This meeting was called as a result of a resolution passed by the KPFA Local Station Board (LSB), which states that its purpose is to discuss “station issues, including WORKPLACE VIOLENCE, LABOR and COMMUNITY RELATIONS.”
Panel discussion followed by two hours of community participation.
3543 – 18th Street
(between Valencia and Guerrero)
The 16th Street BART station is three blocks away.
When I first joined the LSB in January 2004, I heard several credible accounts that an entrenched old-boys network held sway at the station, determined to preserve their position and perks at all costs, up to and including outright intimidation and violence. As a result, many staff and volunteers were afraid to speak their minds about poor programming and working conditions at the station. To my dismay, my experience has confirmed these accounts, over and over again.
Despite many efforts to confront the twin issues of poor programming and violent intimidation, these fundamental questions have not been seriously addressed by the station administration, the LSB or the Program Council, much less tackled and resolved. As a result, the entrenched old-boys network continues to control the agenda.
As many people know, the LSB recently voted to look for a new General Manager for the station. It is essential that the KPFA community become involved in this search. We must demand that the new General Manager be someone who is firmly committed to stripping the current powers-that-be of their privileged positions, that programming decisions be based on the needs and desires of the listeners, and that the culture of intimidation and violence be torn up by its roots and forever banished from the station and from Pacifica.
And it is high time that the LSB get firmly behind the efforts of the listeners to restore KPFA and Pacifica, the home of free speech radio, to its historic role as the voice of the voiceless, and a leading part of the movement for freedom and justice for all peoples.
SOME EXAMPLES OF THE CULTURE OF INTIMIDATION AND VIOLENCE
Soon after I was elected chair of the LSB, Flashpoints programmer Miguel Molina asked for my help in his grievance against Vini Beacham, who allegedly physically intimidated him in front of his son. Molina´s complaint has never been resolved. General Manager Roy Campanella told me he considered Beacham a “ticking time bomb.” But when Guns and Butter producer Bonnie Faulkner later filed a complaint against Beacham alleging physical intimidation against her, Campanella took no action. Too much resistance, he said.
(For background on the Molina/Beacham incident, see the piece by
Robbie Osmon on WBAI’s Robert Knight and KPFA’s Miguel Molina,
and see the Beyond Chron article by Marc Norton at http://quartz.he.net/~beyondch/news/index.php?itemid=1713.)
At the Take Back KPFA event at La Peña I helped organize a year ago, Larry Bensky challenged a listener to step outside. General Manager Roy Campanella was himself present during Bensky’s hissy fit. Now I hear that Bensky recently physically intimidated LSB staff member Mary Berg. Apparently he is notorious at the station for this kind of threatening behavior. But nobody in any position of authority is willing to call him to account. This is shameful.
Robert Knight now reports to us “in exile” on Flashpoints. At WBAI in New York, he was the victim of a “black bag job” by a pro-management staff member who rifled through his desk, notes and computer. When Robert caught her in the act, and objected, another staff member told him to “Stop acting like a bitch, you bitch, or I’ll kick your ass…” Subsequently, Robert was fired from WBAI. Recently his air time on Flashpoints was cut by General Manager Campanella. This is a clear case of Pacifica management punishing the victims of violent intimidation, rather than the perpetrators.
(For more information about the black bag job incident at WBAI, see Robert’s
Open Letter to the Pacifica National Board. For more information about Campanella cutting back Robert’s air time, see Confidential #16.)
One 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 hit a member of the Program Council. Ross then allegedly hit another member of the Program Council in the chest at least three times. Campanella 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. (Outrageously, the vote to bring Mandel back to KPFA has since been reversed.)
LSB member Annie Hallatt subsequently declared that a peaceful picket held at the station in support of Mandel was “intimidating” and “violent,” and created the climate for the chair-throwing incident at the Program Council. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
And, just a few days after the Program Council fracas, the now-infamous near physical altercation occurred between Campanella and Hard Knock Radio host Weyland Southon.
It was Weyland Southon who circulated a statement complaining about the “more radical faction” at KPFA, and declaring that “without Roy [Campanella] in power, Dennis [Bernstein of Flashpoints] is toast.” Bernstein and Flashpoints Senior Producer Nora Barrows-Freeman then found toast in their mailboxes. And Campanella is now on his way out.
HOW THE TOWN HALL MEETING CAME TO BE
In the wake of the Program Council melee and the confrontation between Weyland Southon and Campanella, the KPFA Unpaid Staff Organization unanimously passed a resolution condemning violence at the station, and brought their resolution to the May LSB meeting. Incredibly, when a similar resolution was put to a vote by the LSB, the majority voted it down. The LSB then told the public to leave so that they could go into a secret “executive session.”
However, about a dozen people refused to leave, including long-time KPFA activists Les Radke and Bob English, demanding that the issue of violence be addressed. I then proposed that the LSB put an item on the agenda for the next meeting in June addressing the issue of violence. This suggestion drew approval from several LSB members, and no objections, and averted an incipient sit-in.
Yet, prior to the June meeting, then-Chair Rosalinda Palacios refused to put any item about violence on the agenda. As a result, I put out a call to people “who believe that KPFA should be violence-free” to come to the board meeting and “demand that our governing body tell the public what is being done to stop the violence.” (See Confidential #11.) In response, Palacios and then-Treasurer Marnie Tattersall secretly hired a security guard for the next LSB meeting.
At the meeting, I tried to get a discussion about violence at the station on the agenda, but failed. Absent any substantive discussion, however, the LSB did pass a resolution calling for “a town hall meeting within 90 days to discuss station issues, including workplace violence, labor and community relations.”
The Outreach Committee hadn’t met for almost a year, but was tasked with organizing the Town Hall meeting. The committee still hadn’t met four months after the June meeting. So I took the initiative and called a meeting, and got called a “carpetbagger” for my trouble. Nevertheless, planning for the Town Hall meeting finally got underway.
You certainly wouldn’t know from the official KPFA flyer or the notice that is being run on the air that violence at the station was the reason for the upcoming Town Hall meeting. The same entrenched old-boys network at the station that is calling the shots on programming decisions and trying to protect their privileges and perks, has taken control of the planning for the Town Hall meeting. They are actively seeking to prevent any real discussion about violence at the station — because the violence always comes from the side of the powers-that-be, and is always visited on those of us who want to take back KPFA for the listeners and for the progressive movement for freedom and justice.
We need to open up this can of worms. As Lew Hill envisioned it, Pacifica´s listeners are the blood, sweat and soul of the network. Come to the Town Hall meeting and help take back our station. Let’s demand that the station be free of violence and intimidation. Let’s demand that programming decisions be made in a fair, open and democratic manner, and reflect the needs and desires of the listeners, and of the victims of violence and oppression. We can expect nothing less from Free Speech Radio.
Submitted on January 15, 2006,
the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,
a tireless fighter against violence
and for the rights of the downtrodden.
Member and former Chair,
KPFA Local Station Board