Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 139 | Abril 1993


Latin America

Community Media in Neoliberal Times

José Ignacio López Vigil, Latin America's representative to the World Association of Community Radios, offered the following reflections on the challenges to the alternative media in these new times at an assembly of that organization held in Oaxtepen, Mexico, in August 1992.

José Ignacio López Vigil

Some have already broken the seventh seal. Without waiting for angels or trumpets, Fukuyama and the neoliberal prophets have declared the end of history. Social models are finished, and politics too. Only economics remains, with its inexorable flows of supply and demand. A First World remains, playing alone on the court. It's no longer enough to be first; now it wants to be the Only World.

The Second World exhausted itself. The Third World is one too many. End of the World, of utopia, of a New World. Will they believe it more than we do? The certainty is only that many have lived these past few years as a kind of ideological apocalypse. What lasted? What remained standing? The tumbling down of the East's walls revealed even more sturdy walls between the impoverished South and the impoverishing North.

But this is the world we live in. A greedy world that wants to make all cultures the same, but not all pockets. An absurd world that has known how to grasp the sound of the Big Bang, which happened 15 billion years ago, but can't hear the desperate shout of its fellow human beings, of the 40,000 children who die of hunger each day.

A nocturnal era, as Neruda would say. But there is no other. We can't be transmitting our messages from the rings of Saturn. It's in the here and now that we must be doing community radio.

It's in this crushing neoliberal world where we must build democratic radio. To learn to build it. Because in view of what has occurred, and with the millennium about to make its debut, many things need to be rethought. We need to let our imaginations flow.

We have to invent. Invent here, in Latin America. And do it some more in Africa, in Europe, in all the countries and continents. No one has any recipes. The ideas tracked from Latin America are useful, but as roadsigns on a new, very experimental route for all of us.

When we speak of communication, we always turn to the old scheme, as simplistic as it is top down, of transmitter message receiver. It's of no interest to debate that scheme now, only to use it to offer three suggestions about it in an ordered fashion.

Quality of the Station

The market has been raised up as a god. And it has proclaimed its law, its only commandment: Thou shalt compete freely. May the best one win. Everybody for themselves.

This neoliberal logic obliges us to create quality radio programs. High quality programs. If we don't win on the quality point, they throw us out of the game. We must ask ourselves: Have the programs of our centers and stations been on the air for their quality or for their subsidies? Or said negatively: if our subsidies were taken away, would our stations survive the competition with commercial radio?
The subsidies have had two main sources: cooperation agencies and the state. There's no merit to discussing the agencies' excellent desire or the state's duty to favor community media. The problem is in us. We're accustomed to receiving it and not to producing it. The money isn't related to the quality of the programs. And many radio producers have been generating a sloppy psychology, the castrated imagination of a "daddy's boy."
I'm not saying don't send projects to the agencies, particularly not to Third World stations. As long as we can recover a little of what the First World owes us, so much the better. But the agencies are cutting back their help, or giving priority to areas other than communication. Likewise, states are shrinking. Their businesses are being privatized. We can't rest our budgets forever on what comes from outside or above.

In the concentration camps, facing the barbarisms the Nazis committed, which he himself suffered, Bonhoeffer wrote: Learn to live as if God didn't exist. No one will come to solve our problems, we have to defend ourselves with our own strength, as if God had abandoned us. I believe that the wise but uncomfortable recommendation of that Protestant theologian also has some worth for us. I dare paraphrase it, saying that we have to learn how to do grassroots radio, rural radio, community radio as if they'd already cut our international or state aid. Even if we're still receiving it, get used to the idea that we're not going to receive more. And that the only possibility of staying on the air is by competing with the other radios. I compete, therefore I exist.

Many stations broadcast without donations or subsidies. Appealing to the youth mystique or its enthusiasm, these stations work with volunteer personnel. Will this perhaps be the best solution? The honeymoon is ending at home and in the cabin. The fights and weariness begin when rooms start to shrink. Remuneration for work fair remuneration, that is is what permits us over time to demand quality and control it. A station isn't a weekend plaything. It's many hours of broadcasting, many disks to buy, a lot of equipment to replace or repair, big electricity bills, a lot of gasoline to visit the communities. The project's participatory character makes it even more expensive. It costs money to let the people speak.

