Sunday, June 10, 2012

Pacifica...  Radio (and podcasting) For The People

KPFK, Los Angeles
KPFA, Berkeley
KPFW, Washincton, DC
KPFT, Houston
WBAI, New York

Pacifica is a little network of five radio stations, with some community radio affiliates thrown in for good measure, where you'll hear points of view you might not know exist, because you never hear them in the so-called mainstream media. It was started in the 1940s by pacifists. You'll hear programs hosted by Progressives, Leftists, Socialists, Anarchists, African Americans, Muslims, Arabs, Gays, Lesbians, Native Americans, Latinos, Union Members, Atheists, Computer Geeks, people who believe in the supernatural, and in conspiracies, and lots of programs hosted by people who love music, and I mean all kinds of music, from all kinds of places, that you never hear anywhere else. There is some programming and news in Spanish. (For example, tonight, KPFK in Los Angeles is broadcasting the Mexican presidential debate.)

You'll hear things they don't want you to hear. Things that might lead people to believe they don't need rich people, or politicians who are beholden to rich people, running their country for them. 

With the internet, you don't have to be in range of one of the stations to listen to it. You can listen on your computer or cell phone it if has an internet connection.

When I'm on the road I listen to the podcasts, unless I'm in one of the Pacifica cities. When I'm at home I listen to the live stream, which is what I'm doing now: the screen shot above is my iTunes player set to the Los Angeles station, KPFK.

There are several ways to get the stations into whatever music player you have, but not being particularly patient I just found a way that works. I go to the station's web site, go to the live stream, and then drag that web page into my iTunes player. I just created a "playlist" called Pacifica and dragged them into that.

They'll ask for money every few months. There is no advertising, none, so it's all listener supported. I just give a basic membership donation, $25, once a year to all five stations. If it's been a good year I give $35. It's money well spent, because I get hours and hours of listening pleasure from Pacifica. During the fund drives they offer some nice gifts, too. I have several nice T-shirts and bumper stickers.

My favorite Pacifica shows:

Against The Grain - from KPFA, hour-long interviews with radical academics, writers and thinkers. CS Soong and Sasha Lilly, who take turns hosting, both are excellent interviewers, who have done their homework before the interview, which makes listening to this show a real pleasure.

Flashpoints - from KPFA, has been around awhile. Dennis Bernstein keeps up on issues affecting Latinos, Central and Latin America, Palestine, the American Indian Movement, and current issues. Lately he's been focusing on foreclosures, the fraud that's going on by banks in this regard, what you can do, etc.

Arab Voices - from KPFT, is one reason I love the Houston station. Right there in the heart of red-state America, in very seat the of the Bush family dynasty, is KPFT. In the hour long Arab Voices, Said Patush interviews people knowledgeable on what's going in in the Middle East and takes particular interest in Palestine. He also keeps up on what, as it happens, is a large, vibrant and active community, right there in Houston, Texas, of people of Middle Eastern descent and of the the Muslim faith.

Voices of the Middle East and North Africa, from KPFA, also has interviews with scholars, activists and other experts on the Middle East but also brings out what is a rich artistic vein in the cultures of the Middle East and North Africa, so you get interviews with artists who are performing in the Bay Area, with writers and poets, or with, say, curators of showings of art by people from the Middle East or of Arab descent. A very well put together program, a work of art in itself.

Democracy Now, originally from WBAI, but now independent of them. It is its own entity, affiliated with Pacifica. This is the most widely distributed Pacifica program and has the most influence, and so has more access to important players for interviews. Besides being good for keeping up with current news, host Amy Goodman is particularly interested in woman's issues, African American issues, and issues affecting the media and a free press. The show is weak on Palestine. Goodman is in that category of people, like Noam Chomsky (a recurring guest) who ascribe to what I call Zionism Lite. They point out some of the more flagrant atrocities committed by Israel, thereby absorbing much of the righteous anger Israel provokes, but never address the core issue of Israel's inherent illegitimacy. I have heard Amy Goodman change the subject when a guest starts to approach that issue. Despite that flaw, Democracy Now is almost essential listening.

Bay Native Circle, from KPFA, keeps up with issues affecting Native Americans and highlights Native American artists.

Stone's Throw, from KPFA, hosted by Jennifer Stone, an old 60s radical and writer who holds forth on writing, feminism, film, angst and The New Yorker magazine.

Free Speech Radio News, from Pacifica, is based all over. They begin with their own news summary, then volunteer correspondents from all different countries report from those countries, and also sometimes make more in-depth reports on movements and activism around the world. Other Pacifica news programs sometimes play these FSRN correspondents' reports in their own programs because they are from right there, on the ground, as they say. This is a very interesting show.

Background Briefing, from KPFK. Ian Masters has been around while, too, and gets pretty good access to insiders in Washington, people who are not necessarily Leftists but who have in-depth knowledge of domestic or foreign policy issues that are in the news.

Law and Disorder, from WBAI, is produced by members of the National Lawyers Guild, which is like the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU, only better. It's the more radical, activist lawyers. The hosts have the legal knowledge to lay out the actual law and what's at stake in important court cases, and hosts like Michael Ratner have been involved in some of the monumental legal battles and civil rights struggles of our time. This is the real deal.

Caldwell Chronicle, from WBAI, is Earl Caldwell holding forth, and sometimes interviewing people, about what's on his mind. This is often civil rights and issues affecting African Americans. Caldwell is an old New York City newspaper reporter, who knows where all the skeletons are hidden, but he really does radio well. His opening monologues, or diatribes, which often end with him bellowing into the microphone, are works of art. The show is three hours. The city is winding down from the work week. Many New Yorkers are winding it down with Earl.

This is just a small sampling of Pacifica shows. At each web site you can see their schedule or browse their "archives" page from where you can subscribe to the podcast of that show.

I haven't even touched on the music programming, which is vast and as I say, varied. Unfortunately, because of the push by greedy corporations, and a few big name recording artists like Metallica and Dolly Parton, to go after and prosecute to the fullest extent possible anyone who might infringe on their ability to make a dollar, music programs can no longer be downloaded as podcasts -- they must be live streamed -- unless you know how to download a live stream. There are instructions for how to do this on the internet, but it seems to be beyond my ability.



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