Democracy Now! is a morning weekday newscast that (as of June 2009) could be heard on at least 800 radio stations in the U.S. and Canada, and on a number of additional stations in Europe, Australia, Mexico, and South America. It also produces a television version of each newscast, which its website (as of April 2006) says can be seen and heard on more than 250 cable TV systems, mostly on public access channels, and on subscriber satellite TV systems Direct TV and DISH network. Democracy Now! is also a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization.
Democracy Now! was created in 1996 by WBAI radio news director Amy Goodman, Pacifica anchor Larry Bensky, Juan Gonzalez, Salim Muwakkie and Julie Drizin. Its aim was to provide “perspectives rarely heard in the U.S. corporate-sponsored media,” i.e., the views of radical and foreign journalists, left and labor activists, and ideological foes of capitalism. The popular hard-left show soon began airing not only in New York City but also on the other Pacifica-owned stations in Berkeley, Los Angeles, Houston and Washington, D.C.
Key figures at Democracy Now!, such as radio producer Mike Burke and television producers Ana Nogueira, Elizabeth Press and John Hamilton, all have backgrounds in Indymedia. Nogueira also has written for Z Magazine.
In 2000 Democracy Now! departed from WBAI’s facilities amid internal battles over control of Pacifica Radio. It has broadcast ever since from studios in a converted firehouse renamed the Downtown Community Television Center (DCTV) in New York City’s Chinatown. It continues to air on Pacifica-owned and affiliated stations. It is satellite-uplinked via the Pacifica Satellite System, but also via the taxpayer-subsidized Public Radio Satellite System (PRSS). Stations can also receive the program over the Internet as broadcast-quality MP3 computer files.
Serious questions have arisen about how Democracy Now!, begun and developed with the resources of Pacifica Radio and grants from the Carnegie Corporation, the Ford Foundation, the J.M. Kaplan Fund and others, suddenly became independent and the effective property of Amy Goodman without recompense to Pacifica. This transfer apparently included valuable assets such as trademarks, ownership of years of archived programs, affiliate station access, and more.
In a contract that remains secret, Amy Goodman is also receiving $1 million per year for a five-year period that began in 2002, according to Pacifica Treasurer Jabari Zakiya, to continue doing what has become Pacifica’s flagship morning news program. This is more than double Goodman’s officially stated stipend of $440,000 per year from Pacifica Radio.
Democracy Now! receives indirect funding from George Soros, and direct funding from the Ford Foundation, the Glaser Foundation, Soros’ Open Society Institute, the Public Welfare Foundation, the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy, the Tides Foundation, and other left-leaning foundations.