Understanding the relationship between KPFA and Pacifica

Art by Bob Baldock for the film KPFA on the Air

How could the Pacifica network, which KPFA listeners and staff fought to make accountable a decade ago, now go to war with local staff and listeners?

Listen to this short audio clip (7 minutes) of SaveKPFA-affiliated board member Matthew Hallinan explaining the big picture on Friday’s KPFA Local Station Board Show. You can find the entire show here (50 minutes), including many interesting listener call-ins and a dramatic performance at the half-hour mark by Pacifica/KPFA board member Tracy Rosenberg.

Meanwhile, twelve members of the local station board have written an open letter to KPFA’s interim general manager Andrew Phillips objecting to what they say is “completely inappropriate” behavior on his part toward the station’s journalists, after they broke the story of a $15,000 donation from Goldman Sachs to Pacifica. The board members’ letter also reiterates questions about management’s sweeping program changes, including moving Flashpoints and Hard Knock Radio to the AM hours while refusing to restore the KPFA Morning Show.

Listener outrage forces KPFA management to abandon plans to remove 9AM Democracy Now!

BREAKING NEWS — A VICTORY! Over the weekend, hundreds of you sent letters to KPFA’s managers protesting their plan to make sweeping programming changes without input from staff and listeners. In a hastily-called staff meeting yesterday morning, according to KPFA workers, the station’s interim general manager Andrew Phillips and interim program director Carrie Core agreed to not cancel the 9 AM broadcast of Democracy Now!. They said they’d been influenced by the outpouring of listener letters and phone calls over the weekend. You made the difference!

For instance, referring to new revelations of corporate money from Goldman Sachs, Daniel Goodwin writes “I have listened and contributed to KPFA since I moved to the Bay Area 35 years ago. I have never before witnessed such a grotesque assault on noncommercial radio, on the very core of Lewis Hill’s vision, as we see unfolding today. Corporate money flows into WBAI programming, while KPFA’s GM characterizes Lewis Hill’s values as outdated…. these people have no shame.”

Listener Iris Biblowitz wrote: “I don’t understand how Pacifica can make dictatorial changes in KPFA’s schedule, treating competent, truth-seeking, and hard-working journalists like cards to be shuffled.”

“What has been happening to KPFA programming — and what I understand is now about to happen at the hands of people who temporarily occupy positions with decision-making authority — is really horrific,” wrote listener Phyllis Willett. We need to have The Morning Show restored and we certainly should not be reducing Democracy Now’s airtime.” | MORE LETTERS

Unfortunately, Phillips and Core say they’re committed to keeping the Morning Show from returning to KPFA, and to many of the other program changes they announced last week, including moving Hard Knock Radio and Flashpoints to the morning (without explaining where exactly they’d go).

KEEP THE PRESSURE ON! Tell management to back off on these unwise changes, respect KPFA staff and listeners, and return the Morning Show to the air. EMAIL via this page or PHONE interim managers Andrew Phillips (510-848-6767 ext 203) and Carrie Core (510-848-6767 ext 209).

WBAI funds came from Goldman Sachs, says Pacifica

Three days after the story broke on April 22, Pacifica management is now saying that its New York City station, WBAI, received $10,000 from corporate finance giant Goldman Sachs (not corporate finance giant Merrill Lynch/Bank of America, as originally stated by WBAI’s general manager). The Pacifica network has a long-standing policy of not taking corporate underwriting.

The KPFA Weekend News ran a story April 24 about the funding, which included an interview with former Pacifica correspondent Larry Bensky (audio here) on the issues at stake. On April 25, Pacifica executive director Arlene Engelhardt spoke to KPFA News (audio here), and called the money a “grant,” but said that she would not rule out underwriting in the future.

It’s still unclear what strings were attached to the gift — Pacifica managers have told various people that the gift was either unrestricted, or specifically for a series on the topic of hydro-fracking. No-strings-attached gifts are not, legally-speaking, “underwriting.” Donations to fund a particular program or series are. Engelhardt was unable to produce any documents related to the “grant.”