So, then, this money must be produced. The business has to be profitable on the strength of its creativity, its aggressiveness in selling ad space, its experimentation with new self financing methods, from weekly bingo to publicity packages thought up by a coordinator of community radios. Will all this make us commercial? I believe that what commercializes a project is not paid ads which logically require some scrutiny but its objectivity, whether profit making or not. What am I seeking, to make capital grow? Or to make consciousness grow? Money is like blood. Community radio, a living organism, needs it. But it doesn't live for it. In other words, we aren't vampires.

Let's go back to the volunteers. It's not an issue of having stingy programming at the expense of generous volunteers. The only sure road to being able to finance ourselves is to improve the quality of the stations. The quality of the program is what pulls in the quantity of listeners. And they, in turn, are what pull in the ads.

Now, then, to achieve quality programming, we need professional producers. This doesn't contradict the station's grassroots character. In politics, representative democracy complements participatory democracy. Also in radio, the grassroots word is balanced with that of the most skillful producers.

Naivete aside, option is as necessary as technique. Knowing how to do something is as important as wanting to do it. It's not an overstatement to warn that it's especially ingenuous to confuse "professional" with "university graduate with a radio major." Professionalism means managing a profession well. The opposite of professional is amateur, improvised, mediocre.

People don't have to study communications in the university for four or five years. If someone has that opportunity, fantastic. Go for it. Get good theoretical tools not hot air from it to back up the work of those who couldn't study as much. But how to do radio has more to do with practice than with theory. More professionalism is obtained in this field without having done much studying. And having done none doesn't mean obtaining none. Professionalism in radio is gotten with a lot of well evaluated work. We weren't cut out to be losers. We want success in our work. Yes, success. We want to appear in the audience ratings, fighting for first place.

Is getting an audience the objective? No, but without an audience, or without much of an audience, we can't achieve our objective. So the rating isn't the last word? Of course not. But it is next to last. Because in radio, if you aren't heard, you don't exist. In whose name are you talking? Whom do you represent? In mass culture, success isn't the criterion of truth, but it is its condition.

Mass Audience

The receiver is the other point in the classic scheme of communication. In Latin America, perhaps due to an intense practice of live grassroots education, that receiver is quite contracted; it's conceived of in group terms. There's a preference not to use the word exclusivity in favor of the organized public. The badly named meta population makes up a tiny percentage of the potential audience. We were allergic to what was considered mass because of that erroneous equation that what is mass massifies. We forgot that radio's middle name isn't grassroots or community; it's just that, mass. And we practiced a double reductionism of the receiver.

First reduction, in quantity. All these years, in many radio training workshops, we've had long, downright interminable sessions, loud fights, only to conclude the evident: that there's no such thing as a captive audience. That a station can't be conceived of as a school without walls or an open air union. And above all, that the sport of convincing the already convinced is very boring. To wrap it up, a station can't be considered popular without having popularity.

The time has come to toss the instrumentalist vision of radio as a support tool to promotion groups into the corner. A mass medium has its own dynamic, very different from that of working directly with people. Naturally, from our programming we're going to support grassroots organization. But support does not consist of reducing the audience addressed; it consists of stimulating union, collective values, the advantages of being associated among the great mass of listeners.

Massivity of the receivers: speak to all and make all speak, the organized and the disheveled. And if we must prefer some audience in these times of cholera, if some sector merits special attention, let it be the eternally marginalized, the forever forgotten ones, both by the churches and by the lefts. I refer to those discriminated against for gender, race and species. For gender: women. For race: native peoples. For species: nature, animals and plants in danger of extinction, the planet threatened now not by the nuclear button but by the toxic waste of factories and the exhaust pipes of cars and busses. Feminist, indigenous and ecological problems have a decisive importance for any social analyst. And for any communicator with a good nose for issues.

