Programming is the heart of what makes community radio great. While the engineering, fundraising, and governing of your station are key elements to running a station, the programming is what defines your radio station. Your programming is the public face of your station and you have to decide what kind of music, news, public affairs, radio dramas and more that you want to broadcast over the airwaves.
Organizing Your Programming
Radio is notorious for its strong personalities, and managing these individuals into non-overlapping timeslots is inevitably challenging. To avoid the personal conflicts that limited timeslots and strong personalities ensure, it is important to have a transparent decision making process and a clear set of expectations for programmers. Having a strict programming policy is not necessary when you first start your station, but having these rules becomes increasingly important as your station acquires more local programmers. Different stations have come up with strategies and policies to organize their programming, train new programmers and arrange their schedules to maximize listenership. Also, there are trainings and processes to help DJs, hosts and producers improve their programming. Stay tuned for some of these resources which we will have up on the website soon.
News and Public Affairs/Journalism Resources
Part of running a successful community radio station is featuring locally produced news and public affairs programming. While there is a general aggreement that this kind of programming makes for a good radio station, there is often a lack of capacity or training to help community station people produce this kind of programming. Thanks to all the great news and public affairs departments out there we have numerous community journalism resources out there as well as training materials. Stay tuned for some of these resources which we will have up on the website soon.
Many of the stations we collaborate with broadcast creative innovative programming. “Recovery Radio” in Philadelphia features programs produced by and for people struggling with issues of addiction and substance abuse. Radio Conciencia in Immokalee Florida and Radio Movimimiento in Woodburn, Oregon broadcast programs about farmworkers rights and information about fighting abuses at work. “We Are Your Radio” in South Arundel, Maryland features a women’s roundtable with discussions about the various issues affecting their lives. WMMT in Whitesburg, Kentucky features “Holla to the Hood,” a program that brings the voices of prisoners’ families to the airwaves. These programs are just the tip of the iceberg and we recommend reading articles in our news archive to find out about other stations that you may want to model your programming off of.
Syndicated Programming – Networks
There are lots of great programs out there that are nationally or internationally syndicated. Your station may want to join a network that distributes some of these programs.
Pacifica Radio is a listener supported community radio network of commercial free stations that serve their local communities and beyond. Pacifica is KPFA in Berkeley, CA; KPFK in Los Angeles, CA; KPFT in Houston, TX; WBAI in New York, NY; WPFW in Washington DC; and over 100 affiliate stations.
Two of the most popular Pacifica distributed programs are Democracy Now! a daily news program hosted by award winning journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales and Free Speech Radio News, a daily grassroots news program produced by reporters all across the globe.
Radio Bilingüe is a non-profit radio network with Latino control and leadership, is the only national distributor of Spanish-language programming in public radio. This satellite network was formed to provide stations with news, information, and cultural programming in Spanish and musical programs showcasing a variety of Latino formats with emphasis on Mexican folk and Afro-Caribbean rhythms. Satélite Radio Bilingüe builds on Radio Bilingüe’s decades-old tradition of talk programs, special events coverage and its flagship news service, Noticiero Latino, for stations across the United States, Puerto Rico and Mexico.
Public Radio Exchange is an online marketplace for distribution, review, and licensing of public radio programming. PRX is also a growing social network and community of listeners, producers, and stations collaborating to reshape public radio. The mission of PRX is to create more opportunities for diverse programming of exceptional quality, interest, and importance to reach more listeners.
Syndicated Programming – Shows
Three of the most popular progressive nationally syndicated shows aired by community radio stations are Democracy Now!, Making Contact, and Free Speech Radio News. They offer their shows at a sliding scale rate. Here’s what their websites say about how you can air these shows on your local station:
Democracy Now: Democracy Now! offers the program to new stations FREE for a no-obligation trial period of
ONE YEAR. After that, we encourage new stations to affiliate with Pacifica Radio, but the
program is also available directly from Democracy Now! The costs are identical and are
calculated using a sliding scale based on the station’s budget. Fees are negotiable and can
be waived on a case by case basis.
Making Contact: Making Contact is FREE, but please consider a donation to help with costs.
Free Speech Radio News: If your local station isn’t carrying the show, please call and encourage them to do so. Have them contact Alan Searle at admin[at]fsrn.org for more information.