How a Phoenix low-power community radio station provides "an institution for the institution-less"

KDIF 102.9 FM, a low-power FM station in South Phoenix has created a sense of belonging, and that’s something people in South Phoenix need.

KDIF’s focus is not simply local but hyperlocal. As a low-power FM station, KDIF has a broadcast radius of about three miles. Its FCC license requires that it air a certain amount of locally produced content each day. “Locally produced” means the content must be made within 10 miles of the station. KDIF is allowed to use 102.9 as a broadcast frequency, but the low-power license does not protect KDIF from interference from a commercial radio station with the same frequency.

KDIF is another example of how community radio fills a need that advancing commercial interests and digital audio will not replace completely. Community radio is a space where people who lack power, access or agency can speak to people in power, and community radio is the place for a community to talk with itself. “Hearing people like us on the radio when you walk into a restaurant or an auto shop,” says the station’s executive director, Franco Hernandez, “makes you feel like South Phoenix is yours, too.” Radio’s power is to create a feeling of belonging, and community radio like KDIF supports belonging where other stations falter.

Thanks to Ian Derk for this article.


Tuning in Black Information Radio

Radio Survivor reports the debut of a new USA radio network targeted at African-American audiences.

The format mirrors that of conventional 24-hour all-news stations like KCBS, Los Angeles’ KNX, New York’s WINS or Philadelphia’s KYW, with regular headline news, business and entertainment segments alongisde breaks for local weather and traffic. But that’s also supplemented with short segments on Black history and other topics for Black audiences.

Though different in approach and tone than what many folks from progressive community radio might prefer – it is definitely more mainstream – the emphasis on Black issues, history and culture is nevertheless front and center, and the network does not shy away from the politics of race. The mix is lively and useful.

The network is owned and operated by the large commercial iHeart Radio conglomerate. You can learn more here.

USA public access television channels are an untapped resource for building local journalism

Instead of letting public access channels wither due to commercial market fluctuations, we should publicly fund and expand the precious communication infrastructure that access media offers.

Access to local news and information is critical, especially during pandemics, elections, and other high-stakes moments. Yet it’s increasingly clear that a profit-driven news system alone cannot provide everyone with the media they need to navigate daily life. As local journalism’s commercial model continues to collapse, public and nonprofit media institutions can serve as informational safety nets.

Although skeptics see PEG channels as relics from a bygone analog era and incapable of producing stories without encountering government interference, most public access channels today stream their channels online, upload content to app-based platforms such as Roku and leverage social media to promote audience engagement.

As we continue to face an ever-worsening journalism crisis, it is worth reimagining how investments in PEG outlets could help address local information and communication needs. We should leverage and expand such invaluable community infrastructures — before they vanish altogether.

For more on this subject, go here.

Global Voices is Seeking Researchers in Civic Media

The ngo Global Voices is seeking media ecosystem analysts to work as researchers in their Civic Media Observatory.

Global Voices is a global, virtual media organization with staff, contractors and volunteer contributors on every continent. Contributors undertake writing, research, advocacy and translation to highlight stories and perspectives from around the world that are underrepresented in international mainstream media.

They are hiring researchers with expertise in the following countries and languages: India (Hindi, Bangla, Assamese, English), Pakistan (Urdu, English), Bangladesh (Bangla), Afghanistan (Dari, Pashto), Mali (Bambara, French), Turkey (Turkish), Russia (Russian), Nicaragua (Spanish). Researchers should either be based in or have strong knowledge and ongoing access to local information from these countries.

For more info go here.

USA Senate Proposal to Preserve Community Journalism

Legislation jointly introduced by the chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Sen. Ron. Wyden (D-OR), the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) — seeks to provide a pathway to financial viability for local news in newspapers, in digital only publications, and on television and radio stations through a series of tax credits. The legislation mirrors a similar bill introduced in the House by Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA), which has strong bipartisan support.

“The decline of local news has had devastating effects on our communities. Local news has often been the only window into the city council or mayor’s office. Without these outlets, these important institutions in our communities go uncovered. Further, the decline of local news has only fueled the growth of misinformation, as Americans lose their most trusted sources of information. As the son of a journalist, these developments trouble me greatly. Our bill would provide financial support to local news at this critical time for our democracy,” said Sen. Wyden.

The first tax credit provides a tax credit of up to $250 for consumers to either subscribe to a local newspaper or donate to a local nonprofit news organization. The second is a five-year credit for local news organizations to employ journalists. The last of the three credits is a five-year tax credit that incentivizes small businesses to advertise with local newspapers, as well as local radio and television stations. (More on the details of the bill here)

"This is a hugely important step to help strengthen communities, by addressing the collapse of local news," said Steven Waldman, president of Report for America and chair of the Rebuild Local News Coalition. "When local news goes down, it leads to more waste, corruption, pollution, and polarization. Stronger local news leads to greater civic engagement and ability to solve local problems. This nonpartisan bill — which empowers consumers, small businesses and local publishers — will help create better local news, without endangering the editorial independence of journalists."