Second reduction, in quality. Revolutionary eagerness led us to characterize the receiver as a social class. We cut out other dimensions and forgot that this exploited factory worker is a woman and is black and is young and is in love and... The rainbow has many colors.

Massivity also refers to that, to again taking up all aspects of life, to painting with all colors of the palette, to stop reducing the thematic to the problematic. We have to speak to everyone and make everyone speak about everything, about what is commented on in the market and in the bar, about what people like. We don't have to satanize fads or fans, dream interpretation or cooking recipes or beauty tips.

I recall a huge debate among popular educators who were questioning whether educational radio could broadcast sports, professional football. That's commercial, one said. That's alienating, another agreed. But once the discussion ended, everybody glued themselves to their TV sets to watch the game.

Stressing grassroots likes doesn't mean forgetting about grassroots interests. We always symbolize this issue with the figure of a dove. But a dove flies with two wings. Likes without interests leads us to a very facile programming proposal a "bread and circus" one. But interests without likes which has most frequently happened with us drags us down into very heavy, very ideologized programming, the well known brick. It's a question, then, of balancing both things, of flying double wing, of pegging our programs to grassroots tastes so that, from there, we can favor grassroots interests. That's the dynamic: from likes toward interests. Or as Brecht said: make interests interesting.
Massivity: all listeners and all facets of the listener. And this, soon. Neoliberalism's process of concentrating power is so violent that if our audience doesn't grow a lot and rapidly, they'll KO us. They'll pulverize us. There's no room here for any stagnation, any shirking. We either scale the heights or we fall into the meatgrinder. Here only the strong will make it, only those who have accumulated power. Grassroots power in our case, but, when all is said and done, power.

Have we not confused grassroots with marginal? Or with self marginal, which is worse. Concerned more with principles than with goals with results we go on debating among ourselves, congratulating ourselves for "our specificity." As pure as we are sterile. We don't have to sin on the side of activism, however what empowers us isn't defining identities, but acting. Joining a current greater than ourselves, establishing alliances with all those who are dissatisfied with this world. We're small now, true. But we can grow. We have to grow. One thing is to be small and another is to let ourselves be stunted.

A Language Problem

In our stations we have our objectives well defined. The picture is clear. Our listeners are peasants, those living in working class neighborhoods, the poor of the continent. Our message is grassroots: start with the people and accompany them in their struggle for a better tomorrow. We are also participatory radio: organized men and women are learning to produce their own programs. In addition, we're using a great variety of formats and resources so that the programs will be more agreeable every day. WE ARE GRASSROOTS RADIO.

Nonetheless, when we broadcast our programs, the people don't want to listen to us. They go on crying with the soap operas, dancing to canteen songs, listening to those yukky "popularistic" programs on commercial radio. Surely the problem is that some of the people's tastes are too vulgar and that they're alienated!
Or could it be that we're the alienated ones? Could it be that we Professionals of Grassroots Radio still don't know how to communicate with the people? That we continue thinking and speaking over the people's heads, from a dominant culture and class?
And that we're still disguising the grassroots message in a language that people don't feel is theirs? We seem to be like that man who poured the old wine into new barrels.

Modernity in Programming

In radio, as in life, what doesn't move dies. The world changed. And we're not going to change our programming? Without dropping the traditional forms that we've experienced as successful, will we do more modern programs, ones more in accord with mass culture and the sizable youth audiences?
Nine muses inspired the Greeks, and I propose nine types of radio programs that could give our stations a shot in the arm in these neoliberal times.

