We Say it on the Radio: For Decades

KABF Radio

            Munich            In a meeting in Aachen, Germany, with a representative of Misereor, the German Catholic foundation, I was asked to give a thumbnail sketch of where we’re organizing around the world, especially in Africa.  I ticked off the list, here and there, Kenya, Liberia, Cameroon, and Nigeria.  Then I said, “wait,” and added radioacorn.org in Uganda, KOCH-FM in Nairobi, and acornradio.org.  How could I not?  The current “voice of the people” stations and more to come, as we sort through our construction permits and get ready to apply for other low power FM stations in addition to WAMF-LP in New Orleans, are huge assets and tools for peoples’ empowerment and of course organizing.

Recently, Dave Chaos reminded me that KNON was celebrating its 40th anniversary and sent along a nice piece marking the history in one of the Dallas area news outlets.  Today, KABF, our 100,000-watt station, marks 39 years on-the-air.  Were we crazy to nurture these stations as part of the ACORN family?  If the test of time is any indication, it seems not.  Everyday we get messages from aspiring singers, songwriters and musicians hoping to get airplay.  They all know that airplay still matters.  The hosts hear from people near and far, whether on terrestrial or internet radio.  I interviewed the press secretary for the FCC last evening from Germany about their internet connectivity program for lower income families.  Radio is still how our people get the word on their phones and in their cars.

From Heerlen one night I had talked to someone from West Memphis who also had contacts in the Helena area along the giant Mississippi River.  We discussed the details on how to get low power stations in these towns.  A day earlier, I was in a conversation with an old friend about how to do the same thing in Easthampton, Massachusetts.  The day before that I talked to an AM/FM board member about the probability of getting a license in Hilo, Hawaii.  An old union comrade and I talked about putting an antenna on top of their building in Fresno, California, and making an application.  I opened an email last night and read about people who were ready to go in Biloxi, Mississippi, and Slidell and Lake Charles, Louisiana.  This is the tip of the iceberg.  People are in touch all over the country who are getting ready for the FCC to open the window for new applications.

Radio is old technology, but it is still a powerful megaphone to reach people, and for people to shout out their own issues and concerns.  With internet streaming, old tech and new tech combine and open up the world to millions and millions.  What’s more, once on the air, a radio station once built and running may need some new equipment, but it’s forever, not just four decades, but forever ever.

In organizing, we’ve been the fox, not the hedgehog.  In radio, we have been the hedgehog and not the fox.  We talked more than 40 years ago about building a peoples’ communication network to support organizing and guarantee that we always would have a loud voice on our issues in the public forum.  We’re not there yet, but it’s not hard to imagine that before our stations hit 50, we’ll finally be there!