Commentary. There is only one way to defend the right to information: by informing people. Where are all the many MPs of all political orientations who never hesitated when Radio Radicale gave them the microphone?

Radio Radicale’s fate affects us all

Many previous governments have tried and failed to shut down Radio Radicale, but the current brownshirt-M5S alliance is within striking distance of that prize.

That will be just a preview of the many closures that may follow as the planned cut in state funds for publishers takes effect: including Avvenire, Il Foglio and our newspaper.

The means used are a reflection of the ends being pursued, so we should all be very worried. Those who are being targeted have very different outlooks, but there is a common denominator: they all dissent from the ruling populism and sovereignism.

There is only one way to defend the right to information: by informing people.

This is what Radio Radicale has always done, true to its Einaudian motto, “conoscere per deliberare” (“to know, in order to think”).

It was inevitable that what should arise from a heterodox party would be such an unorthodox broadcaster in its ability to inform the public: with a clear stance, but not partisan; private, but able to perform a public service; small, but not marginal; without music, just words; without advertising, only information; a representative of the vox populi, with firsthand sources and interviews with the man on the street, but not populist; a voice that would give a voice to other voices; “insiders,” but at the same time outsiders to the “places of power.”

A unique outlier in the radio world, it has shown itself to be a place for serious thought, thanks to its long format shows, and a space for honesty, thanks to its choice of transmitting everything live, from everywhere to everyone.

It was like this from its very beginning. Because this is how the power of information can be harnessed: by creating a network of institutions, parties, trade unions, movements and public opinion, allowing each of these to know, understand, and have a clear idea of what’s happening. This is the polar opposite of information that pretends to be objective while merely having a different set of biases, aiming for the same kind of orthodoxy and uniformity.

Some things only get better with age, and that saying certainly applies here: Radio Radicale has been broadcasting non-stop since 1975.

Its likely disappearance—like that of the other media outlets that will follow—is a sign of the ongoing struggle over the representation of reality. Those in power want to prohibit any communication that is truly non-mediated, able to show things for what they are, outside of the phony domain of spokespersons, paid-off blogs, self-referential tweets and narcissistic selfies.

In the case of Radio Radicale, even more is at stake: not only the representation of the present, but also the memory of the past, which is the heritage of the future.

It has the largest publicly available audiovisual archive, a temple to democracy where over 40 years of political, judicial and institutional history are made available in their entirety. It is a collective memory of everything that was said and done, accessible to anyone.

We know from George Orwell that “who controls the past, controls the future. Who controls the present, controls the past.” That’s why Radio Radicale’s archive is a non-violent weapon for resistance against those who neither know anything nor want to learn, and who are eager to invent an oversimplified black-and-white version of history, in which they can present themselves as innovative, just, innocent, and righteous avengers.

This is why stopping the activity of recording and cataloging history will be a deadly blow for everyone, not just for Radio Radicale: its archive is a treasure that is being added to every day, as documents are constantly added to existing ones. Breaking this continuity will mean losing the traces of what will happen in our country—with no hope of finding the guiding thread again.

This is why we should be worrying about Radio Radicale, and we should work to preserve it—but how?

The noose around its neck is a matter of legislation: the budget law has halved the funding for the transmission of parliamentary sessions, renewing the deal with media outlets for just the first half of 2019. The same law set out the elimination of the contribution towards media outlets as of January 1, 2020. It is necessary to change these two aspects of the law, if we want to keep what could be from being erased by the implacable present.

“The press was to serve the governed, not the governors” – the Supreme Court of the United States, June 30, 1971

I am wondering, and I will say it out loud: where are all the many MPs of all political orientations who never hesitated when Radio Radicale gave them the microphone?

Why aren’t our senators for life, who are themselves preservers of an authentic collective memory, promoting a legislative initiative on this issue?

Can one hope for any understanding at all from Palazzo Chigi, which is currently occupied by a lawyer who is aware of the constitutional importance of information pluralism?

The film The Post quotes a US Supreme Court decision reminding everyone that “the press was to serve the governed, not the governors.” This principle is valid wherever the rule of law exists, if it is worthy of the name. And this is the reason why the fate of Radio Radicale will be the fate we will all share.

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