In December 1994, Frank Matthews-Lester was frustrated. The Republican Party, led by lies and disinformation, had just retaken the House of Representatives. The main distrubitor of this propaganda? Conservative Talk Radio. The format dominated the AM airwaves nationwide, and allowed the masses to be brainwashed by lies aid deceit, leading to a change in power on Capitol Hill. Matthews-Lester understood that he had to do his part to fight the Conservative Talk Radio machine, and he decided to start Public Radio Seattle.
Public Radio Seattle quickly gained traction and was able to begin to fight back against the conservative format that even had gained popularity in places like Seattle. The tiny publicly funded non profit radio station was able to hold its own and build up a following to combat the right. 23 years later, Matthews-Lester realizes that Public Radio Seattle is as important as ever with the election of Donald Trump.
Matthews-Lester, before starting Public Radio Seattle, was a software engineer at Microsoft. He left his high paying position at Microsoft to build up Public Radio Seattle. Despite the cut in pay and major financial risk being taken, he knew he was doing the right thing. “Staying at Microsoft was the easy, safe choice. But it was not the right choice. I could have lived comfortably with my salary, and had all my needs met and then some. But I couldn’t live with myself knowing that there was no force out there to fight back against the destructive forces known as conservative talk radio”. Matthews-Lester had to drastically reduce his lifestyle and live frugally to help Public Radio Seattle get off the ground. He had to move out of his Bellevue House and into a smaller apartment. He had to sell off many of his possessions. He was even at the point of subsisting on ramen and wondering if he would have enough money to pay his bills. “All worth it.” said Matthews-Lester. “I sacrificed my lifestyle and career to start Public Radio Seattle to hopefully inform enough people to do the right thing politically to back legislation in which all people in the future would not go without.”
Public Radio Seattle fortunately was able to take off in Seattle and become successful, allowing Matthews-Lester to recoup his investments. Instead of returning to his lifestyle he had while at Microsoft, he instead continued to live modestly and instead reinvest his windfall back into Public Radio Seattle as well as within the Seattle Community. “I didn’t start Public Radio Seattle to become well off financially” said Matthews-Lester. “I don’t want to use this platform to enrich myself. I want to use it to help the community as a whole.” Amongst the organizations supported by Matthews-Lester and Public Radio Seattle are arts, cultural, LGBT and other progressive political organizations.
With right wing Donald Trump now president, Matthews-Lester knows that people will need Public Radio Seattle more than ever. “I didn’t create Public Radio Seattle for the good times. I created it to be there for the bad times.”
Whatever the future holds, Matthews-Lester and the team at Public Radio Seattle knows that people can always rely on Public Radio Seattle to help them become educated on the issues and be informed on what to do in order to take action.
Matthews-Lester has been married to his wife Lisa for 38 years, where they have one son, Preston.