Radio and Social Change

If the conclusion of the 2020 presidential race has shown us anything, it’s that people are engaged as never before. Racial justice, public policy and COVID-19 have brought Americans seeking reform and change into the streets and online. Protest, however, is not new. To close out the year, NFCB is partnering with a new documentary on such a moment. It is part of a nationwide campaign to promote and support community radio.

The award-winning documentary WBCN and The American Revolution shares the untold story of the underground radio station WBCN, set against the profound social, political, and cultural changes that took place in Boston and nationally during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The burgeoning music and countercultural scenes, militant anti-war activism, civil rights struggles, and the emerging women’s and LGBTQIA movements are all part of WBCN and its heyday. As we experience social and political tensions bubbling today, how subcultures and ideas pollinate others and spark growth has many common bonds from this period. The film demonstrates how an underground rock radio station built a powerful community with its listeners and helped redirect the course of American history during the tumultuous times.

Such a story may inspire community radio stations today, which look to be a beacon in their own cities and towns.

NFCB member stations WFMU, WERU and KPOV are among others who have presented this film online, sparking dialogue about the power of community radio to create social change.

Of the film, former CBS Radio executive Rob Barnett said, “Before commercialism, consultants, and greed sucked the soul out of original free-form underground rock radio, a small band of young heroes, women and men, black and white, straight and gay, passionate, political, funny as fuck, fearless and revolutionary, used the airwaves to expose the music and the ideas that shaped how every college kid thought, felt and acted for the rest of our lives.”

Peabody Award-winning director Bill Lichtenstein and team are making the documentary available online for a virtual theatrical release with the proceeds being shared between partnering community stations and the film. In addition, when audiences can’t gather in person, another option is to host a virtual Q&A. The WBCN and The American Revolution team has helped host several online Q&As, including with NFCB’s Sally Kane and Ernesto Aguilar for community radio station WERU.

To learn more about how your community can screen WBCN and The American Revolution, visit screenthefilm.com.

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