This Sunday, KPFK, Southern California’s original listener-sponsored radio station will officially turn 50 years old! On July 26th, 1959, the music of Beethoven first played on 90.7FM at noon announcing the arrival of regular programming to the listeners. Topical shows on religion and politics followed as the rest is history.
Since that time, as part of the Pacifica network, KPFK has continued to be an independent forum true to its mission statement in bringing the political ideals, news and music of the world to an unabashedly commercial free platform.
Even to this day, few people believe that a radio station can be had in a major metropolitan city without advertisement support. Even fewer believe that such a media outlet can survive for 50 years. By being ‘powered by the people,’ LA’s community radio station has been able to defy the odds and provide a bastion on the dial where artists and intellectuals can speak freely; a direly needed resource in a homogenized media landscape dominated and defined by corporate power.
With that in mind, I leave you with this following statement of introduction found on KPFK’s inaugural folio. Much of the words still ring true today; a testament to the continued relevancy of the station’s existence:
“We welcome you, our first listener-subscribers in this joint venture to communicate freely with each other. And we thank you for enabling KPFK to go on the air. Together we hope to initiate a new spirit of excitement in Southern California, a spirit conducive to the creation of works and words of significance. It is our conviction that the other mass media have erred in underestimating the hunger and capacity of men for a diet based upon our great literary and musical traditions, and their readiness to hear new and creative ideas.
Forgive us our ineptitudes. And if we occasionally appear ludicrous it is because we are trying very hard not to let ourselves slip into a rut. We will be involved in all serious matters and promote none.
Our aims are humanistic. We want to be a concert hall, a lecture room and a part of your living room. We want to accept our first responsibility— to discuss with you the problems of our own community. We want to bring programs of the highest quality from all parts of the country and the world into your home. We would wish to be an important public means of tying together all serious-minded people in the area.
With your support we can enrich our program offerings, lengthen our broad-cast day, and create works that we can offer to other stations throughout the country and the world.”