What is the Future of Native Radio? Local Narratives, Networking Communities

April 2016

This seminar takes a microscope to an industry that exists below the radar, looking at the United States ethnic radio industry and tribal or Native American radio (one of the most developed networks). Radio is still a vital news and information lifeline around the world because of cost, literacy rates, and accessibility. When refugees, asylum seekers, and other immigrants transition to the United States, this medium assumes an equally important role by aiding individuals and families through the often stressful process of integration. Within ethnic groups, many sister communities are separated by geography, which can hinder information sharing, especially in communities where online and computer access is low. For example, public affairs programming, such as Somali Public Radio on KFAI in Minneapolis, covers stories overlooked in the mainstream media. Yet, this news and information is often of deep interest and importance to sister Somali communities outside the station’s geographical listening area. To date, there has been no comprehensive survey of the hundreds of ethnic radio stations (both terrestrial and online) that deliver local programming, humanitarian information, and other news resources to communities across the United States. Yet the numbers of these stations has grown. New America Media counted over 400 stations in the early 2000s. More recently, the organization counted over 750 stations. This reflects the growing number of geographically distinct ethnic communities as the United States becomes a majority minority country.