Press Release – 05/05/05

For immediate release
Thursday, May 5, 2005

On Tuesday evening, May 3, KPFA’s Program Council voted to end the 10-year banishment of Bill Mandel and give him back a regular program. The show will be called “Thinking Out Loud with Bill Mandel.” This is a tremendous victory for free speech at the nation’s oldest listener-sponsored network, Pacifica Radio.

Mandel was thrown off KPFA ten years ago, on April 30, 1995, for violating a gag order against airing news of the struggle over KPFA’s political direction. He was one of KPFA and Pacifica’s most popular programmers for 37 years. Mandel’s ongoing exile from the airwaves has fueled the belief that the gag order is far from dead.

The Program Council vote took place in the wake of a picket line by a spirited crowd of Mandelistas in front of KPFA’s studios on Saturday, April 30. The pickets carried signs such as “Free Speech Radio? Where’s Bill” and “10 Years, Basta!” while chanting “Bill Got the Sack! Now Bring Him Back!” The picket was reported on Saturday’s KPFA evening news, the first such public acknowledgment the station has made of the revived campaign to return Mandel to the air. Pictures of the picket line can be found at www.struggle-and-win.net/13201/3780.html.

After the Program Council vote, a staff member who was on the losing side of the vote, angered at Mandel’s reinstatement, began throwing metal chairs around the room, which hit at least one other member of the Program Council. He then hit another member of the Program Council in the chest three times. By all reports, General Manager Roy Campanella II was present during this violent melee. Although the out-of-control staff member was eventually restrained, he remained in the station after the meeting ended. It is unknown whether or not any disciplinary action has been initiated. In most workplaces, such action would lead to immediate termination.

New General Manager Roy Campanella II must now implement the decision of the Program Council.

Other Pacifica stations around the country are also facing serious challenges in this period.

In January, Robert Knight, a popular programmer and investigative reporter at Pacifica’s New York station, WBAI, caught another staff member in the process of rifling through his desk, file cabinet, recordings and computer. Knight states that after he objected to the tampering, a station engineer “proceeded to say ‘Come on, step outside and I’ll kick your ass… Do you know how many people I’ve kicked ass before this?'” To date, WBAI station manager Don Rojas has taken no known disciplinary action against the two alleged perpetrators for what Knight calls a “black bag job.” Knight, however, was subsequently suspended for a month without pay. More information about this incident can be found at
www.struggle-and-win.net/16732/index.html.

Where is Pacifica headed? A coalition of KPFA and Pacifica listener advocates, People’s Radio, is presenting a panel discussion this evening, entitled “Democracy at Pacifica is at a Crossroads.” The event starts at 7:00 PM, at the Humanist Hall, 390 27th Street, Oakland (between Telegraph and Broadway).

Mandel will be at the People’s Radio event to address these issues.

More information about Bill Mandel can be found at www.billmandel.net.
Additional background information is available at www.struggle-and-win.net.