Listeners outraged about layoffs, Pacifica’s hit to diversity

Thousands of listeners have called or written Pacifica’s executive director, Arlene Engelhardt, objecting to the mass layoffs of KPFA’s Morning Show staff earlier this week. “As a KPFA listener-supporter since 1966, I am shocked,” wrote listener Saraswathi Devi. “Why would you terminate the staff of the station’s best money maker? …Have you forgotten the original mission of Pacifica and KPFA? It seems that you have and if so, shame on you.”

Another, Michael Eisenscher, noted that Pacifica’s action “demonstrates utter contempt for the workers, paid and unpaid, who produce the programming, for the listeners who fund the station, for the union that represents the staff, and for the very concept of ‘free speech radio.’ KPFA has not struggled to survive all these years only to be dismembered by Pacifica’s corporate-minded fools. The listeners will not stand for it.”  | READ MORE LISTENER MAIL | SIGN PETITION TO RETURN MORNING SHOW

A protest called for Tuesday drew hundreds of concerned listeners on very short notice. Meanwhile, Sonali Kolhatkar, host of the program Uprising, which is being piped in to replace KPFA’s locally produced Morning Show, declared her solidarity with KPFA staff on Wednesday, interviewing Brian Edwards-Tiekert about layoffs on Wednesday and then Engelhardt on Thursday. Engelhardt told Kolhatkar that she had been given her “marching orders” by the Pacifica National Board to slash the show, and she would not say whether the Morning Show’s union staff would be replaced by volunteers. Web audience graphs already show the loss of Morning Show listeners.

Engelhardt claims she supports diversity at KPFA, but the majority of Morning Show workers she laid off are women and people of color. All 7 staff members who have stepped forward to take voluntary severance are people of color, according to a post on KPFAworker.org. One of those, Weyland Southon of Hard Knock Radio, gave this interview on why he’s leaving KPFA.

Station management has called off a fund drive scheduled for next week. Meanwhile, CWA Local 9415 (which represents KPFA paid staff) is demanding an apology from Pacifica for what it calls false charges against the union published on the network’s website.

Press coverage of the situation this week included the San Francisco Chronicle, the Huffington Post, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, as well as a lively debate between Bensky and Engelhardt on KQED’s Forum.

KEEP UP THE PRESSURE: You can reach Engelhardt at (510) 849-2590, ext 208 or cell (510) 402-9880, or write her here. Consider writing a letter to the editor or make blog postings about the KPFA situation. And be sure to sign up for SaveKPFA’s mailing list (upper right of this page) for future action alerts. AND PLEASE JOIN SaveKPFA in front of Pacifica’s offices at 1925 Martin Luther King Jr Way in Berkeley (next door to KPFA) FROM NOON TO 1 PM EVERY FRIDAY. This Friday, November 19, we will read aloud some of the thousands of messages we have received from outraged KPFA listeners objecting to the cancelling of the Morning Show. Please join us!

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