Saludo Radialistas! a message from José Ignacio López Vigil

by José Ignacio López Vigil, from an audio greeting sent to the KPCN low-power FM barnraising in Woodburn, OR, 18-20 August 2006. Translated by Lilja Otto.

Dear friends who have come together this weekend in Oregon, this is José Ignacio López Vigil speaking from Peru. I am the author of the book Rebel Radio or One thousand and one stories of Radio Venceremos, the heroic radio station of the Salvadoran guerrillas. And right now I am working here in Lima, in a production center that we call Radialistas Apasionadas y Apasionados.

First i would like to congratulate you for this radio barnraising that you are attending. You need a lot of courage and a lot of enthusiasm to build community radio in the very heart of the North American empire - you need a lot of audacity to fight for the democratization of the airwaves, and against the monopoly of multinational companies. My colleague Pete Tridish (greetings to you Pete!) invited me to join you in the name of the organization Prometheus Radio Project. It wasn’t possible for me to be there with you, however, as I had already committted to other training workshops. So I asked Pete to sign me up for the next barnraising!

Friends, I will take this opportunity to share three ideas, three challenges that I find fundamental in these diffcult times that we are living today. As alternative community radio people (radialistas), as women and men passionate about the radio, I think we have to achieve three combinations, three fusions, the first being the fusion of content and form. Making a stupid, superficial program, void of ideas, is easy. It’s also easy to make a program that is profound and full of ideas, but cumbersome. The first is entertaining and done in an enjoyable, cheerful fashion, but it doesn’t say anything. The second may have great content, but it is boring, and lacks wit. And if it doesn’t have charm, it’s lost, because if it is informative and educational but boring, nobody will listen to it. Even if it has great content, nobody will listen to it. Therefore we have to fuse form and content. Sometimes we say that since we are community based one does not have to worry so much about the quality, but the contrary is the case: only the best for the people. An educational program has to be cheerful, attractive, and seductive, precisely because of what it is… it needs to be of excellent quality.

As Bertolt Brecht said, one has to make the interests interesting.

The second fusion that I propose is between the commercial character of a station and its political commitment. We need to combine realism with Utopia, combine reason with passion. A radio station does not live from handouts, nor from the mana that falls from the sky. You have to pay for the electricity, equipment has to be bought, people need to get paid. A community radio station is a company and as a company has the right to sell comercials, honest commercials, you know. Commercials, sales of services - there is no problem with that. A community radio does not prostitute itself or becomes commercialized because it broadcasts a commercial. Because we need to have our own income to live and to meet our social function. You tell me: what it the difference betweeen a vampire and a human being. The vampire lives for the blood. The human being needs blood to live in the same way as our community radio stations need money to live, but they don’t live for the money. This is why I am saying that we have to merge the commercial character with the political commitment. A community radio is a company. But a social enterprise, a political project.

Dear friends, [simply broadcasting] information is not enough. We need to position ourselves, we have to get involved, we need to strive to turn community radios into actors - not only spectators, but actors in society; not only informing others what is happening, but transforming the reality. I was told, for example, that in this year's May Day marches, when millions of Mexicans, millions of Latino immigrants went out into the streets to protests, many radio stations accompanied the struggle, and participated together with the people. And your radio, where was your radio that day? Playing a little music? I don't think so! Surely your radio was accompanying the popular struggle.

And a third fusion. I believe that we have to bring radio stations together, along with production centers. It is true that we have little staff and resources to produce quality programs that are competitive. However, today the Internet allows us to exchange programs, audio files, and we can all become correspondents for each other. Thus it is about bringing together centers who produce material and stations that make use of these materials to enrich their programming.

This is what we do in the centewwhere I work side by side with a team of dynamic producers and passionate radialistas. Our center sends a program every day to thousands of stations, organizations and groups in Latin America and also the United States and Canada and Europe. And if one of you now listening from Oregon would like to receive these programs, which are free of charge, all you need to do is go to our site: There you can sign up, and will start to receive our programs.

These exchanges will help us to work, to learn, to work in networks, to work together to create alliances with other groups who are working towards social justice in the world. And with this I will say good bye. From Peru I sam sending my solidarity with this fantastic effort of the Prometheus Radio Project.

A very, very special greeting for Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, the PCUN, the treeplanters’ and farm-workers’ union in Oregon.

A hug from Latin America, to you my friends at this radio barnraising.

Here we say and believe that a different world is possible. We also say and believe that a different radio is possible. Good luck and take care.

José Ignacio López Vigil is the author of Rebel Radio, an account of the Salvadoran guerilla radio station Radio Venceremos. He is a major international community radio activist and teacher, currently based in Lima, Peru where he founded the production center Radialistas Apasionadas y Apasionados.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey