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It is the radio, stupid. An incredible amount of progressive activism is undone every day by a few hundred idiots and liars on 1500 radio stations.

“The original social media was the community radio station. People love this station. They tune in all day. Why change something that’s working?” said Terryll Evans, owner of WPTL. “When we acquired the FM frequency, it allowed us to expand more into the county. We’re broadcasting more sports and more music, expanding our online streaming and mobile app, too — we’re not just a Canton station, we’re a Haywood County station wholeheartedly.” 

Only the second owners of WPTL in its long and storied history, Evans’ father purchased the station in 1978, ultimately relocating Terryll and her family from Florida to Western North Carolina the following year. 

“If this station disappeared, I think you’d lose a lot — local sports, connectivity, knowing what’s going on in your town,” Evans said. “This station is part of everyone’s life here. We don’t even know who we’re touching out there while we’re on-air. And that’s what I love about it — we stay true to our roots.” 

Rasi FM founder Latief Rochyana said that in the early stage of the COVID-19 outbreak, misinformation and hoaxes flooded the social media and the confused residents were worried about where to get the truth.

"There are massive amounts of COVID-19 information. Rasi FM has helped with sharing useful information and verify some unverified information," Rochyana told Xinhua on Saturday.

Rasi FM has been creative in its approach. There was a moment when a Rasi FM presenter inserted COVID-19 facts between music intervals from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. local time. The presenter explained the basic things such as what COVID-19 is, how dangerous it is and how to prevent infections.

Another job the community radio has done is the program called the public service advertisements or ILM which lasts one to two minutes. This program, produced by the Indonesian community radio network, JRKI, has campaigned about keeping social distance, using face masks and washing hands with soap.

Occasionally, Rasi FM broadcasts talk-shows by bringing such competent speakers as medical experts and police officers to the audience.

Recently, Rasi FM collaborated with secondary schools and training institutions to broadcast educational materials when some residents could not join remote learning activities due to internet connection failures.

All of the programs at Rasi FM are run by 15 people and all local residents who have jobs ranging from farmers to motorcycle taxi drivers.

"Here, ojek (motorcycle taxi) drivers operate only during the day. At night they can broadcast on the radio," said Rochyana.

"A lot of information in the community wasn't shared with most Latinos. So Adan Ramirez thought he would start a non-profit community radio, to where the community would be owners of the radio station," Damien David Rodriguez, Public Relations Manager of La Voz radio station, said.

But the process to get the station started wasn't easy. With hardly any funds, they had to figure out a way to raise $25,000 to purchase the equipment and license they needed to get started.

"We started to create events. We hosted parties to raise $25,000. We sold food. We did everything possible, even yard sales, and thankfully we were able to raise the $25,000. Another non-profit called ICAN put in more money, and that's how we were able to buy everything," Ruben Bautista, President of La Voz radio station, said.

Broadcasts on everything from cyclone warnings to making jewelry from seashells help Pamban islanders stay resilient in the face of climate change impacts

“With being a broadcaster, you’re producing your radio show,” Montalvo said. “You’re presenting a perspective. You might be talking about the artist or the type of music. And so, you are interacting as a broadcaster presenting information and enlightening.”

By listening to Radio Patria and specifically “Dimenciones,” people are exposed to new music and different cultures. In addition, listeners are given a glimpse into the history of the music being played.

“It presents a contrast from popular culture,” Montalvo said. “If you are Latino, or even if you are not Latino, it exposes you to a variety of different musicians — their styles, their history and their impact on American culture. There’s a lot to learn. I always say jokingly that ‘I got my Ph.D. in ethnomusicology at WHRW’ because you get exposed to so much different music.”

As part of the 2020 Grassroots Radio Conference, we presented a live radio show during the event, which aired over host station ARTxFM’s (WXOX-LP) FM signal in Louisville, Kentucky as well as over the internet. The topic of our discussion is community radio and protests.

ARTxFM host and producer Tia Marie and Xray.fm Talk Content Coordinator Miranda Selinger are our guests. The conversation focuses on how each of their respective stations are responding to protests and racial justice actions in their communities during a pandemic. Tia Marie produced WXOX-LP’s “Justice for Breonna” nationwide simulcast in honor of the memory of Louisville resident Breonna Taylor and explains how important it was for their station to acknowledge the black women who have been killed by police. Xray.fm has also been producing more local news from its home in Portland, Oregon, which has been especially active with racial justice protests. Selinger shares the station’s work in developing a daily news show as well as its partnership with local station The Numberz.

“The talk show enables two-way knowledge sharing and helps to address the issues of violence. Communities are now able to hold authorities accountable for anti-social activities during the lockdown. Also, the wider community is being reached in accordance with WHO guidelines and government measures for COVID-19,” she adds.

In a place where local news is otherwise a once-weekly paper or a conversation at the post office or local market, the radio station has long been a trusted source of knowledge when emergencies hit.

To build on this success, though, localities need to prioritize PEG when they give cable companies franchises, and when they renew them. They need to build PEG expertise not only into crisis planning, but into the daily information flow of the community. And we all need broadband policies that treat broadband like the essential utility service it really is.