Action Plan for KPFA

Monday, September 4, 2006, 1:00 PM
1929 Martin Luther King Jr. Way (at University Avenue)
Berkeley, CA

In March, the KPFA Program Council banned the KFPA Labor Collective for one year. The KPFA Labor Collective has been producing labor programming at KPFA for more than three years. The collective has members from SEIU 1000, NALC 214, SEIU 616, IBT 70, IUOE 39, SEUI UHW, and other locals.

At present, KPFA has 20 minutes a week of regular labor programming. The San Francisco Labor Council, the Contra Costa Labor Council, SEIU 790, SEIU 616 and other locals have endorsed calls for more labor programming. Hundreds of trade unionists have signed petitions for a weekly one hour labor show called “Workweek”.

For more information and background on the Program Council and the KPFA Labor Collective, see my statement below, and

Elections for the KPFA Local Station Board (LSB) will be held at the end of this year. Ballots are scheduled to be sent out October 16, and must be received back by Pacifica (NOT postmarked) by November 15.

More urgently, to vote, or to be a candidate, you must be a KPFA member of record on September 1. Make sure your membership is current!

To join or renew your membership, go to,
or call 800-439-5732 or 510-848-5732.

Although most of the world allows same-day registration for voting, and the federal government requires registration 30 days before an election, the Pacifica bylaws require listeners to be members 45 days in advance.

It is almost three years since I left the National Lawyers Guild and jumped into KPFA and Pacifica politics. I thought lawyers were difficult. Throw together the political times we live in, enormous radio personality egos, an entrenched old-boys network, Berkeley crazies and a sprinkle of government disruption (“The government would be remiss if it didn’t try to disrupt Pacifica,” said Bill Mandel recently.), and you have our dysfunctional radio network.

My tenure as Local Station Board (LSB) began with my reading reliable accounts of intimidation at the station. Intimidation so strong, most were afraid to come forward. For background on some of the more notable incidents, see my statement from the January 2006 KPFA Town Hall. The culture of intimidation continues to this day.

In my nearly three years on the LSB, we have made only one significant decision (other than hiring and removing Roy Campanella II as General Manager), and that was early in the first year. In 2004, the LSB voted to instruct Interim General Manager Jim Bennett to implement the Program Council’s decision to change the time of Democracy Now!  (See Confidentials #3, #6 and #10 for more information.) This resolution was ignored, and continues to be ignored, by KPFA management. “Too much resistance,” Campanella once said to me. I think a better word would be insubordination. The question of Democracy Now! hasn’t even been on the LSB agenda for well over two years.

Although I and many others on the LSB ran on platforms to improve the news and ratio of music to public affairs, there has been no progress there. The News Department issued a memo stating that their editorial decisions were not subject to review (see Confidential #5), and news Co-Director, Aileen Alfandary told me Haiti President Aristide wasn’t kidnapped because he walked onto the plane.

Recently Andrea Lewis of the Morning Show referred to anti-abortion activists as “Pro-Life.” When challenged by a listener on the air for using that terminology, she said that is what they want to be called. There is no system in place at KPFA  to raise these kinds of political questions, much less get them resolved.

But we won the struggle for democracy and transparency, didn’t we? Well… To this day, “official” programming decisions are made behind closed doors by an unelected Program Council, with the voting records of Program Council members kept secret. And radio is about programming, after all!

At one of these secret meetings, on International Women’s Day no less, the Program Council voted to ban the KPFA Labor Collective from submitting proposals for a year. Why? The explanation for the ban was vague at best, the collective was barred from the Program Council’s deliberations, and given no opportunity to respond to the charges — blatant violations of basic due process. The KPFA Labor Collective filed two grievances, to the station, and to Pacifica, both of which were ignored. At the July LSB meeting, the Labor Collective asked an LSB member to help them with their grievances, and I was the only volunteer.

The Interim General Manager Lemlem Rijio (who reportedly voted for the ban) directed me to the KPFA Human Resources consultant, who told me he would recommend lifting the ban because there were no findings. Pending an investigation, he said, the ban should be lifted.

On the eve of Labor Day, the KPFA Labor Collective is still banned from KPFA. The collective is calling for a picket of KPFA on Labor Day at 1:00 PM. The demand is simple. Lift the ban on the KPFA Labor Collective. I hope I will see you there.