Humorous Programs. If it was always necessary to throw some humor into our programming, it's now more urgent than ever. More crisis in society, more need for laughter from the antennas. The desperate lives of the majority of people in our countries means that they aren't going to turn on the radio to be educated or to be conscientized. Seldom even to be informed. What the majority seek in the media is a door to evasion. If I can't bear up under my own problems, much less under those of others!
Not all crazy people are in the nut house. We, too, suffer attacks of schizophrenia. In our lives we're fun loving and flashy. But in front of the microphone we stiffen up. The programming also suffers from this split personality. We have spaces for fun, for animation. And we have programs for education, for training. In the first, the announcers speak naturally. In the second, seriousness reigns. In the first, the announcer dares to laugh with the audience. In the second, the slow rhythm, the parsimonious tone, takes over. Who ever said that what is serious has to be treated with seriousness? Will we have to reread The Name of the Rose to require of ourselves that the truth laugh?
It used to be said that the letter with blood enters. It's a lie. It enters with laughter. Laughter educates and laughter mobilizes. A lot of sadness, on the contrary, paralyzes. The issue, then, is not to stick in some comic relief as an "audience lure" so we can then get on with the serious part of the program. Content has to marry up with form. We have to learn how to educate by entertaining.

On the other hand, we don't always have to search high and low for the perfect marriage. Not all programming has to be educational. We need programming that's pure diversion, and we need a lot of it. "Pure diversion?" the prudish will ask. Nothing more! Nothing less! Does it seem like little to put some joy into people's lives in these severe times we're going through?
Humor, good humor, joyousness: indispensable words for a community radio. They should be written with gold letters on the front of pharmacies, courts and radio stations. Because laughter is the best medicine. And the most demolishing denunciation. And the best way to win the audience.

Hot programs. In these times of ferocious competition, cold doesn't sell. Grey journalism, ponderous and solemn journalism isn't the style. And less yet in latin America, where communication is based on pure sensationalism. But we, fleeing from sensationalism, have also emptied ourselves of sensation. Through fear of yellow or red, we have taken all colors out of our news. Through fear of our announcers' show biz inclinations, we leave the scenery empty. We don't want our announcers to be stars, but we shouldn't take away all their shine.

It's all a new attitude. For a long time we didn't give much importance to holding top place, to advances, to the impactful style of good journalism. If I have a correspondent who sends me a note from another town, I can say, insipidly, "Now we have a note from our friend in such and such a place..." But I can also get some shine out of that correspondent by saying: 'Urgent! We interrupt our programming so our correspondent John Doe can tell us what's happening in...!" We can say, "Our editing room has just passed us a cable advising that..." when probably said cable was a little note pushed through the hole in the window. Same difference. You have to make waves. You have to give the image of sensational, of having received breaking news. Hens are good communicators: they announce each egg with a cackle!
And in this business of communication we have to be humble, but without appearing to be. If you come off very Franciscan, they don't respect you. The cannibals of competition eat you alive. nor do you satisfy the listener. Because people want their favorite son to have the highest diploma and their favorite radio station to be in first place.

We also have to raise the temperature of the radio magazines with a better selection of themes and a more provocative treatment of them. A feminist center in Peru opened its program by asking, "Are you a lesbian without knowing it?" Everybody turned up the volume knob, glued to their radio by suspicion.

Too often we have underrated the famous binomial sex and violence. We already know that Hollywood's offal is reduced to this. But the Bible, too, is replete with wars and adultery, from the horns of Hosea to the incest of Lot's daughters, from the guerrilla short story of Judith to the bloody chronicles of the Maccabees. So it's all in how you deal with the issue. An experienced radio person knows how to communicate heat with no content. But not the double reverse: content with heat.

Polemic Programs. I'll take the risk of saying that polemics is the new face of education, of what we used to call "educational programs." An example: in Nicaragua, during ten years of revolution, the Sandinistas were too timid to hold TV debates. They felt insecure in front of a right wing that managed rhetoric, argumentation albeit false arguments better than they themselves did. They would say: and if they get one past us to the goalpost? And for fear that the opponent might make a touchdown, they called the game.

A few months before the 1990 elections, Sandinista television launched open, live debate programs for the first time. And those programs were a school for thought, a better political school than many speeches by the leaders. Perhaps it was already too late. The crisis and the dirty war financed by the gringos already had more weight than any communication. But the experience showed the efficacy of these formats.

