Pacifica Radio

The Rise of an Alternative Network

Matthew Lasar
Book Cover

PB: $31.95
EAN: 978-1-56639-777-3
Publication: Apr 00

HC: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-56639-660-8
Publication: Feb 99

Ebook: $30.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0514-2
Publication: Feb 99

320 pages
6 x 9
10 halftones

A profile of America's first listener-supported alternative radio station


In the public radio landscape, the Pacifica stations stand out as innovators of diverse and controversial broadcasting. Pacifica's fifty years of struggle against social and political conformity began with a group of young men and women who hoped to change the world with a credo of non-violence. Pacifica Radio traces the cultural and political currents that shaped the first listener-supported radio station, KPFA FM in Berkeley, and accompanied Pacifica's gradual expansion to a five-station network.

In the expanded paperback edition, Lasar provides a postscript ("A Crisis of Containment") that examines the external pressures and organizational problems within the Pacifica Foundation that led, in early 1999, to the police shutdown of network stations KPFA. Lasar, an admittedly pro-KPFA partisan in the conflict, gives a first-person account, calling it "the worst crisis in the history of community radio."

Yet Pacifica Radio is about more than just the network's recent troubles. It is the story of visionary Lewis Hill and the small band of pacifists who in 1946, set out to build institutions that would promote dialog between individuals and nations. KPFA took to the air in 1949 with stunningly unconventional programs that challenged the dreary cultural consensus of the Cold War. No one in the Bay Area, or anywhere else, had heard anything like it on the airwaves.

The first edition of Pacifica Radio, which made the San Francisco Chronicle's non-fiction bestseller list, was praised as "fascinating reading" by In These Times.

Table of Contents

Series Foreword
Preface to Updated Edition (Paperback)
Preface to the First Edition

Part I: War
1. The Road to Coleville
2. The Pleasures of the Harbor

Part II: Dialogue
3. Utopia in Richmond
4. The 2 Percent Solution
5. 1949
6. A Hedonist's Millennium
7. Three Gurus and a Critic

Part III: Dissent
8. Palace Revolution
9. Room for Dissent
10. The Man at the Door

About the Author(s)

Matthew Lasar was a reporter for KPFA's news department through most of the 1980s. His essays on the social history of free speech debates have appeared in The Journal of Policy History, The Journal of Radio Studies, and Pacific Historical Review. He has a Ph.D. in United States History from the Claremont Graduate University.


In the Series

  • American Subjects edited by Robert Dawidoff

    The American Subjects series, edited by Robert Dawidoff, will introduce readers to unfamiliar areas or figures in American culture. All of the titles in this series will be the first on their particular subject. Each will tell an unfamiliar story and will emphasize the cultural side of how Americans have lived and what they have created or thought.