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Active Radio: Pacifica's Brash Experiment (Commerce & Mass Culture) Paperback – 1 Apr 1999


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The essential book on the origins of an influential network.
In April 1949, KPFA in Berkeley, California, went on the air. From the beginning, the station broadcast an utterly new combination of political commentary and cultural discussion that reflected founder Lewis Hill’s vision of a radio station dedicated to creative expression and dissent. In this fascinating account, Jeff Land tells the heroic story of the Pacifica radio network, exploring not only its role in the culture and politics of the postwar world but also the practical model it pioneered for liberatory alternatives to commercial mass media.

A network of five stations (in Berkeley, Los Angeles, Houston, New York City, and Washington, D.C.), Pacifica has been actively involved in nearly every progressive political movement of the past fifty years. The network has risked the loss of its licenses and made errors of judgment and taste; its transmitters were bombed; its personnel have been arrested and jailed. Yet it pioneered a number of media innovations, listener sponsorship and call-in radio among them. It has made history: on Pacifica stations, Seymour Hersh broke the My Lai story; the FBI’s illegal internal surveillance program was first publicly revealed; the Firesign Theater gave its first performance; and Bob Dylan’s "Blowin’ in the Wind" made its public debut.

Using tape archives of radio programs, interviews with participants, and unpublished material on Pacifica, Land chronicles the turmoils and triumphs of this radio network that served as a model for National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System. Rich in anecdote, Active Radio is both an engaging account of Pacifica’s past and an assessment of its significance to postwar culture in the United States.

"To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the independent Pacifica Radio Network, Land, a media critic and activist, recounts the network’s history in a tight, accessible narrative. . . . For Land, Pacifica embodies the power of the First Amendment, exemplifying the salutary effects of the ‘disruption of convention encouraged by vigorous dissent’". Publishers Weekly --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A Quick, Illuminating Read for Public Radio Fans 9 Oct. 2006
By Peter Richardson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
It's easy to take public radio for granted, but the story of the first listener-sponsored public radio station (and network) shows that challenges to its survival were formidable. Established in 1949 by pacifists with seed money from wealthy Bay Area Quakers, KPFA in Berkeley began airing progressive public affairs and arts programs and soon faced stiff resistance from the FCC, FBI, and Congress. This short (179 page) book, written for general audiences, focuses on the first three decades of this "brash experiment," including the expansion of Pacifica radio to include stations in Los Angeles, New York, Washington D.C., and Houston. In passing, we also hear about Margaret Mead, W.E.B. DuBois, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Pauline Kael, Seymour Hersh, Carey McWilliams, Alexander Meiklejohn, and other voices of dissent and criticism aired on Pacifica. Very worthwhile.
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