It’s been too long since we’ve checked in with Free Speech Radio News. First things first: since returning to regular production a year ago, FSRN now creates daily news segments that are posted online and aired by community radio affiliate stations, and added a half-hour weekly edition last May. This is a good thing for community radio and listeners who crave thoughtful grassroots reporting.
A non-profit radio news collective, FSRN produced the only independent daily newscast for community radio stations beginning in 2000. In fact, the organization just celebrated the 15th anniversary of its first broadcast on February 11, 2000.
In 2002 the program joined the Pacifica Network, which helped to finance its operations. However, due to $200,000 in delinquent payments from Pacifica–a result of the network’s larger financial troubles–FSRN suspended daily production in September 2013.
From November 2013 to October 2014 former FSRN affiliates had the option to carry a daily news program called FSN Reports, through a deal brokered by Pacifica. FSN was produced by Feature Story News, a service that provides headline updates and news packages to commercial and noncommercial TV and radio stations around the world. When FSN Reports was first announced, FSN president Simon Marks said that the purpose was to provide a news service to stations while FSRN remained unavailable, not to become a permanent replacement. Then, when the program was discontinued last October, FSN’s Director of Business Development told Radio Survivor that despite being “a labor of love,” the daily show was “not making what it costs to produce.”
At this time there still is no truly independent magazine-style daily news program for community radio in the US. Throughout its history FSRN has always been grassroots, highlighting less represented voices and perspectives and turning to journalists from the communities they report from, all consistent with the overall ethos of community radio. Its absence as a daily half-hour remains keenly felt.
That said, FSRN has retooled and come a long way in the last year. If you used to be an FSRN listener then you should definitely tune back in. If you never heard the program before, now is a good time to listen. All their segments and programs are available as podcasts and as online streams. FSRN reporters have also been producing photo essays to accompany some stories.
More than ever before FSRN depends on listener donations to survive, thrive, and maybe become a daily show once again.