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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Listener-supported radio moving online

By Burt Lum

Listener-supported radio is not a new concept. One long-running noncommercial radio station that gets its revenue from its listenership is KPFA in Berkeley, Calif. (www.kpfa.org), which has been operating in this mode since 1949. The music is diverse and unfettered by constraints imposed on much of corporate radio today.

If more radio were listener-sponsored, we'd have more variety on the airwaves. For seven glorious years — from 1991 to 1997 — Hawai'i had its version in the form of Radio Free Hawai'i (macpro.freeshell.org/rfh/rfh1.html).

Sheriff Norm Winters and his posse of freedom fighters brought democracy back to radio. They had music polls in which listeners could submit votes for music they wanted to hear.

The votes were tallied and became the station playlist. It was radio for and by the people, and got recognized as such by such national press as Rolling Stone magazine.

Listener-supported radio can be great for the listener but a challenge as a business. Without enough financial support from the audience, the station could face a constant struggle for survival. The key is to reach as large a market as possible.

Radio Paradise (www.radioparadise.com) has done this by taking listener-supported radio to the Internet.

Whereas much of Internet radio is one-way and serves a small audience, RP is interactive and covers an eclectic mix of music. Chief programmer Bill Goldsmith has done a comprehensive job of developing the site.

For example, the site refreshes automatically with updates, and provides a running playlist and studio cam. Registered listeners can submit music suggestions, post messages and — most importantly — make contributions.

If you are making a purchase from Radio Paradise, you are contributing to the cause. Buy a CD from Amazon, buy a sticker, select merchandise from Caf´ Press and you are supporting Radio Paradise.

But at the end of the day, it is all about the music, and Bill G's smooth delivery.

This is what radio ought to be.

Burt Lum is one click away at www.brouhaha.net.