Pacifica is refusing to reinstate the Morning Show, despite $60K in pledges

Pacifica executive director Arlene Engelhardt says she won’t reinstate KPFA’s Morning Show, despite being offered $60,000 in pledges from listeners to pay for it, according to this report, which aired on the Pacifica Evening News.
Play here: Pacifica Evening News Jan 21, 2011

A delegation of SaveKPFA members, including KPFA board chair Margy Wilkinson, board member Pamela Drake, and listener-activist Ying Lee, met on January 20 with KPFA’s new general manager Amit Pendyal and interim program director Carrie Core.

“We told them we’d received $60,000 in pledges to restore the Morning Show from very enthusiastic listeners, and that KPFA and Pacifica could avoid costly arbitrations and more lost revenue by bringing the show back,” said Wilkinson. The group also presented a few hundred of the most recent letters from listeners (out of thousands that have been sent to Pacifica since November), as well as copies of letters signed by elected officials and educators.

For instance, Robert Mason wrote: “Please listen to those who have fought to keep the Morning Show and solid, independent, quality news programming on KPFA. Anyone familiar with the situation recognizes that this is not primarily about money, but politics.”

“Please, take our pledges, make good use of them and return the Morning Show to KPFA — demonstrate good faith along with some justice and restore peace,” wrote listener Anne Wayman. “Do what is right,” urged Jonel Larson. “The listening and contributing community has clearly expressed itself. Don’t let a misguided faction rule our station.”

The SaveKPFA delegation also expressed concern about the plummeting listener statistics, which indicate that KPFA’s listeners are tuning out the new programming. (See this graph comparing listener patterns for the Morning Show and the new 8 AM hour.)

But Pendyal told SaveKPFA’s delegation that he had no control over the matter and that Engelhart would handle it. “I told him that it was unacceptable,” said Lee. “We had assumed with a new GM there would be local control, but that was obviously not the case.”

Engelhardt claims “other issues” at stake

After meeting with Pendyal, the SaveKPFA delegation went next door to Pacifica’s office to find Engelhardt, who talked with them for only a few minutes.

“We reminded her that she has repeatedly said the layoffs were for ‘economic’ reasons,” reports Drake. “We pointed out that the $60K in pledges would allow KPFA to put the hosts back to work for the rest of the fiscal year.” The group also told Engelhardt they believed the Morning Show would raise significantly more than it cost to produce – as it did in the past – and that would help KPFA’s difficult financial situation.

Drake says Engelhart mentioned “other issues,” and said “they” had attacked people on the air. “I asked, ‘You mean Brian? But he’s been on the air since as an unpaid staffer,'” noted Drake. Engelhardt quickly confirmed that she had no problem with Edwards-Tiekert’s on-air work at the station.

You may write to KPFA or Pacifica here – they need to continue to hear from listeners on these latest developments. KPFA begins another on-air fund drive on February 14. Now is the time to let management know that if it returns the Morning Show to the air before the drive starts, KPFA has the best chance to make it successful.

We’d also welcome your personal endorsement of SaveKPFA. When we reach critical mass, we’ll post a special LISTENER ENDORSEMENTS PAGE on our website.

Hundreds put up pledges, vast majority under $100

Meanwhile, management’s backers are claiming that SaveKPFA’s supposedly “wealthy donors” are trying to “buy” airtime with the $60,000 in pledges. However, the vast majority of pledges are in amounts under $100, and came from supporters throughout the bay area and the nation.

“Pacifica is offering nothing but continued cuts and no new ideas for raising funds,” said board member Jack Kurzweil. “That will lead to a downward spiral for the station, not the expanded listenership we need.”

“The Morning Show cuts were strictly a political decision taken by Pacifica over the heads of local KPFA managers,” said board member Matthew Hallinan, who has just written this analysis of the situation. “It was an autocratic, top-down decision which has upset thousands of KPFA subscribers.”

Peter Phillips of Project Censored is one of those who volunteered to host the new 8AM program, after Allison and Edwards-Tiekert were terminated. KPFA board member Pamela Drake asked Phillips why he was playing along with management in undercutting the Morning Show staff back in December. “He responded in an email that he would ‘work hard to bring the budget back up and step aside when appropriate.’ But now that we’ve raised enough money to rehire the staff, he’s changed his tune and is circulating an email attacking SaveKPFA’s fundraising.” If you’d like, you can let Phillips know your opinion by emailing him at this address).

“There should be a complete analysis of the programming at KPFA — who listens, when, for how long, which communities are represented, which shows bring in new subscribers,” said Wilkinson. “But it must start at the status prior to the cancellation of the Morning Show, so as not to make a complete mockery of the process.”

Alternatives to slashing KPFA’s programming

Some recent letters from listeners have also made their way to KPFA’s local board, on which SaveKPFA-affiliated reps have a majority. We asked Henry Norr, a board member affiliated with the minority Independents for Community Radio slate, which has supported the termination of the Morning Show, for a reaction to listeners’ comments.

“It is clear a lot of people are unhappy about how things came down and miss the old Morning Show,” said Norr. “I understand it is a bad situation….A lot of things could and should have been done differently, but by last fall, there was no alternative to making drastic cuts. There was no money any more,” said Norr.

But many disagree. You can find SaveKPFA’s analysis of the financial situation in Facts on KPFA’s Crisis. KPFA’s union, supported by listeners and local managers, proposed a sustainable budget that would have avoided deep cuts. “Add the $60K now pledged, plus on-air fundraising from a restored Morning Show, and the picture gets even better,” said Kurzweil.

If you’d like to attend the next KPFA local station board meeting, it is scheduled for Saturday, February 12 at 11 AM, location to be arranged. Listeners may sign up to speak during the public comment period.

Move to illegally unseat KPFA board member

Meanwhile, as we reported last week, KPFA board member Tracy Rosenberg is claiming that Dan Siegel, who is a civil rights attorney in Oakland and a local station board member affiliated with SaveKPFA, can no longer serve because he is volunteering for new Oakland mayor Jean Quan. Pacifica bylaws prohibit individuals from serving on the board if they are incumbents, candidates, or appointees to public office.

Siegel is none of these. He is a volunteer for Quan with no office or salary, and is not a political appointee. Quan herself has issued a statement that Siegel “is a member of the Mayor’s Transition Advisory Committee, as are 24 other citizens [and] is free to give me advice as is any other citizen.”

Last Friday, Rosenberg’s allies on the Pacifica’s board voted to unseat Siegel as both a local and national Pacifica board member, in a meeting that was not advertised beforehand and did not follow due process, as required by Pacifica’s bylaws. Board members did not investigate the situation and did not even speak to Siegel before taking the action. Stay tuned for developments.

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