Proposed Cuts Threaten KPFA

KPFA, the nation’s longest operating listener-sponsored radio station and flagship of the five-station Pacifica network, has faced many crises. But a plan from Pacifica national to lay off many of the station’s core staff, while ignoring more progressive solutions to a budget shortfall, could decimate programming at the venerable 61-year-old Berkeley institution.

Like other non-profits, KPFA faces decreased donations in the current economy. The national Pacifica Foundation, which owns KPFA, is responding with drastic budget cuts which would likely remove the station’s most widely listened-to broadcasters and its most effective fundraisers.

“These cuts would dramatically affect what KPFA listeners hear,” said Margy Wilkinson, a member of SaveKPFA, a slate of candidates which won a majority on the station’s local governance board election earlier this month. “Such changes would be highly counterproductive, as they would reduce listenership and diminish the station’s future ability to fundraise.”

Among the programs that may be cut are the Morning Show, Against the Grain, and the KPFA Evening News. Most of the staff on these popular programs have signed statements critical of the national board’s policies. In the wake of a misdirected email that named these employees specifically for layoff, many believe they are now being targeted for speaking out.

“The station has long been an environment where debate is encouraged and political commitment is valued,” said Max Pringle, a labor and general assignment news reporter at KPFA. “It is highly disturbing that workers who are exercising their right to free speech now face being fired, and in effect censored, by the current Pacifica management.”

SPEAK UP: write a note to Pacifica management here.

Sustainable Budget Wins Broad Support

KPFA’s unionized staff, represented by the Communications Workers of America Local 9415, have drafted what they call the Sustainable KPFA Budget to meet the shortfall, aiming to preserve programming and on-air fundraising capacities.

Their proposals include cutting more than $110,000 in expenses for meetings of the Pacifica National Board, spreading out KPFA’s repayment of back-dues to Pacifica, and charging Pacifica rent for the KPFA-owned building it occupies. Individual staff members have also offered to save KPFA money by switching to less-expensive health plans.

On October 16, KPFA’s local station board endorsed those staff proposals. KPFA’s local management also supported the changes.

On October 19, Pacifica’s national finance committee rejected the budget proposals put forth by KPFA’s staff and local board, as reported by the KPFA Evening News the following day.

“The plan we supported would have saved jobs and preserved important station resources, not least of which is the listenership,” said Pamela Drake, a SaveKPFA listener member of the local board. “If we cut our best fundraisers and programmers, we’re going to lose listeners, and that’s a vicious circle that ends up killing the station.”

The Pacifica Radio network is an independent, non-profit organization that operates five radio stations, including KPFA in Berkeley, KPFK in Los Angeles, WBAI in New York City, KPFT in Houston, and WPFW in Washington, DC.

KPFA has already cut nearly a fifth of its workforce over the course of the past year. Without any of the Sustainable KPFA Budget measures in place, the station would be forced to cut up to 25% more, while paying Pacifica an unprecedented $752,000 in the current fiscal year. That’s 21.3% of KPFA’S projected $3.5 million in revenues.

“KPFA’s generating enough income to pay the costs of running the radio station,” said Mal Burnstein, top-vote getter in the local board election last month. “But it’s not generating enough to also pay $752,000 toward Pacifica’s national bureaucracy. We think it’s clear that Pacifica’s bloated budget needs to be cut first.” Pacifica national office salaries are much higher than KPFA’s, particularly for managers.

SPEAK UP: write a note to Pacifica management here.

Speak out against damaging cuts to KPFA

DISCLAIMER: This is not an official Pacifica Foundation website nor an official website of KPFA–we’re a slate that ran for KPFA’s Board (see bottom for detailed disclaimer)

SaveKPFA is cited as “easily the best slate” by Pacifica historian Matthew Lasar in his blog this week, after it swept 6 of 9 open seats on KPFA’s station board. But even as he sent his congratulations for SaveKPFA’s election victory, Lasar notes that the “great majority of Pacifica listener subscribers never vote in these races,” which have cost the organization millions of dollars.

Those dollars could better be used to support KPFA excellent radio programming, as the station grapples with fundraising shortfalls in this difficult economy. Station staff have released what they call a sustainable budget that would save over $250,000.

Even though KPFA management has already agreed to most of the proposals, support is not forthcoming at Pacifica National, or with some members of KPFA’s Local Station Board. reports that three members of the Pacifica national board are instead demanding that staff members who have opposed them be laid off, according to a misdirected email.

The list includes Morning Show staffers Aimee Allison, Brian Edwards-Tiekert, and Laura Prives, Against the Grain’s Sasha Lilley, and the News Department’s John Hamilton, Christopher Martinez, Max Pringle and Rose Ketabchi. All of these staff members have signed statements in opposition to the actions of the current board majority.

The cuts would reduce the Morning Show (which raises three times what it costs to produce) to one hour, and the Evening News (which is one of the few remaining sources of local and regional news) to half an hour. Against the Grain, which is among KPFA’s most popular public affairs shows, would end up severely understaffed.

Hundreds of supporters have written to the Pacifica National Board in support of the station’s staff and programming. A few are linked here.

SaveKPFA believes these cuts would harm the station and better solutions can be found. KPFA’s Equity Index gives some idea of how top-heavy the Pacifica structure is, and the economic conditions facing workers at the station.

KPFA listeners are invited to attend the station’s board meeting this Saturday, October 16, 11 AM as cuts to station staff and programming are considered. The meeting will take place at the North Berkeley Senior Center, which is located at 1901 Hearst Avenue (at Martin Luther King Jr. Way) in Berkeley, one block north of KPFA.

The newly-elected SaveKPFA board members will take office in less than two months and promise to find ways to build, rather than dismantle, the station. Together, we can find a way through these trying economic times and find ways to defend the democratic process at KPFA and throughout Pacifica in a less costly way. Please come and speak in support of positive solutions and against drastic actions by the outgoing station board.

STAY TUNED for more information on the fight to save KPFA listener-supported radio by emailing us or friend us on Facebook.