Not quite 20 years ago, I wrote weekly op-eds for two newspapers in rural Whitman and Latah counties. Guess I must have been too hard on George W. Bush’s preparation for the Iraq war and some Moscow business owners threatened to cancel the display ad if I was allowed to continue.
Disgusted by this brutal effort to force the publisher to abandon its “open door” policy for editorial submissions, my old friend Lu Jane Nisse ended all political submissions.
A sad state, I thought. Two other independent voices were denied on the public forum.
By a strange twist of fate, at almost exactly the same time, I started hearing rumors that a progressive non-profit radio station would soon start broadcasting from Moscow.
I soon found myself digging and chipping away at the basement concrete to bury the station antenna deep enough to get a good ground. Soon after, I served on the station’s board of directors and very soon after, I celebrated our first broadcast season with my own two-hour political talk show, “The Barefoot Elitist.” (named after my signatures in Lu Jane’s journals).
The station, which is now approaching 17 years on the air, is part of an endangered breed. Nationally, no sooner does the FCC make frequencies available for purchase than well-heeled religious zealots and right-wing ideologues buy the rights – in many cases with no intention of broadcasting, but as part of of a plan to deny airways to independent voices like Radio Libérez Moscow.
What does our local and community radio bring to our lives? Local news. Tons of that. From live recordings of Moscow City Council meetings to coverage of candidate forums to the most up-to-date and accurate news during the COVID-19 crisis. Throughout, we informed listeners of locally available resources. Where to go to get tested, get treatment, find food aid or find help for a displaced worker or landlord.
There’s a lot more there. Locally produced musical programming, from Arlene’s Grateful Dead Hour to jazz and hip-hop. And of course. There is a trick. As KRFP’s mission statement proudly announces, we uncompromisingly stand for peace, social justice, multiculturalism and a clean environment for all.
If those are your concerns as well, tune in to 90.3 FM. Or go to the website and take a look at our weekly schedule.
Whether you are a new listener or an old friend of KRFP, you should be aware that these are troubled times for Radio Free Moscow. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the breath away from our sails. Fundraisers that in the past paid for a large portion of our operating costs have been closed. To stay on the air and continue to provide on-the-spot, up-to-date, and much-needed reporting, we had to dig deep into our reserves.
Unfortunately, these reserves are practically exhausted.
Returning to the board after a long hiatus, I watched all the struggles to go from a small 100 watt FM station that was really just a Moscow station to a full power station that can be heard widely in our two counties. Live streaming now allows our programs to be heard around the world as well.
I can say without exaggeration that our efforts to continue to bring independent radio journalism to the great Palouse may soon be a thing of the past.
Who will be the losers if the voice of Radio Free Moscow is silenced? We only have two low-wage employees and they will definitely feel the bite.
On a larger scale, our surrounding communities are losing their ability to access independent, non-commercial radio that is not available to listeners anywhere else here on the Palouse.
What does it take to sustain KRFP in the new year? Donations of course. Certainly memberships.
However, our lack of younger, progressive volunteers is equally critical, not only to lead their own programs, but also to fill positions on the board of directors and be there when there is heavy work to be done. At 74, I am part of a small group that has carried the torch for more than a decade and a half. The social hour with current board members has nothing to do with a visit to a geriatric ward. For those gays, eco-warriors, trade unionists and hardcore Bernie supporters, I have something you can do to make a difference right here, right now.
McGehee, a lifelong activist, moved here in 1973 and lives in Palouse with his wife, Katherine. His professional life has varied from bartender to college instructor to owner of a shipbreaking yard.