It happened on Sandinista TV. And it happens on many of our stations that call themselves democratic. Are opinions contrary to ours heard on our programs? Are the voices of non believers heard on Christian stations? Do machistas get to speak on feminist programs? Does the right ever get to speak on the left's air time? "They already have their own media! Why do we have to waste our time listening to their stupidities?" We've been pluralist in word, but sectarian and doctrinaire in deed. We prefer to give solutions, to put out lines, to impose our ideas on things.

We have to go from the culture of censorship to the culture of debate. Let's leave obscurantism for others. Let's have round tables inviting those who come to confront positions. Let's do opinion surveys that aren't skewed.

Let's do telephone debates. And not only about macro themes, but about what people are discussing on street corners: Do hamburgers cause cancer? How high should mini skirts get? Do human beings come from monkeys, or monkeys from human beings? To the point that, when we do an interview, if we're in a journalistic mindset, we should play devil's advocate. Listening to contrary ideas educates one's own thinking. Clashing stones was how we discovered fire and light, too. Primitive science and modern dialectics taught us that.

Game Programs. Neoliberalism is a game, albeit a cruel one. It's a competition that runs through all aspects of life and into which we have to insert the rhythm of our programs too.

Games doesn't just mean contests, although, of course, it also means that. And there have to be good prizes, ones attractive to the youth, like those that the commercial stations offer. Let's not moralize with contests. There was a time when we couldn't offer money prizes because we saw it as that "vile metal." Nor would we touch individual prizes because our proposal was a community one. Nor prizes for drawings, because consciousness can't be raffled. In the end, no prize or contest was innocent.

The principal game, the main diversion for the public at large, is sports. Okay, so broadcast neighborhood sports, community ones, amateur ones? Fine. And professional sports? Okay, too. But aren't those the ones that all dictators, from Nero to Pinochet, have used and abused to alienate the masses? Well, all exaggeration turns into a vice, even prayers. But games aren't exhausted by contests and sports. Games means a permanent attitude of playing with the public, of challenging it, of coming out with unexpected things in the programming. The enigmas that African announcers propose in their villages are an excellent and ingenious format. Nothing seduces more than a surprise. That's how Scheherazade seduced her prince, saving her life for a thousand one nights. That's how we can save our audiences.

Sensual Programs. Sensual means things that enter through our five senses. And that delight us. That awaken passions and vehemence in us. We are material, we can't deny it. The soul is only discovered through the body, even scholars say so. This beautiful body that nature has endowed us with. Even in the North Pole, the inuksuit stone figures to guide travelers lost in the snow have the form of a human body. Let's not confuse sensuality with vulgarity. Colors, smells, sounds, flavors, textures, all the auditory images that we can create through the good use of radio language, produce beauty.

But we, in the name of truth, didn't let beauty in. We gave all the importance to orthodoxy, to clarity of content, to ideological purity. And we forgot that truth, if it isn't pretty, is less true. We need programming that's technically and esthetically well polished, with good music, good sound effects, colorful, poetic, harmonic, attractive, pleasing, captivating. Stick in all the adjectives you want. With luck, the time has passed in which what is grassroots gets confused with coarse, and even, at times, dirty. Making good radio has a lot to do with art. All the letters of the word artist are found in the word radioist.

Useful Programs. We're burdened with givens. All messages fell on the same side: grassroots organizations. All problems were solved with unity that makes strength. And it's true. But it isn't true. Because the great social problems were more complex than our exhortations to solidarity. And the daily concerns were more pragmatic: Where can I get some work? How does one cure diarrhea? How much can I sell my corn for today?
Educational impatience led us to underestimate the useful information that makes life a little lighter. Medical, legal, psychological consultations, spaces to buy and sell things second hand, radio "classifieds," market prices, rules of the highway, information about sex, listings of all night drug stores, cooking recipes, labor markets, beauty tips, vocational training, consumer protection, instructions in case of disasters, these and other very concrete services that grassroots radio can provide without even mentioning the tremendously helpful space for "advisory warnings" that always appear as those most appreciated by the public in audience surveys.

