Tim K. Smith's documentary Sex and Broadcasting isn't actually about sex—it borrowed its name from Lorenzo Milam's book on the art of creative radio. The film's topic is WFMU, a legendarily freewheeling station in New Jersey. WFMU offers some of the most strange and eclectic programming available anywhere in the country, and it sustains itself without any commercials, underwriting, or government subsidies. It isn't even attached to a university that might help pay the bills. (It used to be owned by Upsala College, but the school went bankrupt nearly two decades ago. Improbably, the station survived.)
The engrossing movie shifts back and forth between WFMU's wild programs and the more grounded nuts-and-bolts work required to keep such a relentlessly uncommercial operation on the air. The station underwent a major financial crisis while Smith was filming, which provides much of the picture's narrative spine. In the meantime, a host of daily mini-crises come and go.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Freeform Radio: The Movie".