The Communications Fund of the National Farm Workers Service Center Inc. operates Radio Campesina, a nine-station network of radio stations in three states which attracts a large and loyal following. The network specifically targets recent immigrants from rural Mexico and Central America between the ages of 25 and 49, an audience that has traditionally eluded educational radio. Its vibrant cultural format brings regional Mexican music together with relevant and topical educational and public affairs programming.
Although its mission is educational radio, Radio Campesina consistently boasts the highest listener ratings for all of its stations. With a strong presence in markets totaling approximately 450,000 Latinos,it competes with, and frequently surpasses, commercial and non-commercial English-language stations.
Entertainment and education
Key to Radio Campesina’s success is an interactive format combining popular music with listener calls, on-air promotions and live broadcasts from local events. It delivers news and information to a historically underserved community.
Stations feature listener forums and debates on key health, safety, education, political and consumer issues; interviews with experts from various fields; news, regular talk and information programs; listener call-ins and a popular “Mail Bag” segment where letters are read on air, with professionals responding to questions from families about problems they confront.
The network has built an extensive programming infrastructure, including fully staffed educational and news teams. It produces local and national news stories, a top-of-the-hour news broadcast with local segments, public affairs programming as well as daily half-hour programming on politics and community issues where prominent local and national leaders regularly address topical subjects.
Radio Campesina has established strategic alliances with groups such as National Public Radio, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Westwood One, the CBS News operation.
Radio Campesina fulfills Cesar Chavez’s vision of a Spanish educational radio network became a reality in 1983, with KUFW broadcasting out of a modest structure in the small Central Valley farm town of Woodlake, Calif.
Today, the network employs the latest in digital, audio and satellite technology that syndicates programming to nine stations from centralized studios in Bakersfield, Calif.
Four stations operate throughout California’s Central Coast and Central Valley where the largest concentration of farm workers in the country works.
Radio Campesina also broadcasts over the U.S.-Mexico boarder through its station in Yuma, Ariz.
Bakersfield, Fresno, San Bernardino and Imperial Counties in California, Phoenix and Yuma, Arizona, San Luis, Sonora and the Mexicali Valley in Baja California and the lower Columbia Basin Tri-Cities area of Washington state, are some of the locations where Radio Campesina is enjoyed.
With massive corporate consolidation dominating radio, decimating regional radio and limiting points of view and coverage of local issues, Radio Campesina provides communities with an independent voice and generates widespread local participation and support.
Radio Campesina sponsors annual family events that, combined, draw hundreds of thousands of people a year. They strengthen ethnic and cultural bonds for immigrants who left their native lands behind.
Additionally, the stations have encouraged community activism, turning tens of thousands of listeners to immigrant-rights rallies. Aiding worthwhile charities and mobilizing quick responses to natural disasters has also become a hallmark of Radio Campesina. For example, the network raised money to aid victims of Hurricane Mitch and has annual Christmas toy drives and Thanksgiving Turkey dinners.