Fighting Misinformation with Radio


             New Orleans       Luckily, a lot of us still know how powerful radio can be as a communication tool and not just an entertainment delivery system.  Certainly, conservatives who dominate talk radio know this fully.  Evangelists and religious broadcasters, sportscasters, and farm market reports still believe in radio, as well.  Others are realizing that radio is also a great tool for combatting misinformation – some of it coming out of the other radio dials.  We are huge and dedicated fans of radio’s accessibility and power, and we’re not alone.

A recent article showcased the efforts of Radio Campesina and its efforts in California, Nevada, and Arizona to use the power to speak the truth.  Chavez Radio, which is also how they refer to themselves, proudly broadcasts in Spanish from its microphone to its websites.  Station locations include Salinas and Fresno in California, Yuma and Phoenix in Arizona, and Las Vegas in Nevada.  They have organized a special project over the air to make sure that facts are confronting misinformation among the Latino community as the election comes closer.

The iconic labor leader of the United Farmworkers Union, Cesar Chavez, inspired the organization of the first Radio Campesina station in 1983.  When ACORN, AM/FM and our sister organization, CCTV or California Community Television, ran our station licensed to Watsonville in Salinas, California, we knew their station well.  KABF, the station AM/FM helps manage in Little Rock, finally went on the air the next year in 1984, and is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year with a similar mission.

The impact of these small, noncommercial stations increases exponentially when they are able to network together in the same way that the seven have come together in Radio Campesina.  KABF, WAMF, and other like-minded stations also share programming.  AM/FM assisted 47 local communities across the country to file for low-power construction permits with FCC at the end of 2023.  So far, only two, one in Helena, Arkansas, and the other in Fayetteville, North Carolina, have received permits, but we still expecting a number of others in the pipeline.  All of which could come together in a kind of a network that might have a similar impact in using power to speak truth as “voice of the people” stations.

Looking at the list of low power licenses the FCC has issued in recent years, the vast majority are religious or faith-based stations.  I can’t fault them for seizing an opportunity that we have been slow to maximize in the progressive community.  Nonetheless, there are an increasing number of noncommercial, community-based radio outlets seeking licenses and building an audience.  In these fraught times, they could make a difference if they were to come together on a campaign.