevertheless faced with the challenge of producing local news, which grassroots radio audiences have over and over said they’re hungry for, on their shoestring budgets. One of the most outstanding success stories is the newscast at KRFP-Radio Free Moscow, Idaho, where Station Manager, Program Director, and News Director Leigh Robartes is the only paid employee. At the 2018 Grassroots Radio Conference (GRC) in Portland, Oregon, Robartes led a breakout session—Launching Local News Bureaus—that is now archived with other Portland-2018 archiveson the Grassroots Radio Conference website. Robartes has even offered to give programmers from other affiliate stations hands-on instruction and experience in producing local news and integrating it with the Pacifica national and international news that they can download on the Audioport website. (If they can get to Moscow, Idaho, and find a place to stay for a few days or more.)
“One of the most outstanding success stories is the newscast at KRFP-Radio Free Moscow, Idaho.”
KRFP-Radio Free Moscow is a great station. I often listen to its local newscast from distant Berkeley, California. I love its reports about the battles for endangered species throughout the Northwest, and I especially enjoyed hearing about the discovery of a large worm that one KRFP listener came across on a walk in the pouring rain. He noted that it was unusually large, a worm he’d never seen, so he took it to environmental scientists at the University of Idaho-Moscow. They were astounded and excited that this domestic worm they’d thought extinct was still extant and making a comeback.
Idaho has two senators, Republicans Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, and only one representative in the House, Republican Russ Fulcher. In 2016, Donald Trump won Idaho by 59.2 percent. However, if you listen to KRFP-Moscow, you’ll know that there’s a highly conscious, anti-racist, well-organized, left culture there, and it’s holding its own against the right-wing religious cult trying to take over the town. According to Leigh Robartes, KRFP is the only Moscow media outlet that the cult hasn’t been able to compromise.
“WCIW-LP in Immokalee, Florida, was created specifically to serve the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.”
Every time I browse through websites of Pacifica affiliate stations, I come across radical radio standouts, most recently WCIW-LP in Immokalee, Florida, an unincorporated area and census-designated place (CDP) in Collier County, Florida. Immokalee’s racial makeup is 71% Hispanic and 18% Black, and the station was created specifically to serve the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a collective of migrant workers from Mexico, Guatemala, and Haiti. Representing over 2500 members, the CIW fights for fair wages, better housing, stronger laws and enforcement of laws protecting workers' rights, and “an end to indentured servitude in the fields."
Ursula Ruedenberg, Coordinator of the Pacifica Affiliates Program—the 200 affiliate stations—says that the Pacifica brand and Audioport are what hold it together. We need to resist the Pacifica secessionists and keep it alive.
Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prizefor her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes region. She can be reached at [email protected].
Please join the conversation on Black Agenda Report's Facebook page at http://facebook.com/blackagendareport
Or, you can comment by emailing us at [email protected]