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Pacifica Radio was founded in 1946 by pacifists E. John Lewis and Lewis Hill. Pacifica owns five radio stations which split their time between eclectic music and cultural programs, and left-wing political talk.
Political talk on Pacifica Radio stations tends to be well to the left of most other liberal talk radio. This is not necessarily a bad thing; this means that unlike much of "progressive" talk radio, they do not exist to service the Democratic Party and they give airtime to a variety of radical views that otherwise wouldn't be heard on the radio. The analysis is therefore far more Noam Chomsky than George Lakoff,[Note 1] they continue to be hardcore anti-war even when the bomber-in-chief has a "D" after his name, stray issues from animal rights to jury nullification get a fair hearing instead of snide dismissal, and you're likely to hear Ward Churchill interviewed or cited favorably instead of denounced or distanced from.
Pacifica is not without its problems. Pacifica and its stations are known for messy internal strife, due mostly to the way the stations and network are organized, and some of the kooky people they attract. WBAI and WPFW have given considerable airtime to Gary Null pitching alt-med woo, and WPFW has even used Gary Null's magic detox packets as fundraising premiums. KPFK became dominated by woo-meisters and truthers. WPFW carries some radical political talk,[Note 2] but historically was primarily a jazz music station. KPFT at one point in the late 1990s-early 2000s appeared headed down the same path to oblivion as WPFW, adopting a country music format of all things, but today is back at the cutting edge with eclectic cultural programming and radical and progressive talk. Pacifica and its stations run fundraisers that last for weeks on end, disturbing regular programs.
Pacifica Radio stations
- KPFA 94.1 Berkeley, California
- KPFK 90.7 Los Angeles, California
- KPFT 90.1 Houston, Texas
- WBAI 99.5 New York, New York
- WPFW 89.3 Washington, DC
Democracy Now! is Pacifica Radio's flagship and best known program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. Democracy Now! broadcasts live on weekdays at 8:00 AM United States Eastern Time on WBAI and is simulcast, repeated, and streamed by many other affiliates.
Amy Goodman has been involved in many radio and television projects dating back to the 1970s. She revealed the abuses of the Indonesian Government during the 1980s, taking a huge beating and almost dying in the process (and nothing was done), being arrested at the 2008 Republican National Convention (and no one cared) and being detained at the Canadian border for suspicion of questioning the 2010 Olympics (and really no one cared).[Note 3]
Amy tries to represent those who are usually ignored by the mainstream media, interviewing such interesting subjects as the President of Vanuatu, Hugo Chávez, and Dennis Kucinich (about 300 times). She prodded Bill Clinton into a 30-minute debate after a routine get-out-the-vote call, which was hilarious and ended in Clinton hanging up in a fury, and being threatened with a denial of access (which she didn't actually have in the first place).[Note 4]
Pros and cons
- Democracy Now! has news and commentary from outside the usual mainstream and corporate sources, and refreshingly makes a point of exploring each of its news items with in-depth 10-15 minute segments rather than puerile slogans and sound bites.
- The show hosts timely debates on political issues, with a higher level of discourse than on commercial cable news outlets like Fox News or MSNBC. For instance, in 2006, the show pitted the filmmakers of 9/11 Truther movie Loose Change against editors of Popular Mechanics. In early 2016, the show had representatives of both the American Constitution Society and Gun Owners of America to discuss President Obama's executive orders that strengthened current federal gun laws. That year, the show also had two socialist feminists debate about Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, a view very unlikely to be seen on CNN and such.
- Of course, there's the left-wing leaning of its reporting, a good or bad thing depending on whom you ask. Its stories lean towards social justice, pacifist (hello, it's called Pacifica Radio), anti-imperialist, protectionist points of view.
- The program gives credence to GMO-phobia. In one 2014 segment, Goodman gave a favorable interview to Sheldon Krimsky, director of the documentary film The GMO Deception and cited Gilles-Eric Séralini as a source.
Free Speech Radio News
Their other flagship program was the independently produced Free Speech Radio News, which was organized in 2000 by a group of freelance correspondents who were then filing for Pacifica Radio. The program ended on Pacifica Radio in 2013 and returned as a podcast, but ceased operations in April, 2017.
- Indeed, Chomsky is a frequent guest on Democracy Now!
- WPFW is probably the only station in the nation's capital where one can hear live coverage of appearances by Louis Farrakhan and documentaries on the history of the Nation of Islam.
- seriously, she rattled on about that shit for 2 weeks.
- in other words, a good person and unfortunately all too often rare. We need more like her.
- Hillel Aron. Left Wing Darling Pacifica Radio is sliding into the abyss. laweekly.com. 21 March 2014. Retrieved on 3 September 2015.
- Democracy Now! on Livestream. Retrieved on 3 September 2015.
- Hugo Chavez: "If the Imperialist Government of the White House Dares to Invade Venezuela, the War of 100 Years Will be Unleashed in South America". democracynow.org. 19 September 2005. Retrieved on 3 September 2015.
- Bill Clinton Loses His Cool in Democracy Now! Interview on Everything But Monica: Leonard Peltier, Racial Profiling, Iraqi Sanctions, Ralph Nader, the Death Penalty and Israel-Palestine. democracynow.org. 22 June 2004. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
- Democracy Now! Retrieved on 3 September 2015.
- EXCLUSIVE...9/11 Debate: Loose Change Filmmakers vs. Popular Mechanics Editors of "Debunking 9/11 Myths"
- Gun Owners of America vs. American Constitution Society: A Debate on Obama's Gun Executive Orders. Jan. 6, 2016.
- Clinton vs. Sanders, Who Do Progressives Choose? As Race Heats Up, 2 Socialist Feminists Debate. Jan. 19, 2016.
- Stories about the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Democracy Now
- GMO-related stories on Democracy Now
- Monsanto, BigAg Spend Millions Fighting Colorado, Oregon Ballot Measures to Label GMO Foods and "The GMO Deception": Sheldon Krimsky on How BigAg & the Government Is Putting Your Food at Risk
- FSRN History. fsrn.org. Retrieved on 4 September 2015.
- Free Speech Radio News audio. fsrn.org. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
- FSRN signs off the air after 17 years of grassroots radio journalism. fsrn.org. Retrieved on 13 November 2017.