KPFA local board, staff object to Pacifica’s removal of station manager

Original KPFA radio dial, circa 1949
Original KPFA radio dial, circa 1949

Pacifica’s top official moved to oust KPFA’s interim general manager, Andrew Phillips in a phone call on April 12th. Phillips told KPFA’s elected Local Station Board (LSB) on April 13 that interim Pacifica executive director Summer Reese told him to vacate his office within a week. Here’s a report that ran on the Pacifica Evening News.

The LSB passed two measures in response. The first states: “The KPFA Local Station Board opposes any move by Pacifica to remove or replace a KPFA manager without the meaningful participation of KPFA’s elected Local Station Board and consultation with KPFA’s paid and unpaid staff.” This resolution passed with a vote of 15 yes, 1 no, and 4 abstentions.

The second states: “Based on the information we have as of this date, the KPFA Local Station Board supports continuing the tenure of Andrew Phillips as interim general manager until the process of hiring a permanent general manager is complete.”  The vote for this one was 14 yes, 0 no and 3 abstentions.  Several members crossed factional lines to vote for (or abstain on) these resolutions.

Phillips was given the job in early 2011 by then-executive director Arlene Engelhart, and he faced widespread criticism – including a vote of “no confidence” by the local board in September 2011. Subsequently, Engelhardt rejected the LSB’s recommended pool of applicants for the permanent GM job.

By most accounts, Phillips had grown on the job and won support from many quarters. But the issue isn’t only about him.  It’s about local control at KPFA, Pacifica overstepping its authority, and a fair, legal and democratic process for hiring and firing.  | WRITE Pacifica via this pageSIGN petition, LISTEN to the KPFA LSB meeting: part 1 (manager’s report followed by discussion starts at 23:30), part 2

Several in-person meetings of KPFA’s paid and volunteer staff have overwhelmingly supported the essence of these resolutions, and over 60 workers have signed a public statement (page 1 | page 2) insisting on a full investigation before any action is taken.

The Pacifica National Board met on April 25 behind closed doors and presumably discussed the situation at KPFA. On May 2, Pacifica suddenly put Phillips “on leave” and installed a new interim manager. | REPORT on the Pacifica Evening News

Phillips was given the job in early 2011 by then-executive director Arlene Engelhart, and he faced widespread criticism, including a vote of “no confidence” by the local board in September 2011. Shortly afterward, Engelhardt rejected the LSB’s recommended candidates for the permanent GM job.

KPFA wraps up successful winter fund drive

UpFront's Sonali Kolhatkar interviewing actor Jack Black about the KPFK Hero Awards

On March 6, KPFA’s winter fund drive wrapped up, finishing two days earlier than 2012’s winter fund drive — and raising $100,000 more. Thanks to all of you in KPFA-land who pledged, and a special thanks to those who helped out in the phone room. If you didn’t get a chance to, you can give to KPFA anytime online.

KPFA’s fund drives are still running longer than before Pacifica killed KPFA’s top fundraiser, the Morning Show — but the trend has started to reverse. The 7AM weekday program UpFront, co-hosted by former Morning Show staffer Brian Edwards-Tiekert and KPFK’s Sonali Kolhatkar, has become the station’s top fundraiser. Since UpFront‘s launch last May, KPFA’s fund drives have started consistently beating their goals. And now, they’re getting shorter.

WBAI tower gets eviction notice, FSRN on the brink

Unfortunately, the situation elsewhere in the 5-station Pacifica network isn’t so bright. Days before the Pacifica National Board convened in New York City on February 22, news broke that sister station WBAI’s transmitting tower was about to be evicted from its roost on the Empire State Building, which allows the station to reach up to 75 miles in all directions, into four states.

Rent for the tower was $200,000 in arrears, and the landlord had begun eviction proceedings. In an emergency appeal, WBAI extended its winter fund drive by four weeks, while Pacifica set up a special transmitter fund. Those moves allowed WBAI to pay three months’ back rent, but $110,000 more will be due April 1. WBAI had been knocked off the air when Superstorm Sandy hit last October, but it got a reprieve after KPFA and the other stations raised over $180,000 for WBAI on a single day in November. WBAI has been racking up serious deficits for years, a casualty of high fixed costs and mismanagement at both the national and local levels.

More bad news hit the network on March 4, as Free Speech Radio News (FSRN) issued layoff notices to its entire staff, saying it would go off the air by March 15 if emergency fundraising efforts failed. FSRN is a worker-run newscast broadcast daily on Pacifica stations. Although it’s an independent nonprofit, the majority of its funding comes from Pacifica. To pay FSRN, Pacifica witholds a portion of its stations’ Corporation for Public Broadcasting grants — but lately, Pacifica has been missing payments, forcing FSRN to the brink.

At the March 9 meeting of KPFA’s Local Station Board (audio here: part 1 | part 2 | part 3) interim general manager Andrew Phillips announced that KPFA had advanced FSRN $35,000, which KPFA will deduct from its future payments to Pacifica. Thanks to that, plus grassroots support from hundreds of small donors, FSRN has raised enough to stay on the air while it looks for a permanent solution. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! has issued an urgent call to support FSRN. You can help by donating to this valuable news service.