Front Page Feature About Ian and FTL (FULL)
Monadnock Profile: Podcasting Freedom, Six Days a Week
By Freeman Klopott, Sentinel Staff
Ian H. Bernard is on a mission.
He's on a mission to make a hit out of his Keene-based nationally syndicated talk show, "Free Talk Live." And he's well on his way: It's already an award-winning, top-rated Podcast.
He's on a mission to spread his message of free-market solutions to big government problems.
He's on a mission to draw similarly minded people to New Hampshire through the Free State Project.
And he's been on a mission to promote his ideals almost as long as he's been on radio.
His first foray into the business was when he was 17, as an intern at a Sarasota, Fla., radio station where he worked his way to the microphone, pumping rock 'n' roll onto the air waves.
That was a year after he first started examining the tenets of the Libertarian Party, which, Bernard said, he discovered after trying marijuana for the first time and realized that it wasn't as bad for him as he had been led to believe by government advertisements and in school, he said.
He said he started to wonder what other lies the government had told him, and fulfilling that curiosity over the last 10 years has led him to a world view in which government is replaced by private, market-driven businesses.
Bernard, 26, said he dabbled with the Libertarian Party early on, but over time he's come to see it as just another political party and he's moved away from it. He said he now considers himself a "free marketeer," and calls for the replacement of all government functions with free-market institutions.
It was at the Sarasota radio station that Bernard learned to operate the mechanics of radio; monitoring sound levels, cutting live feeds with commercials and generating promotion material.
While working at the radio station he spent two years studying broadcasting at Manatee Community College in Florida, where he picked up an associate's degree, an experience that paled in comparison to what he learned at work, Bernard said.
But playing the same tunes over and over wasn't Bernard's cup of tea. He wanted the action of live debates with callers and daily content changes that a talk show would make possible.
When the radio station switched from music to an all-talk station, he said he jumped at the opportunity to take to the airwaves, and in fall 2003 "Free Talk Live" was born.
And it has been through that medium as a talk-show host that Bernard has made a name for himself.
Locally, "Free Talk Live," which he broadcasts from a studio in the living room of his Keene home, can be heard only on the Internet, but more than 20 radio stations across the country have picked up the three-hour, six-day-a-week show. Bernard and his co-host, Mark Edge, take Sundays off.
On the "Free Talk Live" Web site, where every broadcast can be downloaded at no charge, there is also a request for donations of at least $3. About 340 listeners have taken Bernard up on the offer, and he said he now collects donations to the tune of $2,500 per month.
But more than that, the show was nominated and won an award as the best political Podcast from PodCastAwards.com, where 1.1 million Podcast listeners voted for their favorite show, the Web site says. In so doing, "Free Talk Live" beat nominations for President George W. Bush's weekly radio broadcasts and "Democracy Now," which says on its Web site that it's on 500 radio stations nationwide.
Bernard and his girlfriend, Julia A. Miranda, who co-hosts on the Friday show, moved to Keene six months ago, packing up their lives in Florida on the Friday of Labor Day weekend and settling in that Monday. The two moved here as members of the Free State Project and they chose Keene, Bernard said, because of the pre-existing media outlets and concentration of enthusiasts for small government and no government.
And while he's only been here a short time, he's already having an impact, said Russell Kanning, who publishes Keene Free Press, a Libertarian newspaper.
Kanning said he met Bernard through the Free State Project, a group that's trying to get Libertarian-minded people to move to New Hampshire with the goal of creating an atmosphere in which its aim of sharply cutting the size of, or even eliminating, the government can be achieved.
For starters, Kanning said, Bernard has brought unprecedented attention to the project, and by moving here, he's walking the talk he preaches on his radio show.
Bernard is also an initiator, Kanning said.
He has started organizing in Keene what has often been a disjointed political movement. To do that, Bernard set up FreeKeene.com, a blogging site where local "Liberty-minded" activists - including Bernard, and WKBK talk-show host Eric Scott - speak their minds.
The Web site, Bernard said, will also serve as a launching point for a campaign to run as many Liberty-minded candidates as possible for the 2007 race for Keene city government positions this fall.
But Bernard said his primary focus is making his radio show as entertaining as possible.
If it's not entertaining, then no one will listen to it and the message he sends on the airwaves and across the Internet won't reach anyone, he said.
To keep listeners interested, Bernard plays up the conflict with callers, particularly those that will never agree with his opinions.
"No one wants to listen to a three-hour love fest," Bernard said.
And he's not trying to convince an individual caller that his opinion is right, he said.
"An argument is a waste of time on an individual level," Bernard said. "It's the people listening to the argument that are the beneficiaries."
And one of those beneficiaries was Miranda, who tuned into "Free Talk Live" about 14 months ago after reading a blog posting written by Bernard, she said.
She enjoyed what she heard and the two started e-mailing back and forth. At the time Miranda said she didn't have much of a political opinion, but as she listened to Bernard's show and talked to him she found his logic overwhelmingly convincing.
As the two have grown closer, Miranda said she's found him to be inspiring and supportive.
When she expressed interest in teaching people to sew after they moved to Keene, Bernard encouraged her to overcome her tendency for shyness and to take on the new job, Miranda said.
It has taken a lot of work to get the talk show to where it is, and it will continue to take a lot of work to build on the success it has had so far, Bernard said.
He listens to each show after it airs, looking for places where he could improve, paying close attention to the portions where he had the most fun, he said.
"If I'm not having fun, then it's not entertaining," Bernard said. "If I'm enjoying my show, others will as well."