"It's flypaper for misfits and malcontents."—Irwin Chusid, WFMU DJ SEX AND BROADCASTING is a human, and humorous, look at New Jersey's WFMU, a radio station that refuses any programming boundaries. Most of its disc jockeys are unpaid volunteers, working for their love of surprising, spontaneous radio. They play everything from flat-out uncategorizable strangeness to every form of rock and roll, experimental music, jazz, psychedelia, hip-hop, hand-cranked wax cylinders, gospel, Inuit marching bands, R&B, C&W, radio improvisations, spoken-word collages, and throat singers of the Lower East Side. Their captain is station manager Ken Freedman, who has spent the past three decades keeping WFMU alive, independent, and one of a kind. At 54, Ken has strapped his entire life and family to this crazy station, and it may all soon be a memory. Since the introduction of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, radio has seen massive corporate consolidation. This has dramatically decreased the diversity of music formats being broadcast nationally and has eliminated many independent and local voices from the public airwaves. Simultaneously, the rise of algorithmic internet radio models (Pandora, Spotify, iTunes, and Clear Channel's iHeartRadio) that deliver "automated music recommendations" has tightened the screws on smaller players that attempt to use the internet to bring human-controlled radio to larger audiences. During this time WFMU, through it's foresight and perseverance, has served as a beacon of hope for those who love music and believe in the importance of truly independent media outlets. The film weaves personal stories of WFMU's eccentric DJs with an exploration of the 21st-century media landscape that has made the station such a rarity. As the film unfolds, WFMU reaches a crisis: Ken meets with the board of directors. With six months until their next fundraising marathon, they are almost out of money. Can WFMU stay on the air and stay true to its independent spirit?
|Paul F. Tompkins|