With the closure of Free Speech Radio News this past Friday, Pacifica stations and some 100 community radio affiliates are left with a half-hour hole in their schedules. This weekend Pacifica announced that beginning today the network will be carrying a half-hour broadcast of Feature Story News where FSRN used to be.
For some community radio folks this may sound familiar. That’s because back in 2000 and 2001 Pacifica came in for criticism for using FSN reports in its Pacifica Network News in the midst of a labor battle with freelance reporters, who would go on to create FSRN. The primary concerns raised at the time were that FSN was a non-union news agency–FSRN is worker-owned collective–and that it provided reportage to the Voice of America and other mainstream outlets of the sort to which Pacifica historically provided a critical alternative.
However, this time around circumstances are different, and there appears to be significantly less acrimony around Pacifica’s carriage of FSN.
In a statement, the FSRN Board of Directors said,
“Free Speech Radio News recognizes that Pacifica affiliate stations need up-to-date news coverage to serve their audience, and we are pleased that stations will not be left in the lurch. Feature Story News will provide a distinctly different product than the progressive, grassroots newscast produced by Free Speech Radio News, but we do hope that the one month service will cover stations’ immediate needs. Pacifica has publicly reiterated its intent to honor its debt obligations to FSRN as quickly as possible, and FSRN hopes to be positioned to provide quality content in the near future.”
Pacifica Executive Director Summer Reese echoed the conciliatory tone, as quoted in Pacifica’s release, she said “I am very pleased to be able to offer our affiliated stations an option to continue daily 30-minute international newscasts as we continue to work with Free Speech Radio News to find a way to relaunch the program on a firmer financial footing.”
Pacifica highlights the involvement of FSRN DC editor Alice Ollstein as a featured contributor for FSN “on a temporary, contract basis,” while also noting that she is “actively working with the Free Speech Radio News collective on a path forward for the organization.”
Pacifica says that “additional options for the delivery of a complimentary daily 30-minute news module are also being explored,” so there may be more choices for Pacifica affiliates in the near future.
I have contacted a number of FSRN affiliates to ask if any of these stations will be carrying FSN or if they have other plans to fill the gap. So far I have only heard from Kristin Sumrall, program director at WCBN-FM in Ann Arbor, MI, who said that they had never heard of FSN before, and they won’t be carrying it. While the station was sad to see FSNR end, she did say that “in some ways it has given WCBN renewed enthusiasm for creating its own in-house public affairs and/or news programs.” In the meantime the station will fill the old FSRN slot with regular freeform programming.
Feature Story News calls itself “the world’s leading independent broadcast news agency,” with nine bureaus in places like Washington, Beijing and Moscow. It offers anchored newscasts that it advertises “for use by Low Powered FM, Restricted Service Licence, Community and Online Radio stations.” Amongst its TV affiliates FSN lists the PBS News Hour, Fox News Channel, South African Broadcasting Corporation, Mediacorp News of Singapore, as well as Voice of America.
To get a taste of FSN World News you can listen to headlines over the phone with AudioNow at 202–478–9785 or download FSN’s World News Podcast (MP3). Update 3:17 PM PDT- FSN President Simon Marks tweeted out a link to hear the new program, called FSN Reports – download the MP3.
We would like to hear from other Free Speech Radio News affiliates about what your station’s plans are to fill the hole left behind with the program’s closure. Please leave a comment or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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