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A Sad Goodbye to Free Speech Radio News

The long-running independent community radio news program Free Speech Radio News announced this week that its last edition will be broadcast on April 28. In a press release, the collective cites a decline in distribution and inability to find a “firm financial footing,” as causes for the closure.

Born from the labor of freelance reporters on strike from Pacifica Network News in 2000, FSRN has provided some of the most consistent grassroots radio news coverage for seventeen years. Two years after its founding FSRN joined back with Pacifica, effectively becoming its flagship daily half-hour national news magazine, syndicated to over a hundred stations.

FSRN remained with Pacifica until September 2013, when the network fell into serious arrears to the news collective, owing about $198,000. At that point FSRN announced that it would close at the end of the month.

Four months later, in Feburary 2014, thanks to listener donations that also included one major funder, the organization resumed independent production, posting daily updates to its website. Then, in May of that year, FSRN Weekly Edition launched, delivering a 29-minute news round-up to dozens of affiliates.

The loss of Free Speech Radio News is truly tragic. It’s unfortunate that community radio stations do not have the collective resources to come together and support such an effort. FSRN has been dedicated to truly grassroots reporting that emphasizes local voices on the ground, with a focus on social justice. The organization’s reporting stands as a strong compliment to community radio stalwarts like “Democracy Now!” by presenting an even more diverse array of voices and stories.

I have and will always admire the work that the staff of FSRN has accomplished, building an international news organization out of a difficult conflict at Pacifica, delivering something that was better and more aligned with the values of community radio—in my opinion—than the program it replaced.

I wish there were a community radio organization, other than Pacifica, that had the resources necessary to support a national program like Free Speech Radio News. I don’t say this to malign Pacifica unfairly. Rather, it’s just an acknowledgement that community radio’s over-reliance on one still-too-centralized and often embattled organization continues to be an achilles heel when it comes to national and international reporting that stands apart from the public radio establishment.

My sincere gratitude goes out to all of the Free Speech Radio News collective members and contributors, past and present.

Here is the full press release:

For Immediate Release
April 19, 2017
Free Speech Radio News to shut down
Long a go-to news source for community and independent radio stations across the country, FSRN will publish the final Weekly Edition April 28th, 2017.
For seventeen years, in partnership with hundreds of reporters in communities across the country and around the globe, FSRN has broadcast stories documenting wrongdoing, repression and corruption and highlighting the individuals, campaigns and movements working to bring about a more just and equitable society.
After more than a decade as a daily newscast carried on more than 100 stations across the U.S., in 2014 FSRN retooled and relaunched as FSRN Weekly Edition. For three years, the independent media outlet provided news segments to affiliate stations each weekday, and published a 29-minute compilation each Friday that was broadcast on dozens of U.S. radio stations and online.
With social media algorithms deprioritizing audio content, distribution has declined dramatically. Despite funding from individual supporters and the radio stations that carried our content, FSRN Weekly Edition has not been successful finding firm financial footing.
A project to archive FSRN’s content is underway, to ensure all the work that FSRN has published over the years remains available and accessible in the future.
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