Scott London can remember when he got his start at WYSO. As a kid in the late seventies attending Yellow Springs High School, he and a group of friends hosted a weekly radio show called "As We See It" covering the "news and views of area high school students."
Thinking back on it now, London is kind of surprised at how he was welcomed in the studios as a mere 12-year-old. Today, WYSO's listenership and membership has expanded to such an extent that anyone having a program likely has years of broadcast experience behind them. "Now the stakes are so high as far as keeping that listenership, that kind of accessibility is not available to the community anymore," London said.Scott London is the host of a weekly, half-hour, syndicated show called Insight & Outlook -- produced at KCBX in central California -- which WYSO has run since the its debut in 1994. The program is broadcast on radio stations from coast to coast and in more than 100 countries around the world on shortwave.
Insight & Outlook features interviews with influential thinkers and innovators in the fields of science, education, technology, health and other areas. One of London's primary hopes for the show is to give coverage to the issues at the roots of society today.
London described his early years with WYSO as "the heyday" of the station, "when it was really community radio." Today, nearly twenty years later and over 2,000 miles away, London describes a great sense of sadness when thinking about the recent programming changes at the station where his career began and the grim future facing public radio nationwide.
"I feel like I grew up at WYSO," London said. "It's a station with a completely unique history." You mention WYSO in Washington D.C. or Los Angeles and people know it. They say, 'you were there? Wow!'"
When WYSO recently announced its decision to cut programming from Pacifica Radio Network, listeners from Yellow Springs and the vicinity voiced strong dissent. Community members opposed to the cut say they worry about being solely dependent on National Public Radio for news, which is continually moving further from its traditional progressive style. London said he understands the dilemma facing WYSO from both sides of the issue. Insig ht & Outlook receives a small amount of help from the CPB, sales from transcripts and tapes, and grants but is still not making enough for his own salary, he said.
As an independent producer, he has witnessed how the problems of WYSO are common among many public radio affiliates across the nation who are becoming more and more desperate in finding new strategies of funding to stay alive.
Pacifica itself has been criticized this year for taking control of its five stations away from the communities it represents and giving managerial power to a centralized national board. The network has also been accused of maintaining too much internal secrecy within the democracy of the network and of attempting to bust its union.
Receiving less funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has forced stations to "mainstream" their programming in order to attract more membership and increase listener support. Some long-time public radio supp orters are saying the community aspect of public radio is being lost to commercial pressure.
"WYSO sounds like it's simply following the trend in the public radio world," London said. "I don't know any stations that have successfully countered it."
According to the new station manager Norm Beeker, a $35,000 deficit and recent changes in Pacifica's contract have made cutting the program necessary. Pacifica Radio Network was asking stations to sign a three-year contract and purchase new satellite equipment that would free the network from its dependency on National Public Radio satellites.
"What the new station manager is doing is what everybody in public radio across the country is doing," London said. "All the same, it saddens me to see it happen to WYSO."
This article appeared in the the Antioch Record, July 17, 1997. Reprinted by permission.