This year it was a pleasure and an honor for the Pacifica Affiliate Network to co-host the 16th annual Grassroots Radio Conference on August 14 – 17, 2014. The Grassroots Radio Conference (GRC) is an annual conference for community radio workers, intended to support the community-based nature of their medium and further its development. The conference does not have a central organization; rather, it is a tradition that relies on community radio stations to volunteer as hosts and local organizers upon their own initiative.
The Pacifica Affiliate Network has a historical connection and appreciation for the GRC; when the Pacifica Affiliate program was rebuilt between 2002 – 2004, the conference provided the primary venue for discussion and leadership that laid the groundwork for the new affiliate program’s success. Over the years, the conference and its participants have remained a touchstone for the affiliates program.
Thus, in the spring of 2014, when it appeared that the conference might not be held for a second year in a row, it was the Pacifica staff who saw fit to give back by carrying the baton and revitalizing this community radio tradition. Pacifica co-hosted the conference with KHOI Community Radio in Ames, Iowa. Ursula Ruedenberg, manager of the Pacifica Affiliate Network, is also the volunteer station manager of KHOI 89.1 FM, whose second anniversary for on-air broadcasting was August 15. Several key figures in community radio heeded the call of GRC and traveled far and wide to aid in organizing the conference. Donna DiBianco of Santa Fe, Tom Voorhees of Seattle, Behr of KMUD in Redway, CA, and Betty McArdle of Brown Broadcasting in Portland, OR were all crucial elements in hosting the GRC.
150 people attended the conference. Nautel, a transmitter company from Nova Scotia and broadcast equipment company SCMS sponsored the conference. Both were present at the conference. Austin Airwaves, a Texas-based education and community media advocacy organization, also helped sponsor the event.
Keynote speakers were renowned journalist David Barsamian, author and host of the independent radio show Alternative Radio, and Johnathan Buffalo, historian for the Meskwaki nation, who opened the conference by providing a brief history of the region and traditional food offering. Native DJ Jerome Edge from KSVR, Mt Vernon WA, brought a gift made by his grandmother and presented it to Mr. Buffalo at the opening ceremony, and local KHOI producer Pat Schlarbaum presented Mr. Buffalo with a blanket. During the opening ceremonies, many stations planted homemade flags for their stations on stage to music spun by Hip Hop DJ Alisha B from KGNU, Denver.
The conference featured approximately 40 workshops with topics ranging from online security protection, to emergency response broadcasting, to production skills, fund-raising, leadership and interpersonal relations in organizations. There were also approximately 10 hands-on training labs, ranging from news production to audio editing to interpersonal problem-solving in organizations. A complete list of workshops and presenters can be found at http://www.grc2014.net.
A ground-breaking all-day intensive was held for more than 50 conference-goers from organizations that are building low-power radio stations. These newcomers are making up a new wave of community radio stations in the wake of the recent FCC filing window for LPFMs.
Another GRC first occurred with the Hip Hop Summit that brought together community radio hip hop producers and DJs – rural and urban – from around the country, representing a wide diversity of ethnic backgrounds and ages. Stations represented spanned from WMMT in Whitesburg, KY (Appalshop), to KGNU in Denver, CO, to KBOO in Portland, OR, among many others. Participants in the Hip Hop Summit also performed for conference-goers one evening, held a special 4-hour broadcast, and made significant inroads in their outreach to explicitly introduce hip hop to community radio as a viable and positive art form. They established the GRC Hip Hop Radio Union to further this effort nationally and to build a GRC hip hop, youth, and diversity contingent. Visit their site at https://www.facebook.com/GRCRHHUnion
Pacifica staff members Otis Maclay, Ursula Ruedenberg, and Matt Hurley led a Pacifica Affiliates meeting and a workshop to discuss initiatives in services including a group underwriting project as a new revenue source and Otis Maclay’s comprehensive Internet package that includes software for stations to stream, archive their shows online, make music reports to Sound Exchange, and manage on-air fund drives. During the Pacifica Affiliates meeting, discussion centered mostly on improving communication methods, both in the area of administrative / news announcements and communication regarding operations and technology. It was requested that the Pacifica Affiliate Network staff hold regular conference calls for internal communication in the network. David Klann from WDRT in Viroqua, WI offered to work with Otis Maclay to utilize new technologies for efficient communications regarding operations.
The GRC 2014 was held in KHOI’s historic station building and in The Octagon Center for the Arts, a community art center directly across the street. A local volunteer-based food pantry provided meals in a church dining hall nearby. Local residents provided housing, camping areas, and bicycles to conference-goers. A nearby church also provided space for conference-goers to sleep on cots provided by Red Cross. Activities and entertainment included a street dinner party (complete with Iowa sweet corn, welcoming remarks from the Mayor and a ukulele band), a block party with local micro-brewers and restaurants offering samples, and a variety of nature trips in the surrounding area. The conference ended with an after-party in a nearby wine bar. A local restaurant provided pizza, using a movable brick oven that was parked in front of the wine bar. A silent auction was organized by Pacifica Affiliates Task Force member Teresa Allen with two local KHOI volunteers, auctioning off donated items received from around the country. This fundraiser–culminated at the after-party–raised $1,000.00 for KHOI.