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TUCoPS :: Radio :: sp000997.txt

Free Radio in France

Free Radio in France


It was the 1981 congress of the French Anarchist
Federation which signed the deeds which set Radio
Libertaire on the road.. After long and heated debate the
congress accepted, unanimously, the idea of launching a
radio station which would be the voice for the FAF. At that
time it had no name, no wavelength, no real goal, no
presenters and for its launch a budget of (wait for it)
15000F (=A3150)! No member of congress, at that moment
could have predicted the events which weree about to
unfold other than that by the autumn anarchy would once
again be on the airwaves. As in 1921, when the insurgents
in Kronstadt sent out radio messages; as in 1936 with Radio
CNT-FAI in Spain, or again the participation of anarchists
in the Free Radio movement at the end of the 70s, with, in
particular, Radio Trottoir (Toulon) and Radio-Alarme
whose producers were members of the FAF.

It was on the 1st September 1981 (1) in a damp cellar on the
slopes of Montmartre that the radiophonic adventure began.
And in a very rudimentary fashion, in conditions that defied
the laws of broadcasting: a studio measuring 12 m2, with an
assortment of recuperated material and a mini-team of 6.
The first calls came in from our listeners, the first listeners
cards went out... and the jamming began!
 Meanwhile old hands of the Free Radio movement were
putting together some very credible studios in order to go
for a slice of the cake represented by the FM band. The
spirit of the Free Radios was already beginning to agonise,
victims of the financial appetite of some of those who had
run the pirate stations. In August 1983 the socialists put an
end to 'the anarchy on the waves' by siezing a number of
transmitters including that of RL. On the 28th August at
5.45am the CRS appeared at the doors of RL. They broke
down the door and siezed all the equipment. The presenters
were beaten up and arrested, the antenna cable and pylon
were cut up into pieces. Neither the reinforced door, nor the
numerous listeners who were present, were able to prevent
our radio being siezed. The socialists, then in power with
their chums in the French Communist Party, had not
however reckoned with our determination and even less
with the solidarity which was shown to us by thousands of
listeners during the following two years. Two years during
which, day after day, links of friendship between RL and its
listeners were progressively strengthened. The reaction was
immediate. And Impressive. The most important part
translated itself on 3rd September 1983 into a
demonstration of 5000 and RL back on the waves.

Moments of warmth and intensity were so many and the
happenings so frequent  that one article cannot do them
justice (2): galas, jamming by the 'Cop-Radios', scuffles with
the authorities, the obtaining of legal dispensation - the
demonstrations... by enumerating these events we are
setting down the essentials of the history of RL. However,
in reality the most important can hardly be reported. This
was the daily and collective history of RL, which all of us,
listeners and producers, hold a part of. It's a history of tens
of thousands of hours of transmission, telephone calls which
brought with it letters, exchanges and meetings. Radio
Libertaire was born with the passage of time. Everyone laid
their own stone with their voice, their expertise, their ability
or their energy. RL is also the listener who brought in a
microphone ('You should be able to find some use for it');
that other one who left their visiting card ('I'm an
electrician, if you need anything...') and the pensioner ('I'm
ill, and my pension isn't much... but come round for a bite
some day'), and the non-sighted person who, thanks to the
mutual aid small ads, managed to go off to the countryside
on a tandem with a young girl... and brought flowers back to
the radio station; it's all the letters that came in to 145, rue
Amelot to help, ask a question, encourage, suggest, inform,
criticise. It was when a zine, an association, an individual, a
union, the FAF had something to say, the telephone calls,
the meetings, the networks.

The stations cultural identity also came with time. The first
producers brought their own records into the studio and
introduced thousands to music by artists such as
Debronckart, Fanon, Servat, Gribouille, Jonas, Utg=E9-Royo,
Aurenche, Capart and many others. In 1982 another kind of
music arrived naturally on the airwaves, another music that
they were listening to in the squats, on the edges of the
system: Alternative Rock. Then other styles found their
place: jazz, blues, folk, industrial music, rap, reggae. And
other artists found the radio station open to other formms of
expression: cartoons, the plastic arts, theatre, literature,

Though the radio of the FAF, RL nevertheless opened its
doors from the beginning to its friends: anarcho-syndicalists
from the CNT and other unions, Libre Pens=E9e, the Pacifist
Union, the Hopeful Ones, the League of the Rights of Man.
And it was there in this daily reality, in the struggles and the
meetings that forged itself, quite spontaneously, the links
between RL and the social movement: strikers, the
unemployed, shelterless, squatters, antiracists, ecologists,
conscientious objectors, refugees, ex-prisonners... Surviving
crises and the daily workload RL rose to the demands of the
times. It supported the student movement in 1986, and
became the radio of the street report movement, round table
discussion groups, an open station to report police brutality,
permanent agit-pop. When war broke out in the Gulf RL
was at the front announcing, hour by hour, demos,
meetings, regional committees whilst allowing for debates
and analysis. Just as naturally it was during these times of
crisis that RL really discovered its dimension as a 'radio for
struggle'. RL is also a thousand reasons for listeners to be
annoyed, rage and protest against the technical
imperfections or those aspects that were judged
incongruous, provocative, too reformist or too radical. But it
was above all, we hope, an opportunity to discover the
pleasures of debate, struggle and libertarian ideas. Shouting
matches... cries from the heart... all was there and all was
welcome! In a world of the market, the spectacle and
dehumanisation where triumphant capitalism crushes both
man and woman where thought, in the image of the
economy is uniform and globalised, RL, with its strenghths
and its weaknesses, its faults and its qualities does it not
seem to be simply human... quite simply human?


(1) At the time RL was transmitting from 6pm to 10pm on

(2) See Radio Libertaire, la voix sans ma=EEtre by Yves
Peyraut published by Monde Libertaire (50F). Obtainable
from the Monde Libertaire bookshop.

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