|Free Speech Radio|
Pay to Play?
The following statement was written by Henry Norr, and signed by several other candidates for the KPFA Local Station Board (LSB).
Henry is my #1 choice for the LSB because he most clearly sees that the fundamental problem at KPFA is an undemocratic and secret Program Council, run by the entrenched old-boys network.
Henry was a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle, covering high-tech issues, until he was fired for getting arrested in San Francisco’s financial district on the first day of the war in Iraq.
Local Station Board (LSB) member & former Chair
October 29, 2006
To All KPFA Supporters:
Recent developments in the current election for KPFA's Local Station Board suggest a frightening prospect: listener democracy at the station could soon be reduced to the same sorry state as the American political system, where candidates can't get a fair hearing unless they grovel before the wealthy to raise campaign funds, and those who do so the most stand the best chance of winning.
If you haven't already voted, I ask you to consider this issue - whichever candidates you're inclined to favor - before you cast your ballot.
The problem has two aspects: First, even though the ballots were mailed to listener-sponsors more than ten days ago, the station has so far done next to nothing to encourage voting or to give candidates an opportunity to publicize their platforms and credentials. Second, one election slate has raised and spent thousands of dollars - no one outside this slate knows exactly how much - to mail its own campaign literature to a large percentage of the station's membership, and by doing so they have sent other candidates scrambling to try to raise funds for mailings of their own.
It's the combination of these facts that I find so troubling, not only as a candidate, but also as a listener-sponsor - and as a believer in real democracy.
Spending money to influence the election outcome is not a violation of any rule I know of; the "Fair Campaign Provisions" distributed to candidates don't address the issue one way or another. I think campaign spending limits or, better yet, some equivalent to public financing of elections - perhaps a small allocation to enable all candidates to cover costs like printing flyers - should be added to the rules before next year's elections. For now, though, the question is not whether campaign spending is legal, but whether it's fair and appropriate, and whether you will allow your choices to be influenced by the power of money.
At this writing, more than a week after the polls opened, KPFA has given the 22 candidates to the board only one chance to speak on the air to the voters - a single, poorly publicized evening forum, aired weeks before the ballots were mailed. Since then, the election has scarcely been mentioned on the air.
The Pacifica National Board has mandated that all of the network's stations at least air brief statements from all candidates, but as of this writing, the station has yet to begin airing these announcements, even though the voting began a week ago. [As of 10/26/2006, the station has finally started playing a few carts, long after many voters have returned their ballots.] Even visitors to the KPFA Web site may not notice that the election is under way - the station's home page has only one small reference to the election, and you have to scroll down "below the fold" to find even that.
If it weren't for this deafening silence about the election on KPFA's airwaves, one slate's decision to resort to an expensive promotional mailing might not be such a concern. But if the station won't give all candidates a fair hearing, then there's a real danger that the mailing could give that slate a serious advantage - an advantage based not on its candidates' credentials or proposals, but solely on the basis of their access to funding.
That's a model of politics we're all too familiar with. (It's surely no coincidence that the slate in question was organized by a branch of the Democratic Party, a party that has tried for decades to play the game that way.) The question now is whether we want to bring that model, for the first time, into the KPFA community's internal decision-making.
If you agree with me that that idea is troubling, perhaps we can work together after the current election to limit the power of money in future KPFA elections. For now, though, I urge those of you who received the mailing from one slate not to let it determine your vote.
Instead, review the candidate statements in the booklet that came with your ballot or online at www.kpfa.org/elections/2006 (where you can also learn more about the candidates' views from our answers to a questionnaire).
Then, whomever you end up voting for, base your choice on principle - the candidates' qualifications and positions - rather than their access to funding.
Henry Norr, LSB candidate
Statement supported by the following other candidates, in alphabetical order: