History of Pacifica Affiliate Network

EARLY BEGINNINGS

The first affiliate program for Pacifica Foundation was formally established during the early 1990s. However, informal relationships between Pacifica and other independent community radio stations go back much further, to the first years of community radio in the USA. Relationships happened naturally between early community radio workers across the country as they shared resources and skills. Their collaboration developed community radio as a nationwide medium and laid the groundwork for the Pacifica Affiliate Program.

In the 1970s, as the pioneering enterprise of KPFA/Pacifica in Berkeley began to mature, KPFA veterans Lorenzo Milam and Jeremy Lansman traveled to other metropolitan areas such as Seattle, St. Louis, Atlanta, or Columbia, Missouri, to establish independent community stations. They were emulating the listener-sponsored community radio model they had learned at KPFA.

As new, locally owned independent stations sprang up around the country, shared needs and interests became apparent. This led to early forms of networking, content-sharing, and broadcast collaborations that have continued to this day. Early activities included:

  • News production. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, reporters at Pacifica stations, international stringers, and several KPFA reporters situated in Washington DC (called the Washington Bureau) patched together a news feed using telephones for distribution to other stations.
  • Program exchanges. Audiotapes were exchanged through the mail.
  • Live national coverage of political events. Pacifica and other community radio producers and engineers joined forces to begin national coverage of national presidential conventions in 1972. In 1987, Larry Bensky established Pacifica as a leader in coverage of national political events with “Contra-gate,” his national coverage of the Iran-Contra Hearings.
  • Satellite distribution. In 1980, Pacifica began up-linking radio content from Pacifica and other community radio stations on Public Radio’s satellite. In 1997, KFCF community radio in Fresno, California helped Pacifica move to its own exclusive satellite called the KU Band, and Pacifica started its own content distribution system.

The radio broadcast activities, described above, spontaneously led to practical and cooperative relations. These characteristics continue to define the Pacifica affiliate network to this day, where Pacifica’s clients also see themselves as partners in community radio’s mission.

However, these relations were not actually formalized into an affiliate program until the early 1990s, when the Pacifica Radio Archives assumed responsibility for a content-exchange program, which had been initiated by the (newly founded) National Federation of Community Broadcasters. While taking over the content-sharing program, the Pacifica Archives inherited a mailing list of stations, which became the catalyst and basis for Pacifica’s first formal affiliate program.

In the years that followed, Pacifica experimented with management structures to successfully fulfill the potential of an affiliate network. Some of the earliest affiliates included KFAI in Minneapolis, MN; KUNM in Albuquerque, NM; KGNU in Boulder, CO; and WRFG in Atlanta, GA.

ORIGINS OF TODAY’S CURRENT PROGRAM

Today’s Pacifica’s Affiliate Program was initiated by the (interim) Pacifica National Board (iPNB) in 2002, after the demise of Pacifica’s former affiliate program.

The program had collapsed from mismanagement, while Pacifica Foundation underwent a legal battle over its ownership in the era known as the “corporate takeover of Pacifica” (late 1990s – 2002). Yet, even when institutional relations had eroded, shared history and grassroots connections continued to bring community radio professionals together. Collaboration persisted in radio production, journalism, and mission-building.

Efforts were made during this era to strengthen those grassroots connections by Pacifica organizers, including Juan Gonzalez, Dan Coughlin, Deena Kolbert, Teresa Allen, and Leslie Cagan. This led to the reintroduction of institutional relations with affiliates at the Grassroots Radio Conference (GRC) in 2002, and in that same year Ursula Ruedenberg was hired as a consultant to conduct a survey of all former affiliates. A copy of the executive summary of that survey submitted by Ruedenberg can be found here.

An affiliate program committee was formed by the iPNB, chaired by interim Pacifica National Board member Teresa Allen, assisted by New York City radio producer and volunteer organizer Deena Kolbert, and paid consultant Ursula Ruedenberg. Leaders of the GRC also served on the committee, including Norm Stockwell from WORT, Madison; Marty Durlin from KGNU, Boulder; Vicky Santa from WMNF, Tampa; Behr from KMUD, Redway, CA; and Christine Ahern from WJFF, Jeffersonville, NY.

The committee engaged in rigorous and public discourse to assess opportunities, client needs, and past mistakes. In September of 2003, the committee proposed a new organizational plan, laying the foundations for our current affiliate program. The iPNB unanimously ratified the “direction outlined” by the proposal for “further refinement,” establishing the affiliates network as an exploratory program.