And then there are the curiosities. Information that's as useless as it is necessary to see beyond one's own nose. What mystery do the pyramids of Egypt hold? How do both hot and cold come from the same electrical plug? What words does the chimpanzee vocabulary have? I believe that we've paid too little attention to scientific dissemination. And without smelling like a little school, we could pull in a lot of audience by broadcasting tidbits on geography, history, astronomy, medicine, technical advances. In any case, after listening to one of our so called educational programs, we could ask ourselves: apart from the exhortations to unity and organization, apart from the good grandmotherly advice it gave me, what new thing did I learn from this program, what knowledge about the world do I have now that I didn't have before?
Sentimental Programs. We aren't computers. We're flesh and blood men and women. We have a heart that began beating even before we were born. A heart that gets emotional when a woman cares for her sick son and when an oil drenched sea gull flails against its imminent death. We feel tender toward the weak and indignant toward the unjust. We're moved by the pain of others, by failed love. And even if we don't confess it, we're enchanted by the kiss at the happy ending of the movie. The longing for that "happy ending" is nothing more than a reflection of the same search in our own personal history and in universal history. We aren't bad. At least we don't want to be. Even Al Capone, before being riddled with bullets, declared his intent to make others' lives more pleasurable.

They're very sentimental in Mexico. Shamelessly sentimental. It's stupendous to give free rein to love and hate, all in the same song! But if you travel to Paraguay and Chile and Cuba, or anywhere else in Latin America, you find the same tears and the identical sighs. And in Australia. And in the Philippines. And on every continent. We aren't crocodiles and we truly cry at all latitudes.

I don't know who invented the lame definition of radio as music and news. I don't know who got it off the ground, but many followed it. What happened to the dramatic formats? Where did the stories, the myths, the legends, the fables, the narrations that provoked a thousand different sentiments in us end up? We can even dramatize the news if we have some imagination, if we know how to make use of radio language!
TV soap operas were a lesser genre until a few years ago, until a brilliant team of Brazilian scriptwriters rescued it. And now Roque Santeiro has been seen in Moscow, in Tokyo and in Paris. When will the radio soap opera's turn come? When will a group of bold producers get down to work on the most successful genre of the 1950s, which still hasn't gone out of style because hearts haven't yet gone out of fashion either?
Brisk Programs. In Africa, there's a village where the chiefs are obliged to give their speeches standing on one foot. That way they get tired before their audience does.

Old timers have long said that what is good is doubly good if it's also brief. But we, through an over protective attitude toward our listeners, became specialists in beating dead horses. We entered into the pedagogic compulsion of putting all news in context. And the news programs became long, slow, elephantine. The radio magazines even more so.

Radio stations also have a high cholesterol count. The programs get fatter and heavier, with no grace or rhythm. You can stop listening to a station for five years, and when you return, you find the same spaces, even the same cobwebs.

To speak of brisk programs is to speak of spots, tidbits, advances, simple news notes, headlines, flashes, mobile unit dispatches, micro programs, micro reporting, mini dramatizations, radio clips, sketches, highly edited interviews, blows for effect, rapid entries and even more rapid exits.

Light programming, but not for that reason superficial. Programming by droplets, as those from Radio Enriquillo baptized it, learning from the water that can filter through rocks with its obstinate softness. This means that we have to get a mental "footing" each day. Break old schemes. Innovate. Invent. Don't be satisfied with guidelines from manuals. They say that the best format is the one that's learned and then broken. And that the only non negotiable norm is creativity.

Fantastic Programs. Fantasy. It has to be written like that, with a capital letter. In these grey times of neoliberalism, we strongly need an overdose of fantasy. So people can dream, can imagine other worlds. And can imagine their own world transformed. That's the fantasy: the ability to put color into the black and white world of daily life.

One term that's now repeated to death is worrisome: "everyday ness." I think it's a very significant term, but it's also a dangerous one.

