Pacifica’s response to the outpouring of support for the Morning Show

Since the KPFA Morning Show was removed from the air in November, listeners have generously pledged over $55,000 to rehire the hosts and bring it back to KPFA’s airwaves via SaveKPFA’s PLEDGE TO RESTORE THE MORNING SHOW. That’s enough funding to return the two Morning Show hosts (Aimee Allison and Brian Edwards-Tiekert) for the remainder of the fiscal year (through September 2011). The show was KPFA’s highest grossing, bringing in 3 times what it cost to produce.

So what’s Pacifica’s response? Multiple calls and emails to Pacifica’s executive director from SaveKPFA activists Margy Wilkinson and Mal Burnstein (both elected delegates on KPFA’s local board) have not been returned. Then, on January 14, Pacifica’s national board ordered the network’s CFO to file a complaint with the California attorney general’s office over SaveKPFA’s fundraising campaign.

“This is an absurd move on Pacifica’s part. Instead of taking responsibility for the harm it has done, Pacifica is launching a harassment campaign against SaveKPFA and all the listeners who have stepped forward to preserve quality programming,” said Wilkinson, chair of KPFA’s local board. “These listener pledges will help restore valued programming and benefit KPFA financially. Why would Pacifica want us to stop fundraising, unless the reason for the Morning Show’s cancellation was not economic at all, but political?”

Besides pledging for its return, thousands of listeners have written to give their views. “I love my KPFA,” wrote listener Polly Boissevain, who more than doubled her direct contribution to KPFA, while also making a pledge in SaveKPFA’s campaign. “But I want you to know that my increased support at this time is made in spite of the moves that you have made, not in support of it.” You can read the rest of Polly’s letter here, along with lots of listener mail.

Others who have spoken up include elected officials, educators, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and Berkeley’s Labor Commission, all asking Pacifica to resolve the matter fairly and transparently.

Make your voice heard: write KPFA’s new GM

KPFA’s new general manager, Amit Pendyal, has agreed to meet with SaveKPFA. He has repeatedly said he “wants to hear from listeners,” so if you’d like to write him here about KPFA’s morning programming or other matters, we’ll personally deliver your letters during our meeting with him.

We’ll let you know the results. In the meantime, help us send an even stronger message to Pacifica. If you haven’t yet pledged — or would like to add to your PLEDGE TO RESTORE THE MORNING SHOW — you can do so here: ONLINE | BY MAIL

Thanks to an amazing listener response, KPFA’s emergency on-air fund drive in December was highly successful, but analysis of the pledges shows an interesting pattern. Pledges during the hours of 6-9 AM fell by a third of the level they had been at during the Fall 2010 fund drive, when the Morning Show was still on the air. In the December drive, KPFA’s listeners still gave generously but switched their pledging to shows such as Letters to Washington, Against the Grain and the Pacifica Evening News, which had explicitly mentioned restoring the Morning Show.

KPFA local station board news

On January 13, KPFA’s local station board held a civil meeting at which fundraising and other matters were discussed. For a sample, here’s a 4 minute audio file of board member Jack Kurzweil questioning the reasons for the Morning Show’s cancellation.

Just before the meeting began, however, board member Richard Phelps served a lawsuit against some SaveKPFA-affiliated board members, accusing them of “malice” and of not being “loyal” to Pacifica. His suit demands unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Phelps has a history of filing frivolous lawsuits surrounding KPFA, all of which have failed. “This is clearly a SLAPP suit, in which he is using legal maneuvers in an attempt to intimidate those working for locally-controlled programming at the station,” said board member Mal Burnstein.

In addition, board member Tracy Rosenberg is now claiming that SaveKPFA-affiliated board member Dan Siegel, who is a civil rights attorney in Oakland, can no longer serve on KPFA’s board because he is advising new Oakland mayor Jean Quan.

Siegel responds, “I am a volunteer advisor for mayor Jean Quan, with no official city title or authority. I am not a member of the mayor’s cabinet, which is made up of city department heads. I may be asked to attend its meetings on occasion, if there is something for me to discuss with the department heads. The bottom line is that I have been Jean’s friend since the Berkeley Third World Strike in 1968, we have done a lot of politics together, and I am her lawyer.”

Pacifica policy only excludes elected officials and “political appointees,” which has always meant people appointed to a political position, such as a those appointed to complete an unfilled term where the elected person has left the office, or appointed by an elected leader to a policy-making body such as a city commission or board. It does not apply to government employees or staff, of whom there have been many on both local and national Pacifica boards.

What’s behind the move? Rosenberg leads a faction that lost control of the local board in November’s election, which seeks to benefit by removing SaveKPFA’s Siegel from the board. Pacifica also recently attempted to swing the KPFA staff delegate election its way, before an Alameda County judge prevented Pacifica from removing specific voters’ ballots to change the results.

“These kinds of dishonest factional politics are not healthy for KPFA,” said board member Pamela Drake. “We hope the other side will start putting their energy into supporting stellar programming, fair labor practices, and respect for the contributions of the station’s workers and listeners.”