To learn more, and/or take action, go here.

The Media Capture Epidemic - Hungary

Since returning to power in 2010, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has waged a scorched-earth campaign against his country's independent media, seizing control of most outlets and leaving those that remain cowering on the sidelines. Worse, other autocrats have taken notice.

The Hungarian Media Council’s decision last September not to renew the broadcast license of Klubradio, the country’s last remaining opposition radio station, surprised no one. The council did not bother to offer corroboration for its claims that Klubradio repeatedly violated media laws, nor did anyone expect it to. The episode is merely the latest installment in the Hungarian government’s long-running campaign against independent media.

The effect of such centralization of media ownership and control – not been seen since the pre-1989 communist era – has been profound. Last summer, the editor-in-chief of Index, Hungary’s leading news portal, was fired on obviously political grounds, prompting a mass exodus of journalists who resigned in protest.

Though tackling media capture is an uphill battle, there are at least some partial solutions in sight. One is to reform how public media are funded; however, this is perhaps the most difficult approach, because it targets the central mechanism by which autocrats themselves tend to control the media. Another option is to increase reliance on funding from other donors, be they private foundations, entrepreneurs, or philanthropies – many of which already support independent media. Finally, with their disproportionate influence over the current media ecosystem, today’s tech giants could be pressured to elevate, protect, or otherwise privilege independent journalism on their platforms.Without a firm response, the epidemic of media capture will continue to spread. As long as it does, no country will be safe from the threat. -Marius Dragomir

The head of the Committee to Protect Journalists offers a warning

Founded in 1981, the Committee to Protect Journalists is a nonprofit organization that defends the rights of journalists around the world.

Record numbers of journalists have been jailed around the world in recent years, according to the CPJ, with 274 imprisoned in 2020. That same year, 22 journalists were murdered for doing their jobs, up from 10 in 2019. At least seven have been killed in the line of duty this year, according to the committee.

After 15 years as the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, director Joel Simon said on Wednesday:

“Governments are increasingly taking aggressive action toward journalists, and there are very few consequences. During the Trump administration, we saw a connection in governments appropriating ‘fake news’ and use it to justify imprisoning journalists. We’ve also seen governments brazenly use violence.”

More from the New York Times here.


The Pirate Radio Broadcaster Who Occupied Alcatraz

Over fifty years ago, John Trudell overcame tragedy to become the national voice for Native Americans—and a model for a new generation of activists.

The show was called Radio Free Alcatraz , and it was hosted by John Trudell, a Santee Sioux Native American activist and broadcaster. And for the first time, non–Native American communities were listening. More than 100,000 people tuned in to Pacifica stations in California, Texas and New York to hear his weekly broadcast.

Trudell was advocating for Native American self-determination, explaining its moral and political importance to all Americans. On air, he often revealed the innumerable ways the government was violating Native American rights: obstructing fishing access in Washington State, setting unfair prices on tribal lands, removing Native American children from local schools. But he didn’t just reveal the cruel contradictions at the heart of American society. He imagined a future in which equality — between different American cultures, and between all people and the earth itself — would become a reality.

To learn more go here.

Community Media Center in Richmond

Novice and advanced Virginia-based podcasters alike can now build their skills through the VPM + ICA Community Media Center, a free and public recording studio and workspace co-sponsored by Richmond’s VPM and the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University. 


The center aims to amplify the voices of local storytellers and make podcast creation more accessible for VCU students, Virginia community members and professional podcasters. Its director is Chioke I’Anson, perhaps best known as a voice of NPR’s underwriting credits.

Also an assistant professor at VCU, I’Anson pitched the idea to VPM early in 2019. As a professor and NPR employee, he said, he saw an opportunity to bring public media to the university level and to make skills for creating podcasts and other media more accessible.

“If we can expand the access to knowledge, then we can get more people making good media,” I’Anson said.

For more go here.

A Woman as Permanent Head of the FCC - History in the Making?

The Hill reports that a coalition of more than 30 women in Congress are urging the Biden administration to elevate acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel to permanent head of the US media regulatory agency.

The group says by doing so, it would install an experienced leader as well as be a historic choice. If President Biden were to agree, she would be the first woman to serve as permanent chair of the FCC and give the Biden administration an opportunity to add another Democratic commissioner.

"[Rosenworcel] has spent years raising the important voices and unique needs of women that have been ignored for far too long in technology and telecommunications policy," the 33 female lawmakers led by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Jackie Speier (D-CA) wrote. "In her eight years as a Commissioner of the FCC, Jessica Rosenworcel has elevated the voices and needs of women."

