21 October 2010

All Pledge Drive All the Time

When this edition of Words on Books first hits the airwaves, on Sunday morning, sandwiched between Oak & Thorn and This American Life, you will have experienced nine days of our Fall Pledge Drive.

We’ve been barking at you, pleading, joking, and otherwise encouraging you to make a move on your wallet and give us a call. At this point maybe it’s time to step back and consider why we go through this exercise two or more times a year.

KZYX runs on a model first successfully used by the listener-supported Pacifica Foundation in the years following World War II. It worked then, and it works now.

Pacifica’s goals have always been “to encourage and provide outlets for the creative skills and energies of the community,” “to contribute to a lasting understanding between nations and between the individuals of all nations, races, creeds and colors” and “to promote the full distribution of public information.”

It’s startling to many listeners to discover a radio station that is owned, administered and paid for by the listeners themselves. That is what Pacifica does, and that’s what we do here. It’s true democracy in action, and that always has been our goal – to free at least one radio frequency from the almighty advertising dollar by depending instead on the free will donations of people who find freedom of the airwaves important in their lives, and important for their community.

KZYX has a different history from Pacifica – we’re much younger, for one thing. This station began to take shape more than 20 years ago when community radio enthusiast Sean Donovan arrived here to beat the Mendocino bushes for the earliest supporters of Mendocino Public Radio.

Pacifica began in 1946 when Lewis Hill, a conscientious objector, and his like-minded friends founded that educational, non-profit organization. Three years later they went live and Berkeley station KPFA hit the air. That single station, not without many difficulties, grew and the idea spread. Right now, there are about 100 stations affiliated with Pacifica, and many more that broadcast Pacifica-based productions including such great ones as Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now.

Excellent as Pacifica is, we do things differently here. On our web site you can find this: “We are a hybrid of sorts... we are not just community radio (radio that encourages volunteer programmers and focuses almost singularly on locally relevant news and information) nor are we just public radio (professionally produced commercial free radio). Instead we are a combination of the two: we feature some of the finest Public Radio programs available and we have over 100 local volunteer programmers.”

That unusual combination – Pacifica style and National Public Radio style – sets this station apart from most others; certainly apart from Jefferson Public Radio to the north, which steers away from controversy, offers no local news and minimal local programming. To top that off, they repeat many shows rather than use available hours for additional programming.

In light of commercial radio, and unsatisfactory Public Radio, we have managed to create something here that is precious, and like many precious things, something fragile, too. We don’t depend on grants, although government money helps. We pay the bills the same way you pay yours – by digging deep, asking for help when we really need it, and economizing everywhere.

The physical plant is a joke – in the sense that pros from larger stations can’t help but chuckle when they contemplate how we work with aging equipment, tangled wires and a distinct lack of sleek offices to impress — who?

Yet you know we make it work. We succeed because you give a damn about radio in general, and this station in particular.

Finally, let me tell you a true story. I have a friend who doesn’t listen to us much any more because the radio in her car broke several months ago and she can’t afford to replace it.

She told me this week she is giving KZYX a donation to help us carry on. I don’t know how to characterize that kind of generosity, but I sure know how to appreciate it.

As the Fall Pledge Drive comes to a conclusion, and afterward, it’s a very good time for you to add something to what you’ve already given. If you haven’t joined and pledged yet, this is your moment. Let us hear from you.

The Pacifica mission statement.

troth [trawth, trohth] -noun 1. faithfulness, fidelity, or loyalty: by my troth. 2. truth or verity: in troth. 3. one's word or promise, esp. in engaging oneself to marry.

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