Radio Ambulante partners with PRI to produce English-language content

By Andrew Lapin

Alarcon (Photo: Radio Ambulante)

Alarcón (Photo: May-Li Khoe)

Radio Ambulante, the Spanish-language storytelling podcast and radio program, is the first show to be backed by Public Radio International’s New Voices Fund.

With the grant, the Radio Ambulante team will produce English-language stories for PRI’s The World and its online “Global Nation” vertical.

Hosted and executive-produced by author Daniel Alarcón, Radio Ambulante launched in 2012 on $46,000 raised from a successful Kickstarter campaign. Alarcón and staff describe the show as a variation on PRI’s This American Life, with a focus on Latino culture. In addition to its podcast distribution, the show is broadcast by stations in the U.S., Colombia, Panama and Argentina.

Radio Ambulante’s similarity to PRI’s own iconic broadcast “really was a big part of our consideration” in awarding the grant, said PRI content chief Kathy Merritt, “because we want to be developing the next generation of storytellers.”

PRI didn’t solicit applications for the grant and wouldn’t disclose the amount awarded to the producers. But the funds will allow the staff — some of whom contribute to the show as volunteers — to receive compensation for the work they produce for PRI. In addition, the staff will receive audio production training so that they’ll sound “public radio ready,” said Julia Yager, PRI spokesperson.

The Radio Ambulante team has worked in English before: They produced an English-language special in collaboration with San Francisco’s KALW, which first turned PRI on to their work. In addition, they produced a subtitled live event in New York in February.

“The fact that we’re at The World couldn’t be a better fit, really,” Alarcón said. “If we were going to fit in anywhere, that would be the place.”

The slate of forthcoming programs includes one hour-long special, five story segments, two interviews with Latino writers and thinkers, and one live event. Of the new output, 70 percent will be original pieces and 30 percent will be English-language adaptations of Spanish pieces, Alarcón estimated.

“We are still primarily a Spanish-language content producer,” he said. “The reason we exist is because we believe in the relevance of the Spanish language in the U.S. context and in the importance of conversation about Latinos that crosses borders.”

The partnership was formally announced at the Public Radio Program Directors Association conference, Sept. 18 in Atlanta, though Radio Ambulante segments began airing on The World weeks ago.

Questions, comments, tips? lapin@current.org
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