Feature Story News helps stations fill gap left by Free Speech Radio News

By Ben Mook

Pacifica is replacing its recently canceled half-hour news program Free Speech Radio News with a news show produced by Feature Story News, an independent broadcast news service that operates nine bureaus in the U.S. and abroad.

Free Speech Radio News was carried by more than 100 public radio stations before delivering its last program Sept. 27. The grassroots-oriented news operation behind the progressive news show was forced to shut down as it ran out of cash. The Pacifica Foundation, which is struggling to keep two of its own stations afloat, was unable to meet its financial obligations to the program, accumulating nearly $200,000 in unpaid bills.

The new deal with Feature Story News provides a 30-minute, five-day-a-week radio broadcast covering international and national news. Stations can easily schedule it as a replacement for FSRN. Brokered by Pacifica and the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, the contract allows all stations that previously carried FSRN to pick up the new broadcast for free through October.

“This gives an opportunity for stations without news content for their listeners to use the service for the rest of the month,” said Janis Lane-Ewart, interim c.e.o. of NFCB.

The arrangement gives stations some breathing room in deciding how to fill the gap left by FSRN, said Rob Flynn, director of business development for Feature Story News and a former marketing director for MacNeil/Lehrer Productions. “It seemed like an opportunity to help these stations who might otherwise be in a bad position,” he said. “We’re familiar with public media, including an extensive relationship with the NewsHour, and that’s why we moved quickly to fill this hole.” He declined to discuss how much the broadcasts will cost stations that opt to carry the show after Oct. 30.

According to business information firm Dun & Bradstreet Inc., Feature Story USA Corp. is privately held company, headquartered in Washington, and has yearly revenues of $1.4 million. Simon Marks, a former president of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, is a co-founder, president and chief correspondent.

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