It was with little fanfare that "Democracy Now" disappeared from the Colorado Springs airwaves earlier this month.
After broadcasting the syndicated show for the past eight years, local NPR affiliate KRCC pulled the long-running, left-leaning program from its 7 p.m. time slot, replacing it with the non-partisan global news show, "The World."
According to station program director Jeff Bieri, the decision was largely based on two factors, the first of which was ratings.
"It just wasn't working," says Bieri. "'Democracy Now' would come on immediately after 'All Things Considered,' and our audience would drop by more than half. It wasn't fitting in with our news programming. It was driving away listeners."
"The World," meanwhile, is also a known commodity for KRCC, which aired the program up until 2008, when budget cuts made it unaffordable. "It's a great show that's easy to listen to," Bieri says. "I think it provides an easier transition into the evening hours, when people are kind of winding down."
The other concern, says Bieri, was the overtly political agenda of "Democracy Now." "We need to program for the community rather than any one political interest. If we're gonna do news, it needs to be balanced and not have an agenda."
The Amy Goodman-hosted show, which airs on more than 1,200 stations, is part of Berkeley, Calif.-based syndicator Pacifica Radio, which was originally founded by two conscientious objectors during World War II.
"Pacifica programs are traditionally very grassroots and liberal-leaning," says Bieri, "so 'Democracy Now' has that slant to it. But Colorado Springs is not Berkeley. It just isn't."
That's where upstart community radio station KCMJ comes into the picture. With KRCC's blessing, KCMJ had already begun broadcasting 'Democracy Now' back in May. The only problem for the show's local fans is that the station is still raising money to build a transmitter, which means it's currently only available online.
"Certainly there are a lot of people that are disappointed that 'Democracy Now' is off the FM airwaves," says KCMJ's director Dave Gardner. "I'm just disappointed that we aren't already on FM."
Launched by the Colorado Media Justice Foundation, the all-volunteer operation received a Low-Power FM broadcast license last year. The station is still $5,000 short of the $20,000 needed to bring its eclectic programming — from live local remotes to a Spanish-language call-in show — to the FM airwaves.
"I would like to think that before the end of the year, we'll be able to flip that switch," says Gardner. "And now I feel like there's more urgency, because I believe that 'Democracy Now' needs to be on the airwaves in our city."
As it happens, KCMJ also broadcasts "Grass Roots Revival," another long-time staple of the KRCC lineup. The nonprofit station discontinued the show after host Steve Harris became director of the MeadowGrass Music Festival.
So does Gardner expect his station to become the beneficiary of any more KRCC cancellations?
"They have a lot of good programs that we would love to run," he responds with a laugh.
"I probably should watch to see every week, 'Well, what did they drop, what did they drop?"
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