KPFA: America’s First Listener Sponsored Radio Station Celebrates 75 Years

KPFA-Pacifica in Berkeley California turned 75 on April 15, 2024. This date also marked the 75th anniversary for Pacifica Foundation.  In 1949, Pacifica Foundation was created as the nonprofit license holder for KPFA-Berkeley, its first radio station. With KPFA’s origin, the concept and blueprint for community radio in the United States was launched, starting a whole new exercise of free media for American democracy.

KPFA in Berkely, CA

KPFA broadcasts on 94.1 FM and KPFB 89.3 FM, in the Bay Area and KFCF 88.1 FM, Fresno, California.  Locally, KPFA has enjoyed 75 years of mutual support with Berkeley, its City of Liscense. Berkeley has continually shown appreciation and support for its historic local radio station. This year – in 2024 – the city of Berkeley has officially designated April 15th to be KPFA Day. Jesse Arreguín, Mayor of the City of Berkeley, issued the following proclamation:


WHEREAS,   KPFA-FM Radio is celebrating its 75th Anniversary, having been founded on April 15, 1949; and

WHEREAS,   KPFA has served Alameda County and the City of Berkeley by broadcasting programs that enrich our understanding of the cultural and political issues that face us; and

WHEREAS,   KPFA’s mission includes encouraging cultural diversity and pluralistic community expression, contributing to a lasting understanding between individuals of all nations, races, creeds, and colors, promoting freedom of the press and serving as a platform for various points of view; and

WHEREAS,   the people of Alameda County and the City of Berkeley benefit enormously from the programs that air on KPFA because it is listener-sponsored and does not accept corporate money, and because it provides information not available elsewhere in alignment with KPFA’s slogan “Vigilant as Always.”

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that I, Jesse Arreguín, Mayor of the City of Berkeley, do hereby declare April 15, 2024, to be KPFA Day in the City of Berkeley with heartfelt congratulations for its 75 years of creative cultural and educational contributions to our community.

KPFA also enjoys a long-standing partnership with its listeners in the Bay Area, who have supported it. This year, KPFA pitched on the air for one day on its anniversary and received 150% of its fundraising goal. “That expresses how much our listeners love KPFA and Pacifica,” said Darlene Pagano, who is a member of KPFA’s local board and Pacifica’s national board of directors.

Lewis Hill, co-founder of Pacifica Radio

KPFA is solely supported by donations from listeners and like-minded foundations. The majority of the staff are unpaid community volunteers who donate their time and energy to produce programming. KPFA’s management issued the following statement:

KPFA’s 75th Birthday is not just a commemoration; it reaffirms our enduring mission and the deep connections we’ve forged with our listeners. Our rich history as the nation’s first listener-supported radio station, founded by visionary Lew Hill, has been unwavering in our commitment to broadcasting ideas freely, without fear or favor. This legacy, shaped by our listener-only support, inspires, and excites us. From April 15th, 1949, to today, we’ve forged deep connections with our listeners…For 75 years, KPFA has featured progressive voices and heroes who presented their initiatives and spoke truth to power. Today, our ultimate goal is strengthening KPFA’s partnership with its listeners and like-minded supporters. In the next 75 years, we will continue providing thought-provoking, fact-based information to encourage positive social change.

KPFA street broadcast

Pacifica Foundation founded the concept of community radio in the United States when it created KPFA in 1949 in Berkeley as a visionary alternative to commercially driven media. It was specifically created as a space for free speech, cutting edge uncensored and news-breaking journalism, artistic innovation, and pioneering listener-sponsorship.

The founders – most notably the poet and journalist Lewis Hill – were part of a group of pacifists who were interned as conscientious objectors during World War Two. Their goal was to promote peace and justice through communication between all races, nationalities, and cultures, and to promote democracy through public discourse and the promotion of culture. Unbeholden to commercial or governmental interests, they recognized the use of the airwaves as a public trust.

Over the years, Pacifica Radio continues to break news, introduce new artists and voices to the air, raise local voices to the international platform, and give voice to the voiceless. On April 1st, 2024, the online newspaper, Berkeleyside, published a history of KPFA’s history titled: The truth is always left of center’: Berkeley’s KPFA celebrates 75years of listener-supported radio. It’s well worth reading – a colorful story of real American First Amendment media!

Today, Pacifica owns WBAI in New York City, WPFW in Washington DC, KPFT in Houston Texas, KPFK in Los Angeles, and KPFA in the San Francisco Bay Area and the renowned Pacifica Radio Archives. Today Pacifica has a network of approximately 200 affiliates, who are independent community radio stations emulating the concepts founded by KPFA in 1949.