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KPFA and Pacifica: The Struggle Continues, or Democracy When?

Speak Out:
Saturday, July 24, 2004
11:00 AM
Berkeley Fellowship Hall
1924 Cedar (at Bonita), Berkeley
Local Station Board meeting

A call from:
Mike Alcalay (former KPFA reporter and programmer of Aids in Focus)
Lincoln Bergman (KPFA News Director 1969-71, longterm programmer through 1995)
Jeffrey Blankfort (co-founder, Take Back KPFA)
Riva Enteen (Chair, KPFA Local Station Board)
Maria Gilardin (co-founder, Take Back KPFA)
Bill Mandel (37-year programmer, fired for refusal to obey KPFA gag rule)
Henry Norr (KPFA news subcommittee, fired from the San Francisco Chronicle)
Joe Wanzala (former KPFA Local Advisory Board member)

Five years ago, in 1999, thousands of KPFA listeners and members joined a mass movement to take KPFA back from the corporate forces that almost destroyed the network and station. This was an event that had few parallels -- radio station listeners, in the streets, refusing to be a passive audience, demanding that the station serve the community. In the end, a victorious legal settlement was reached with listeners winning the right to elect local station boards and a national board. But the struggle for democracy within Pacifica and KPFA had only just begun.

Nearly every local station board, including the KPFA board, has been divided, with intense struggles over agendas, minutes, meeting times and rules, that have so far prevented the hard business of improving our programming and bringing the community back into community radio. While some delay and debate is to be expected as democracy rises, and are certainly no strangers to Pacifica culture, the stakes we all marched for are far too important to be whittled away. Particularly in the post-9/11 period, KPFA is a target for those who fear "free speech radio," and who seek to silence the "voice of the voiceless."

There are still programmers who were banned and fired during the previous period who have not yet been welcomed back into the KPFA and Pacifica community.

There are still some managers and staff in positions of influence who operated for so long in the old context that many of their assumptions about politics and radio have been shaped by it. Sometimes the clash between old and new has resulted in acrimonious and personal attacks that far exceed basic workplace civility. At the same time, there are many change-oriented programmers and staff who are open to innovation, yet discouraged by the current logjam.

The station is now searching for a permanent station manager. A good choice can be a major step forward. Yet the larger KPFA community has not yet been invited to be part of this process, and needs to be. There has also not been a Program Manager for some years.

The meetings of the existing Program Council have been suspended for some time. How then is it possible for program change to happen? How can comments be heard? The News department has often been criticized on major issues, especially for political slants that derive, at least in part, from reading directly off the news wire. Recent examples include Haiti and the Middle East. There are also issues related to news selection, order, emphasis, and listen-ability. Is there any forum for these issues to be raised? There needs to be.

These are only a few of the many issues confronting KPFA in this new era of hoped-for greater community involvement and democratic change. KPFA and the Pacifica network are vital to the movement for freedom and justice. It is the community of listeners and members, united with the many community-oriented staff members, who can make change happen. Please stay tuned and -- even better -- join with us to help move our station forward.

Thanks for your support!

(Friday, July 23, 2004)

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