Isn't WBEZ Public Radio?

Posted by Mitchell - May 3, 2004 (entry 175)

This article originally aired in the May 2004 issue of Conscious Choice magazine.

RADIO NEWS program Democracy Now! has earned an international following for covering news that mainstream media avoid. Produced in New York City with host Amy Goodman, the show airs on some 200 North American radio stations, including 20 NPR stations.

But Chicago’s NPR affiliate, WBEZ 91.5 FM has not been one of them, despite a call-in campaign of as many as 150 people (with support from Chicago Media Action and the Kucinich campaign) that lobbied for its airing last December. WBEZ’s program manager Ron Jones said he would listen to the show and give thought to adding it to the station’s lineup.

Yet in an interview with Conscious Choice, Jones gave no indication that he’s ready to bring on Democracy Now! any time soon, saying he’s satisfied with the current WBEZ lineup that, “performs very well” from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. “If I’m a responsible program manager, I need to be pretty certain that a new program will perform as well or better than the program I replace.”

Democracy Now! outreach director Dennis Moynihan says that the program does very well in terms of increasing stations’ funding, donors and listeners (an excellent prognosis to a public station). Nonetheless, he says he’s found public radio program managers, “very risk averse in not wanting to alter their programming even when there’s a tremendous public demand for [Democracy Now!].”

While public station listeners in other cities have gone so far as to withhold their membership contributions until a program manager reconsiders, Moynihan says he doesn’t actively encourage boycotts “unless people have no choice but to respond that way.”

It’ll be interesting to see what the next step in the campaign will be. If you’re interested, contact Chicago Media Action at 866-260-7198 or www.chicagomediaaction.org.

For now, Northeastern Illinois University’s WZRD 88.3 FM airs Democracy Now! but its weak signal cannot be heard in many parts of Chicagoland. The program can also be streamed live via the Internet at www.democracynow.org. — Rebecca Ephraim

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