Friday, December 2, 2005
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Nearly 40 KPFA listeners picketed the station on Tuesday evening, November 29. Listeners came out to protest the Program Council’s scheduled vote that evening on cancelling the popular show, “Thinking Out Loud With Bill Mandel.”
But the vote on Mandel’s show never happened, because the Program Council could not convene a quorum. None of the paid staff members on the Program Council showed up, apparently unwilling to face the heat from the Mandelistas. The paid staff announced their intention to boycott the meeting in a telephone message to Tracy Rosenberg, chair of the Program Council.
The paid staff representatives to the Program Council who were absent were
Kris Welch, Aileen Alfandary, Amelia Gonzales, Lemlem Rijio, Luis Medina and Dev Ross. Nick Alexander, an unpaid staff member, was also absent.
One Program Council listener representative who did attend, Annie Hallatt, reportedly proclaimed that “picket lines are dangerous” in an attempt to excuse the staff’s absence.
“Paid staff members at the Berkeley bastion of Free Speech Radio are afraid of a picket line? Shame on anybody at KPFA who thinks that way,” said Richard Phelps, chair of the Local Station Board (LSB). “We need to be encouraging people to speak out.”
One absent member of the Program Council, Dev Ross, was widely reported to have thrown metal chairs around the room at a meeting of the Program Council last May, after he became upset at being on the losing side of the vote to bring Bill Mandel back to KPFA from his ten-year banishment. At least one of the chairs thrown hit one member of the Program Council. Ross then allegedly hit another member of the Program Council in the chest at least three times. General Manager Roy Campanella II was present during this melee. In most workplaces, such action would have led to immediate termination. Yet Ross remains on the job, and is still a voting member of the Program Council.
If anybody feels intimidated, it should be Bill Mandel’s supporters on the Program Council, given what happened at the May meeting.
Bill Mandel returned to KPFA after the May Program Council vote to end his ten-year banishment for violating Pacifica’s infamous gag rule. Before being banned in 1995, he had been one of Pacifica’s most popular programmers. His new show, now heard twice a month for thirty minutes, has brought back his careful cutting-edge analysis and insight, which lies at the heart of KPFA’s mission.
Although the picket at the station was taking place simultaneously with the KPFA evening news broadcast, the news department did not see fit to report on the news-worthy event that was happening right outside their front door.
The Mandelistas picketing the station vowed that they would be back for the next regularly-scheduled meeting of the Program Council, next Tuesday, December 6, at 6:00 PM.
In just the last week, well over 150 Mandel supporters have signed a petition demanding that KPFA “needs Bill’s show to be expanded, not abandoned.”
Click here to read and sign the petition.