What I am most proud of during my term as an LSB member is my organizing to bring Bill Mandel back to the airwaves. The ten-year ban on Bill had never even made it to the LSB agenda, and wouldn’t, so we organized on the street, directly with the listeners. We marched a delegation into the station to see the General Manager, and organized picket lines in front of the station — which finally broke the ban and brought Bill back.

I am certain that without listener agitation, the LSB will continue to be rendered superfluous, if not an outright distraction, from what listeners fought so hard for, which was to protect OUR airwaves and provide a voice for the voiceless.

In collaboration with Steve Zeltzer of the KPFA Labor Collective, Mehmet Yazgan of the former Voices of the Middle East, and JR of the Block Report,
I wrote the following Ten-Point ACTION Plan. I welcome your thoughts.

KPFA and Pacifica:
Community Radio as the Voice of the Voiceless —
Or still the same old boys network?

·Are you satisfied with the quality of news at KPFA?

Are you satisfied with the amount of quality public affairs programming?

Are you satisfied that all programming decisions occur behind the closed doors of the Program Council, closed even to the elected governing board?

1. Open up the Program Council meetings to the public.
Programmers shall not have a vote on programming decisions. The Program Council facilitates the old boys network. The station is rife with nepotism. I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine. As a community radio station, listeners must decide programming. Programmers present, but don’t decide. Listeners do. Where is transparency if programming decisions are made in secret? It CAN be done.

2. Improve the news.
Are you tired of hearing what you just read in the Chronicle? Do you want more alternative news, not just off the AP and UPI wires? The news co-directors have gone on record that all  editorial decisions are their own. This is a community radio station, and the community has been clamoring for years to improve the news. It CAN be done.

3. There should be more Public Affairs than Music programs.
The police state and repression are increasing daily. People deemed “enemy combatants” are held incommunicado for years without seeing a lawyer or judge. We need more radical political analysis and strategies for activism, not endless hours of country and oldie music. Pacifica’s LA station, KPFK, has a better ratio of public affairs to music. It CAN be done.

4. More community based reporters.
Do you live outside of Oakland and feel like your issues and activist work are ignored? Let’s establish regional news bureaus in the South Bay, North Bay, Fresno and Sacramento. Couldn’t the KPFA apprenticeship program, and KPFA’s enormous $4 million budget support that? It CAN be done.

5. Better utilize KPFB, which reaches as many listeners as KPOO.
KPFB has a lot of dead air. Why? Because the old boys network wants to prevent anything they don’t control. Let’s utilize those airwaves, let newer programmers reach an audience and develop their skills. It CAN be done.

6. Re-establish the Women’s Department and Third World Department.
The classy plaques of those former departments still adorn the walls of the station, but they exist only in memory. Why did they end? Bring them back, to assure that there will be consistent programming addressing the critical concerns of women and  people of color. It CAN be done.

7. Establish a Labor Department.
Did you know that the Program Council banned the Labor Collective from making programming proposals for a year? Why? Because the Labor Collective made too many proposals. Why did they make so many proposals? Because there is almost no regular labor programming. Establish a Labor Department to be sure that there will be more regular programming to address the critical concerns of working people. It CAN be done.

8. Bring back the monthly folio.
Listeners continually ask for the return of the folio. The station should have a monthly folio with letters and articles from listeners and an interactive website for debate/discussion of programming and KPFA/Pacifica issues of concern. It CAN be done.

9. Demand a real Unpaid Staff Organization.
Unpaid staff used to be represented by the union which represented the paid staff, but the paid staff sold out the unpaid staff. The Unpaid Staff Organization (UPSO) does not have union representation, and doesn’t even meet, as it is controlled by long term unpaid staffers, some of whom make their living because they are known as KPFA programmers. UPSO must meet, conduct the election for representatives that was scheduled for last October, and fight for a budget that supports unpaid community programmers. It CAN be done.

10. Support the establishment of a Pacifica New Orleans Affiliate.
A proposal has been made to the Pacifica National Board, but the board moves as slow as molasses. The survivors of Katrina are clamoring for real news, and every day survival is a struggle. Their radio stations are controlled by corporations and the religious right. Is Pacifica the voice of the voiceless? Open a station in New Orleans. It CAN be done.

Si Se Puede!