At times, we've confused everyday life with talking all the time about the grease in the pot, the kid's poop, the price of milk and the neighborhood gossip. But those same people like Alf, Batman and Wonder Woman, none of whom have much to do with their everyday lives.

Do they really like them? Or have they been made to like them? When they call the radio station and ask us for a song by Madonna, are we hearing the listener's voice or that of the record house? The latter, probably. But is there such a thing as pure likes? Are there uncontaminated cultures? To affirm our cultural identity is not to deny or keep ourselves isolated from other cultures. To defend our cultural patrimonies doesn't prevent us from establishing cultural matrimonies. Let's not look for what is grassroots with our head on backward. What is grassroots is in front of us, it's a project that's amassed by many and diverse hands. Mass culture, as hybrid as it is, is grassroots. And we like to know what happened in other times and what's happening in other places. Even more, as strange as it seems, the more removed the thing is from that tedious "everyday ness," the more the audience likes it.

What's happening then? We have to understand that little word very well: everydayness isn't a theme, but the treatment of the theme. Any theme can be taken up in simple language. Any issue, from dinosaurs to the hole in the ozone layer, can be brought into our life, can be made familiar to us. Any situation can become incorporated into our loves and fears, can enter into our everyday life, can be made everyday. Everyday isn't a noun, it's part of a compound verb.

But let's recall our socio dramas. What do they deal with? Machismo, alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, inflation. Those themes, repeated again and again, get boring. And who gets more bored than those who suffer them in real everyday life. If I live in misery, between four cardboard carton walls, I don't want to hear about it. I want to turn on the radio and listen to the Mambo King or hear you talking to me about Donald Duck or Martians, something that excites my fantasy. One Bolivian station is going to celebrate its anniversary by lifting a flying saucer over the city of La Paz. Another in Peru is making a sort of musical ouija game with listeners, invoking Jim Morrison and others who, according to them, continue playing rock and roll in the hereafter. And there's one journalist who's so crazy or so in tune that she interviews pink porpoises, Amazonian dolphins, because those along the river say that they're women and might also join the feminist movement.

Fantasy to avoid this screwed up reality and get a little breathing space. And fantasy to return to it, but to see it with different eyes, to dream about it differently. Was it fantasy or a miracle when Jesus multiplied the bread and fishes so the poor could eat? What is certain is that on that afternoon in Galilee everybody pulled together enough strength to fight for a more just world. That was the real Miracle. That was God's Fantasy. The bottom line is that fantasy is just a nickname for Hope.

Quality stations, mass receivers, modern programming. Those are the three challenges to producing better in this worse world.

Some will ask themselves: if we let ourselves be carried off by these muses, won't we be emptying community radio of its content? Won't we be sounding dangerously like commercial radio? What distinguishes us from them at the end of the day?
Everything. That is to say, everything fundamental. The veracity of the information distinguishes us, not discrimination in the music. Giving people access to the microphone, with no pretexts or censorship, distinguishes us. The denunciation of injustice and the commitment to grassroots struggles, even with the risks that implies, distinguishes us. The many voices all voices that are heard and respected in our programming distinguishes us. And what especially distinguishes us is the fundamental objective of our radios: to democratize communication in order to democratic society.

A friend told me that all people's wars have been won with the enemy's park: recovering weapons on the battlefield. And in this great communications battle, in this ideological terrain, wouldn't we be astute to learn from the winners? Those who now believe themselves to be winners and are emboldened. With luck, the human novel will continue. And it will be the liberty of the People not the liberalism of Big Brother that writes the happy ending.

Print text   

Send text

<< Previous   Next >>


El Salvador
The Apathetic are not Centrists; as the Left we Must win their Support

Another day older and Deeper in Debt


El Salvador
Bishop Romero's Baptism by the People

Measuring Municipal Power in Nicaragua

Rural Violence and the Right Wing's Try for Chaos

América Latina
Community Media in Neoliberal Times
Envío a monthly magazine of analysis on Central America
GüeGüe: Web Hosting and Development