Women are not being presented fairly in public broadcasting media; moreover, the viewing and listening publics are shown a distorted image of women and women’s role in society.—Report of the Task Force on Women in Public Broadcasting
When they called in, they’d tell us they’d had to leave home to use the corner pay phone—God forbid their husbands should overhear them calling in to this programa sin vergüenza—this ‘shameless’ radio program.—María Martin, “Crossing Borders”
When President Lyndon B. Johnson spoke at the passing of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967—the last piece of his Great Society legislation—he affirmed that the airwaves belonged to all people, for the “enlightenment” of all people (Johnson 1967). This act formed lasting institutions: the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), National Public Radio (NPR), and the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). With these new entities, the 1970s witnessed an unprecedented surge of public broadcasting, including radio programs that continue to sound out of our radios to this day, notably NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Radio shows currently being uncovered like Somos Chicanas (We are chicanas) and Mujer (Woman) demonstrate that this moment of radio possibility led to much innovation by Chicana/o community broadcasters. Yet, even seven years after the Public Broadcasting Act was authorized, its promise to dedicate the airwaves to all people had yet to come to fruition. In 1974, the CPB commissioned a Task Force on Women in Public Broadcasting that signaled to a problem endemic to public media—not all people were being represented or employed in what promised to be a medium for all. Four years later, the CPB commissioned the Task Force on Minorities in [End Page 175] Public Broadcasting (1978), once again affirming that the possibilities of public broadcasting needed to be reimagined.1 These Task Forces can be cast as a result of the social-movement activism of the 1970s, notably the women’s and civil rights movements of this era. These reports provide a historical record of the state of women and minorities in public broadcasting, and the record shows women of color were neither equitably represented nor employed in this arena. Yet, beginning in 1975 and through the end of the decade, Chicanas harnessed community radio technologies in new and radical ways. I spin this historical record once more to listen for the tactics and strategies deployed by Chicana radio activists within programming and hiring, while amplifying their role as leaders of Chicana/o-controlled community radio stations.
A small yet potent number of Chicanas in technical and leadership roles had a significant impact on the fabric that constitutes community radio broadcasting. Their model of alternative public media included programming for Chicanas and farmworkers, segments of the population that had not been addressed by mass media; a national Spanish-language news network; and the training of other women as producers and technical staff. The effects are lasting to this day, and yet there is little scholarship that documents and analyzes these strategies. I draw from the experiences of Chicanas at two Chicana/o-controlled community radio stations—KBBFFM in Santa Rosa, California, and KDNA in Granger, Washington—as examples of women making community radio in the 1970s to provide insights into the radical ways women were in fact creating cutting-edge programming while learning the technical skills to produce radio broadcasts they desired. Working-class women of Mexican descent may not be the first population we think of when we consider the deployment of feminist tactics in radio. Yet in the 1970s, Chicanas on community airwaves altered the cultural landscape of public broadcasting by incorporating just such tactics in programas sin vergüenza (shameless programs) designed to reach women farmworkers who had never before been directly addressed by radio. Interviews with María Martin, KBBF-FM producer, and Rosa Ramón, KDNA cofounder and station manager, provide rich resources for mining feminist histories within community radio. This article is a prelude to a new line of inquiry regarding Chicanas and their tactics to imagine the possibilities of community broadcasting for Chicana/os living and working in rural areas...