The new plan emphasized shared history, goals, and mutual support between Pacifica and its affiliates, and addressed affiliates’ most urgent and universal request for customer service staff at Pacifica to act as an intermediary between Pacifica and affiliate needs. The new program also called for the development of reliable infrastructure, new services, and Pacifica policies to support the program.

In 2002, the Pacifica Board revised Pacifica’s bylaws to restructure itself into a governing body of representatives from its five stations. Based on requests made by affiliate leaders who saw themselves as sharing Pacifica’s mission, two seats were created on the board to represent affiliates.

In 2003, Ursula Ruedenberg was hired as the program’s manager. The collaborative tone and approach of the newly ratified program resulted in successful growth and stability for an affiliate network. The number of affiliates in the network has grown from 13 in 2002 to approximately 150 in 2014. Affiliates include community, public, college, low-power, and Internet radio stations. Stations in Europe and Canada are included in the growing number of international affiliates.

Currently, the program collects approximately $230,000 in affiliate fees and contributes more than 50% of its net income to Pacifica Foundation.

From the onset, flagship programs for distribution were Democracy Now! and Free Speech Radio News (Free Speech Radio News was lost as a news offering in 2013). In 2003, at the request of many affiliates, Sprouts: Radio From the Grassroots, was created as a nationally syndicated program to showcase work produced by community media. Today, this program is widely carried and provides an open door for rapid national attention for a particular production or issue deserving national attention.

WEB-BASED DISTRIBUTION

In July, 2005, Pacifica added a Web-based system in addition to satellite distribution. The content-sharing website, Audioport.org, introduced an interactive distribution platform that enables radio producers to download content for broadcast and self-upload content for syndication, and provides space on Pacifica’s server for storing and sharing content privately online. The website also streams the KU satellite and archives its content in real time, making full distribution services available from Pacifica to any station without satellite technology.

Pacifica’s Audioport.org was first envisioned by Norm Stockwell of WORT and was built by Pacifica.org Project Manager Pete Korakis and Shawn Ewald, contractor for Pacifica and creator of Radioforall.org software. In 2005, it represented a technical breakthrough in network content distribution and it anticipated the development of both Creative Commons Licensing and Cloudsourcing technology.

Audioport.org permanently altered Pacifica’s role from being primarily a content supplier, to being a facilitator of content exchanges between many media groups, including Pacifica stations, Pacifica National, affiliate stations, and independent production groups. With the creation of Audioport.org, Pacifica Network became visible, and the new internet technology enabled the network to interact and develop rapidly. Pacifica was able to leverage the talents of many in the network to access an ever-expanding pool of radio content.

AFFILIATE TASK FORCE

In 2004, an Affiliates Task Force was formed by the Pacifica National Board. In 2010, the Task Force defined itself in the following ways:

Mission: Consistent with the Pacifica Mission, the Task Force’s mission is to facilitate communications between all parties within Pacifica and the Pacifica Affiliate Network; and to advance the practice and pursuit of sustaining and expanding grassroots community radio.  The Task Force shall strive to increase the capacity of the Pacifica Affiliate Network through an exploration of mutual benefits: by working together, sharing programming, resources, information and economic stability.

Goals: The Affiliates Task Force focuses on understanding, communication, and expansion of the Pacifica Affiliates Program. It shall be an advisory group to the Affiliates Coordinator, the two elected Affiliate Directors and to support Pacifica’s Affiliates Program. The Task Force is unique because it includes Pacifica’s clients (Affiliates) as well as Pacifica. This is due to the fact that the Affiliates are not only clients receiving services from Pacifica, but also partners in collaboration in the democratic media movement.

Membership: Anyone from an Affiliate station or Pacifica’s Network is welcome to participate in the Task Force, as long as they follow the four principles stated below:

1) Participants respect the responsibilities and authority of affiliates’ General Managers in their contractual and financial relationships with Pacifica Foundation.

2) Participants respect the responsibilities and authority of Pacifica staff in their contractual and financial relationships with Affiliate station.

3) Participants respect the responsibilities and authority of members of the Pacifica National Board.

4) Pacifica staff and board members (and affiliate general managers if they are involved) respect the right and responsibility of the Task Force to organize itself as it sees fit to be most effective and to make recommendations as an advisory body.