Embracing Community Means Sharing Culture

Rip Robbins from LPRC member station KSVR in Mount Vernon, WA writes about the station’s commitment to providing local voices and content for their audience, which for KSVR means providing Spanish language programming and sharing the Latino community culture with their Anglo audience. To be inclusive, KSVR incorporates into its programming the different languages and culture in their community. KSVR now has several programs that include local people talking to local people in both languages.

In the farming community north of Seattle, Latino migrant workers and residents had no local Spanish language media. In 1973, when KSVR-FM began operations, the first Spanish-language music program was heard in the Skagit (SKA-jit) Valley, and today that has evolved into 84 hours per week of music, news, and information. The sources are local, regional, national, and international!

KSVR has a mission to provide service to everyone in our community. That means we try to be inclusive with regard to accommodating the different languages, and that has led to more programs that feature “Dual Language” speakers. In these programs, the host will make sure that the guest discussion is paraphrased in the other language.

We don’t like literal translations, like the legal interpreters at a court. We promote conversation style paraphrasing, so the listener is not unduly burdened with repetitious translating. And we recognize that in sharing culture, it is the Anglo audience that needs educating about the “other”, the Latino community. We promote the idea that English-only listeners can tune in to hear “…what the Latino community is talking about….”

This idea came about due to an incident years ago, when the local health department wanted to talk about hazards of bacterial contamination of children’s toys after a terrible flood washed through much of our farm community. The representative from the health department did not speak Spanish, and the radio hosts were not fluently bilingual. The health department did not have a Spanish-language spokesperson and we struggled to translate and read the advisories on the air. I made the observation that we cannot exclude important guests from the radio just because they don’t speak Spanish. And we began the work on changing our programming to be more inclusive for the benefit of our Latino populations.

Juan ESL group
KSVR Latino Program Coordinador Juan Arreguin works with international students to produce a one hour radio special. The foreign students each introduce songs from their home country, in English.

KSVR now has several programs with this format of local people talking to local people in both languages. That has opened the door for more community partners, such as State Employment, Health Centers, and educational services. Of course, more and more of these agencies and organizations are hiring bilingual and Spanish-speaking employees, so our job gets easier every year!

One source of regional information is a weekly program produced by Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs (CHA). The program originates in Seattle and features up to 11 government and non-government agencies. Another program is a local talk show featuring the appointed Commissioner for our area of the state, Manuel Reta. He makes a 45 minute drive to and from our studio, because he believes in the value of radio to reach his “constituency”.

Reta, Delbene,Ayala
Talk show host Manuel Reta with guest Congresswoman Suzan Delbene and student engineer Karla Ayala.

The international and national news is provided by Satélite Radio Bilingüe. KSVR-FM has been an affiliate since 1997, and Línea Abierta gets the highest listener count (AQH) according to Nielsen Ratings.

News programming is considered the most expensive content to produce, requiring extensive ‘labor’. Reading headlines is not enough. In 2014 KSVR worked with long-time producer Miguel Gaitan to bring the first morning news program in Spanish to our community. Miguel creates a program on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The Monday show is repeated on Tuesday, the Wednesday show is repeated on Thursday, and the Friday show is repeated on Saturday. Because our local program does not need to include national news (already done by Radio Bilingue), we can air the program the following day without losing too much timeliness regarding the program content. By repeating the program, we are able to secure the same daypart across the week, to give listeners the “horizontal” programming strip that they know will air at that time of day.

familias unidas
Example of local programming: featured on Ecos de La Comunidad are several representatives of labor advocacy groups who later in the day would be organizing in support of reform of labor practices for field workers in agriculture. In this photo: Jesús (no last name given), Oscar Sánchez, Ramón Torres, Miguel Gaitán, Edgar Frans and KSVR Rip Robbins.

One show that KSVR plans to take national is produced by the Skagit Valley Domestic Violence Prevention Services. The host producer, Adi Hernandez, had no radio experience when she started as co-host on this weekly program. She is now the sole host/producer, and frequently has guests who are English-only. The topics are relevant across our larger community, for every population group, and we believe this program is also relevant across the country. We are hoping to introduce a 30 minute version of her one hour program starting in late September (via Audioport and PRX).

KSVR has greatly expanded its programming due to its Community Service Grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  Everyone working at KSVR is extremely grateful for the support received.

KSVR is proud to be a member of LPRC since its inception, and we look forward to continuing the work that we love, and to share with others in the community radio family.