107.1 WRFN-LP is a 100-watt station licensed to Pasquo, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville.
Our basic idea is simple. We believe that since the airwaves belong by law to the public, the public should have access to them. We believe that we have as basic a right to speak on the radio as to listen. And we have a unique opportunity.
Thousands of these LPFM licenses were granted. But the vast majority of them went either to government DOTs, or small rural churches. WRFN is one of very few progressive organizations in the entire country to receive one. There are not many stations like WRFN out there. WRFN is the only outlet in middle Tennessee area offering broad-based media education and training to the community at large. And it's all free-of-charge. Money or lack thereof should never dictate who has access to the media. Through WRFN, everyone can find their voice, and use it.
Radio Free Nashville programs a mix of news, information, talk and call-ins shows, and music. Though each day has some consistent elements, no two days are exactly alike. Some of the programming is of national origin: Radio Free Nashville is a Pacifica network affiliate, and broadcasts Democracy Now, Free Speech Radio News, Counterspin and other network shows, as well as Progressive Magazine Radio, Voices of our World and other independently produced programming from around the world. But the bulk of programming is locally produced.
Each programmer comes to Radio Free Nashville with a different skill level. Radio Free Nashville teaches programmers how to do their job, as well as the other jobs required to run a radio station. Over 140 community programmers have been trained, with over 90 currently on the air.
Why Radio Free Nashville?
In 1945, the Supreme Court declared, "the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public, that a free press is a condition of a free society." As the federal agency charged with regulating the mass media, the FCC long had rules in place to promote "the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources."
Over the years, however, many of the rules designed to foster production of independent news and entertainment have been weakened. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 allowed for the consolidation of ownership of the publicly owned airwaves into a few corporate hands, effectively limiting or completely cutting off the people’s access to the media. And the public interest has suffered greatly.
Today, only a limited number of rules remain that prevent any person or company from owning all of the media outlets in a small or medium sized city like Nashville, or from owning media outlets that blanket the country. Congress has virtually eliminated the rules restricting radio ownership to allow a single company, Clear Channel, to own radio stations in every market and own the majority, if not all of the radio stations in any single market. In Nashville alone, Clear Channel owns five of the largest stations on the air.
This lets Clear Channel select music based on whether artists pay Clear Channel promotional fees or whether Clear Channel agrees with their politics or message. Clear Channel’s cost saving measures and "efficiencies" have virtually eliminated local music and local news, relying on national play-lists, centralized news services, and technology that allows central programmers to add local "color" at delivery. Clear Channel also determines which talk show hosts get syndicated on its stations, ensuring carriage of one point of view in every market to the virtual exclusion of all others.
Corporate dominance of local markets in general, and Nashville in particular has translated into less public interest reporting on consumer, environmental, minority and labor affairs. As a result, the identity, values and informational needs of the local community are at risk. For example:
- With the loss of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, media companies are no longer required to present more than one side of an issue. Ultimately, the public suffers from not having a complete hearing of and discussion around the issues at hand.
- With it no longer mandatory for a media company to provide public affairs programming, the number of hours of public affairs broadcasts has dwindled to virtually none. It has become harder for the average citizen to publicize local activities and generate coverage of local events.
- Voice tracking, the prerecording of the supposedly live breaks of a broadcast means that there is not an actual person in a studio during a broadcast to comment or report on what is actually happening at the time, including severe weather situations, natural disasters, and even national emergencies.
- Centralized corporate operations, many times based in cities far from the local community purportedly served, have made it nearly impossible for those interested to get hands-on experience in broadcast. In fact, between June 2000 and February of 2003, an estimated 70,000 media workers were laid off. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in radio alone fell by 7,000 during that time, eliminating 20 years of growth and leaving radio with fewer employees than it had in 1982.
WRFN is the antithesis of the corporate media. The local community owns the station. The local community creates the programming, and defines the community issues that need to be brought to light, discussed, dissected and acted upon. The local community runs the station, and ultimately decides how it will adapt over time to continue to keep the station responsive to the community’s needs. WRFN is the tool by which those denied access to the corporate media are given a platform to speak and be heard.
WRFN is the voice of the community, as the community defines itself.
Today’s highly concentrated media marketplace makes robust competition and ownership diversity all the more essential to the economic health and viability of the media and entertainment sectors. In the news and information business, competition and diversity help preserve localism in news coverage, enhance the quality and comprehensiveness of news content, assure a multiplicity of voices from a variety of independent sources and reduce the risk that news will be censored or slanted by a few controlling interests.
Maintaining competition and diversity is central to protecting the public’s right to information and, importantly, to expanding the public’s informed participation in our democracy. The creation of Radio Free Nashville is one small step toward that aim.
Radio Free Nashville History
Radio Free Nashville has had many incarnations. Here is a short history of the call letters and moniker: WRFN - Radio Free Nashville.