a a. . Name Address Where did you find this issue of the Observer? City/State/Zip Will he reach his high FD3c aspirations? Or will he just blow it? Read about it in the Observer. I want to subscribe to The Texas Observer. Check enclosed ______ Bill me x. 1949 in Berkeley, California, when KPFA went on the air. Hill’s Pacifica Foundation had scraped together $15,000, and just enough surplus parts and donated equipment to begin broadcasting a signal that, on a good day, carried twenty miles but whose effects would reverberate across an entire nation. Pacifica’s vision was in direct contradiction and opposition to everything commercial radio had become. In the living rooms where broadcasters saw consumers, Hill and his pacifist colleagues intended to reopen the door to the outside world. Instead of the consumerization and suburbanization that isolated listeners, Pacifica’s radiowaves would carry “an intruder with a different point of view.” Communication with different ideas would be welcomed and explored instead of shunned. “If this is too much to hope for,” Hill said, “someone will have to explain to us how we can do with less.” This vision, which carries on today, half a century later, is directly responsible for much of the sound and shape of radio today. It was Pacifica that pioneered the use of the FM band, that invented listenersupported radio and, later, community radio. The hugely popular talk show phenomenon, which has driven the modern revival of radio, began in late-night freeform talkfests on Pacifica’s KPFA in San Francisco and WBAI in New York City. At the very dawn of the sixties, Pacifica was there with tape-recorders at the sit-ins and beins, long before the mainstream media figured out which way the wind was blowing. It’s even rumored that Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” had its radio debut on WBAI’ s overnight show, where Arlo Guthrie first sang his own anti-war anthem, “Alice’s Restaurant.” Abbie Hoffman called in live daily reports during recesses of the Chicago Eight trial, and Seymour Hersh first broke the My Lai story on WBAI in 1969. While mainstream media dutifully regurgitated the U.S. military’s daily press briefings, the Pacifica network made extensive use of Agence Francaise, the sole Western news agency with a permanent staff in Hanoi. Among progressives, Pacifica’ s story is often cast as an ongoing struggle to protect the purity of the network’s original vision and purpose. Matthew Lasar’ s Pacifica Radio delves more deeply into the roots and branches of this struggle, not to resolve the conflicts but to illuminate them. “A wise historian once said that by revealing the socially constructed nature of the past, we free ourselves to think critically and creatively about the present,” writes Lasar. Jeff Land is more interested in the external conflicts, and in exploring how Pacifica has “[used] radio’s unique capacity to harness the power of the spoken word the medium of consciousness itself [struggling] to repair the damage that war, a culture of consumption, and commercial media have wrought upon our national psyche … as a witness, commentator, and actor, its overall programming provides an ongoing chorus of voices, calling to mind an ideal of a peaceful, democratic, global community yet to be realized.” Together, they refute forever the distorted view of radio as nothing more than a “ubiquitous consumer electronics device.” 111 Chris Garlock, former producer of Hightower Radio, now lives and writes in Washington, D.C., where he works for the Metropolitan Washington Labor Council. For a report on the continuing struggle to defend Pacifica Radio, see “The Battle for Free Speech Radio,” page 21. AUGUST 6, 1999 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 31
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