Community radio stations will continue to have an option for a daily half-hour news broadcast while they wait for a possible return of Free Speech Radio News.
The Pacifica Network and the National Federation of Community Broadcasters have reached an agreement with Feature Story News to offer its 6 week-old daily news program FSN Reports to member stations on an ongoing basis. The half-hour show, which first broadcast September 30, was originally offered on a 1-month trial basis to stations left with a hole in their schedule due to the closure of long-running Free Speech Radio News, which had its last broadcast September 27.
Beginning November 18 FSN Reports will no longer be available for free to stations. FSN will offer the program for a subscription fee of $200 per month. This gives stations the right to broadcast FSN Reports on-air or online, or to edit out segments to incorporate into locally produced programs.
Free Speech Radio News ended production of its daily half-hour newscast due to a budget deficit of $200,000 primarily made up of $198,000 owed by Pacifica for carriage fees. Pacifica offered FSRN to affiliate community stations via its satellite and online distribution network alongside other national programs like Democracy Now, which is also owed money from Pacifica. The vast majority of stations airing FSRN received the program through their Pacifica affiliation, rather than through direct payment to FSRN, which made the program particularly vulnerable to Pacifica’s cash-flow issues.
However, FSRN may return to air in early 2014. At the end of October the FSRN board of directors announced that a major donor agreed to provide seed funding “to help defray the costs of sustainably restructuring our business.” Because the organization is looking to diversity its funding base and be less dependent on a single source like Pacifica, the donor has placed a contingency that affiliate stations should pay directly for FSRN.
FSRN has published the carriage fees at its website and is seeking commitments from stations to help the organization resume production. Stations would pay on a sliding scale based upon total station revenue, which is a standard pricing schema in noncommercial radio. The lowest tier of stations–with revenues of $50,000 to $100,000 annually–would be eligible to broadcast FSRN once a day starting at $750 a year, while more affluent stations would be asked to contribute more. Fees for stations with annual revenues under $50,000 are negotiable.
In an announcement sent to NFCB member stations, FSN president Simon Marks said “we have crafted these arrangements carefully so that they do not interfere with the retooling of Free Speech Radio News and its anticipated and welcome return to the air.”