A Community Radio Thrives in Nepal - led by Women

Kapilvastu Community Radio has not only survived the effects of the pandemic, it has thrived - thanks to the generosity and innovation of the radio team and the community.

It's led by a group of enterprising and dedicated women. “There is this wrong notion in Nepali society that women cannot and are not capable of taking leadership positions. We have proven them wrong,” says Sona Khatik - station manager.

Within the first month of the lockdown, the radio station had produced three dozen jingles in four languages (Nepali, Tharu, Bhojpuri and Awadhi) that spread awareness about the coronavirus. The jingles were so effective, they soon got sponsors from local non-profit groups and even private companies. 

Khatik added: “We have shown that we have the entrepreneurial spirit and creative ability to be even more flexible in difficult times. It is more than luck that makes a company successful, especially during a crisis.”

For more on this story, click here.

Award Winning Worldwide Radio App

The Radio Garden app - developed by Jonathan Puckey with a small team in Amsterdam and community radio advocates in Europe - is a free app for iPhones and Android devices that brings in tens of thousands of radio stations broadcasting live 24 hours a day.

It's like the search button on a car radio. The screen is covered by thousands of little green dots, each representing a different station.

Get the free app here

Live and Local - KALW

Excerpted from article by JoAnn Mar of KALW-FM San Francisco:

Twenty years ago, some public radio consultants from Washington came to the Bay Area and proposed to have KALW consolidated into one of three big media conglomerates operating in California through a local management agreement. But the San Francisco school board rejected the offer. KALW was allowed to remain independent and was able to thrive for many years thereafter, despite the consultants’ characterization of KALW as a “failed” station.

And now as it approaches its 80th anniversary, KALW finds itself at another crossroads. Can it continue to be successful as a scrappy, independent community public radio station? Or will KALW follow in the footsteps of those other small public radio stations and become another homogenized, robotic, automated station, relying mostly on syndicated network programs and outside consultants with minimal live, local, original content and few human beings on-site?

The key to success is to build on what has proven successful: harnessing the talents of senior staff members who have deep connections with the local community and collaborating with them. There are years of collective wisdom and a deep well of experience that could be tapped.

Place the focus on increasing live, original, local programming that can’t be replicated online. Recruit younger talent from the community to help out and carry on the spirit of community-based public radio. That remains the heart and soul of staying connected with local communities and truly serving the public interest.

Community Stations Share COVID Stories

Annual Grassroots Radio Conference addresses the pandemic’s impact across community radio in the USA.

Flash back to fall 2019 at a community station abuzz with activity. A DJ is in the studio, spinning records, while volunteers socialize, work in production studios and assemble donor gift packages. Training is underway for new recruits and anticipation is high for a co-promoted concert at a nearby venue. Hugs are exchanged along with “hellos” and “goodbyes.”

For much of 2020 most of these activities were just a memory, as stations adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What does community radio look like when the community isn’t necessarily allowed inside the station? How are stations that pride themselves on 24/7 live in-studio DJs doing radio when they must restrict access to their buildings? And how are volunteer-reliant stations adjusting to socially distanced engagement?

The Grassroots Radio Conference confronted these questions in October. Held virtually, the event was hosted by ARTxFM, otherwise known as WXOX(LP) in Louisville, Ky.

See their results here:

Talk Radio in USA Fuels Conservative Politics

Author Paul Matzko writing in the opinion section of the New York Times:

Talk radio may face an aging audience, a decline in ad revenue and competition from new mass media forms like podcasts, but there are still millions of Americans whose politics are shaped by what they listen to on talk radio all day, every day. The dedicated fan can listen to nothing but conservative talk radio all day, every day of the week, and never catch up.

As Jim Derych, the author of “Confessions of a Former Dittohead,” put it, Rush Limbaugh “makes you feel like an insider — like you know what’s going on politically, and everyone else is an idiot.” There is power in that feeling, the proposition that you and the radio elect have been awakened to a hidden truth about the real way the world works while the rest of the American “sheeple” slumber.

Yet talk radio still somehow manages to fly below the national media radar. In large part, that is because media consumption pattens are segregated by class. If you visit a carpentry shop or factory floor, or hitch a ride with a long-haul truck driver, odds are that talk radio is a fixture of the aural landscape. But many white-collar workers, journalists included, struggle to understand the reach of talk radio because they don’t listen to it, and don’t know anyone who does.

Talk radio is not bounded by physical space. It can follow listeners wherever they go, from the car radio while commuting to the radio resting on the workbench to a radio app on a smartphone. It has the potential to dominate the construction of a person’s worldview in a way that other media simply cannot (until, perhaps, the advent of its white-collar cousin, the podcast).