Archive | November, 2005

Arrrgh, Pirate Radio News Pieces

Here’s a little round-up of pirate news from around the US and UK: John at discovered that the FCC has delivered a notice of unlicensed operation to Zach De La Rocha, former singer for Rage Against the Machine. Zach has been an outspoken proponent of pirate radio in the past, making a tribute in […]

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The One Noncommercial Station That Gets the Web, and Thrives

Not only is New Jersey’s WFMU the best freeform radio station in the country, the station also has a great blog with posts on strange arcane music, culture and radio industry dirt, all from a smart, cynical, independent perspective.

FMU’s The Professor has posted an interesting analysis of Air America radio, focused on the apparent impending departure of the co-host of the network’s Morning Sedition program.

The Professor thinks Morning Sedition is the best of the Air America schedule, though I have to say that I’ve never been impressed the few times I’ve tuned in on-line. Now, I don’t think I’ve listened in the last 6 or 8 months, so maybe it’s better now. Overall I haven’t been too impressed with much of Air America except Mike Malloy’s barely controlled vitriol and Steve Earle’s The Revolution Starts Now.

If that’s not enough radio biz scrutiny, FMU’s Liz Berg give’s a rundown of “Radio News You Can’t Use,” catching up reader with the latest on payola scandals, FCC Chair Kevin Martin, and other bites.

WFMU is the one station in the country that approaches the internet and the web as a natural extension of itself and its ethos, without having to dose us up with an assload of hype and dot-com 2.0 bullshit. The station podcasts many of its shows that feature original sound, vintage public domain music and other sounds that won’t bring down the wrath of the copyright gods.

FMU also keeps playlists and RealAudio archives of most of its programs going back several years. And just recently the station has started running internet-only programs that broadcast in parallel with their airfeed. Because they’re outside the FCC’s jurisdiction, these programs don’t have to obey the same indecency restrictions, giving the DJs an extra dose of freedom.

What’s amazing to me is that FMU can carry all of this off, given than it’s a noncommercial, nonprofit station, that relies heavily on listener donations. I know that at my local community station, we have difficulty raising the resources just to stay on air. Most DJs would love to broadcast on the ‘net, but neither the staff time nor monetary resource is yet available.

Now, it doesn’t hurt that FMU is smack-dab in the middle of the nation’s largest radio market. So, even the tiny percentage of NY metro listeners who tune in is still larger than the population of WEFT’s entire listening area. Also, I think the internet presence has helped to grow the donating listenership.

But that doesn’t account for doing it well. That part just must be the rare combination of the station’s vision and ability to be organized enough to execute it. I reckon that comes from the leadership of the staff and the dedication and cooperation of the station’s volunteers.

It also helps that FMU is really not a community station in any conventional sense. And, because it is in such a big metroplex, it doesn’t have to be, since there’s plenty of other noncommercial stations (like Pacifica’s WBAI) that can take on a broader public-access and service mission.

Not every station can be a WFMU, but if FM noncommercial FM licenses were simply more plentiful, there would be more like them. Instead, a city is lucky to have one community radio station, with its airtime split 50 ways to make up for the sheer lack of diversity on the rest of the dial. If a community could have 3 or 4 community-like nonprofit stations, then maybe one could be dedicated to music and culture like FMU.

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