Alternative Radio’s struggle to retain affiliates

Changes in radio marketplace offer constant challenges

| Jul 11, 2015

From David Barsamian and AR Staff

Alternative Radio has just completed its 29th broadcast season. Thanks for lending your ears and support to this independent media project.

AR helmsman Barsamian

AR helmsman Barsamian

AR offers its weekly program fee of charge to all non-commercial, public, community and college radio stations. We make every program available for free via podcast. We also have a growing archive of free audio and video on our website.

In order to continue, we increasingly rely on donations. Your purchases of CDs, transcripts, mp3s and pdfs are also vital. Check out our discount multipacks here.

The good news

Low power community stations continue to populate the media landscape and are willing to offer space for dissident voices to be heard. We have heard from several that have added us to their schedules, including:

  • Active Radio in Boston airs AR Mondays 9pm ET
  • KCMJ in Colorado Springs airs our program at 6pm Wednesdays and midnight Thursdays
  • WCAI (serving Cape Cod and surrounding island and coastal region) airs us on Sundays 7-11pm during its ‘Arts and Ideas’ program
  • Radio Free Palmer in Alaska broadcasts AR Tuesdays at 6pm and Wednesdays at 9am
  • WTUL in New Orleans will broadcast AR Thursdays at 8am throughout the summer months
  • WADR in Janesville, WI plans to add us to their roster this summer, along with Radio SFV in San Fernando Valley, CA and WTUL in New Orleans.

The bad news

  • Long time AR flagship station WMNF-Tampa/St Pete dropped us from their schedule and replaced us with an animal justice show. We are offered on their HD2 and online broadcast.
  • KRCC in Colorado Springs removed our program from their main frequency and offers AR only to those with HD radios or internet access.
    Long time affiliate KUOW-Seattle moved AR to 11-midnight on Wednesdays.
  • KUFM-Montana Public Radio moved us from Mondays 1-2PM to Sundays 7-8PM
    WAMC Albany, New York, AR’s largest NPR affiliate station has moved us from Tuesdays at 1 pm to Mondays at 8 pm.
  • WUGA in Athens, GA has dropped us from their schedule.

While Alternative Radio is getting airtime on more low power stations, they have small audiences due to limited range signals and meager finances.

The ugly news

Getting taken off stations’ main channels and moved onto HD only, combined with getting relegated to late night or pre-dawn air times on NPR affiliates, presents a new challenge to AR to get the critical info we provide into the public mind. When do people mostly use the radio – weekdays, especially morning and late afternooon drive times, and weekend mornings. Evenings and nights see a sharp drop off in listeners.

There is also a trend toward shorter and shorter highly-produced radio pieces. One program director told us that AR is long-form radio, and that long-form radio is for podcasting and not for broadcast any more. The ever-shrinking American attention span requires haiku-like brevity on an interstitial music bed.

The ugliest trend in public broadcasting is the marginalization of dissent. As power has moved to the right in the recent decades it has pulled public radio, and we can add PBS, with it reducing it to an echo chamber for imperialism and capitalism. The space for radical alternatives to the status quo are limited or eliminated. The founding progressive principles of public broadcasting in the U.S. have been forgotten.

It is a distressing situation but as we begin our 30th anniversary we remain undaunted.

Your support makes a difference.

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