Wednesday, January 4, 2012

KPFK and Pacifica: A Strong Independent Media

by Dr. Marc Sapir
Today KPFA-Pacifica is growing and thriving: Whose Radio Station? Whose Radio Network? We have to let communities in resistance speak for themselves through their own representatives. Do not recall Tracy Rosenberg. This recall is aimed at undermining KPFA’s and Pacifica network’s forward progress!!!

For the first time in 4 years radio station KPFA and its parent Foundation (Pacifica) are financially above water, new programming here and around the U.S. is bringing in new communities on the air, new voices of resistance, and new listeners from minority and other impacted communities. The morale of the unpaid staff majority at KPFA (150 strong)—many of whom have long felt ignored and even belittled by old timers and past managers--has improved under interim managers. The future for the entire Network’s growth—due in part to the addition of about 50 new affiliate stations around the U.S.-- is looking brighter. Just one year ago the auditor of the Pacifica books indicated that the Pacifica Foundation was in serious danger of financial collapse by the end of 2011. Here is an excerpt from his report:
"For the past three years the Foundation has sustained losses of $433,161, $2,701,432, and $1,974,849 for the years ended September 30, 2008, 2009, and 2010 totaling $5,102,442. Also during this three year period working capital has decreased from $2,835,309 at September 30, 2007 to a deficit of $(810,528) at September 30, 2010. These conditions and events have given rise to a substantial doubt about the Foundation's ability to meet its obligations as they become due without substantial disposition of assets outside the ordinary course of operations, or restructuring of debt, or externally forced revisions of its operations or similar actions."
Now, today, KPFA and Pacifica have rectified their deficits, slowly improved their listener based income and are in positive cash flow as well. On the air there is better representation of the Latino community’s issues (with weekly volunteer programmer Andres Soto in the morning). There is better representation of the African American youth movements (because JR Valrey and Davey D are giving more hours to the morning mix and other shows and specials and collaborations with other programmers). There is a restoration of the Poor News Network--that past management had harassed and zapped--and in a more prime time drive time weekly morning slot with excellent professional quality work by their poverty-based program staff. There have been more specials and more out on the street coverage of the Occupy Movement by Mitch Jeserich and others in part due to the supportive encouragement and collaboration by acting Station Manager Andrew Phillips and Program Director Carrie Core. In the midst of the world crisis, the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement many people and more youth are tuning in anew to KPFA because that is where the action and the whole story is being covered from the ground up.

The organic changes that underpin this rapid turn-around at KPFA-Pacifica, were resisted tooth and nail by some folks who fabricated an anti-labor union-busting narrative against Pacifica leaders even before the beginning of any program changes locally had started. Long unhappy with the new by-laws giving a greater role to unpaid staff and listeners, they openly advocated that the Pacifica Network be broken up and that they would take control of KPFA in support of the small core paid staff group if they could achieve the collapse of Pacifica and its court mandated by-laws.
Having failed to break up Pacifica, having failed to make Pacifica’s director look like a union-busting corporate CEO, having failed to capture control of the national board, this group now tests the loyalty of their listener base to their narrative with this recall effort against Tracy Rosenberg, treasurer of the National Board (an elected KPFA station Board member). As their high cost mailing to listeners attests, a vote to recall Tracy Rosenberg is in the offing.

Much of the past year, the Save KPFA group and key staff supporters worked divisively on the air to direct listeners to and gain adherents to two unattributed and unvetted and not fact based web sites (Save KPFA and KPFA worker). Their anonymous articles maintain a constant stream of hostility and negativity toward various perceived enemies like the elected Pacifica National Board and Pacifica Executive Director Arlene Englehardt, and now Tracy Rosenberg. Because they have regular contact with so many KPFA listeners through their web site and e-lists, the outcome of this recall is not at all clear at this time. The recall effort gathered signatures in large part by using these web sites whose contents are so scurrilous that no organization or individual takes credit for the content. Neither the CWA Union nor the organization known as Concerned Listeners/Save KPFA will take any public responsibility for information in the articles posted on these web sites. And there is no way to contest disinformation or misinformation to those listeners who trust the web sites.

There are two reasons why a resounding defeat of this recall is important: First, it has become a measure of whether the CL/Save KPFA and CWA core paid staff can count on the uncritical loyalty of followers deceived by a fear-based narrative about Pacifica representing an imminent danger to KPFA. With Save KPFA holding a majority on the Board, if this misplaced effort gains the support of most of the voters they will likely use that as a sign of public support to intensify their efforts to tear down the Pacifica Foundation which could mean an end to the vital independent national radio network-building that is now taking place with measurable success. As they have failed once, they may again not succeed, but growth and harmony for movements in resistance such as ours are hard enough goals without people throwing in monkey wrenches. Secondly, the role of Rosenberg has not been trivial. Tracy is not a pushover. She is a fighter for what she believes in, as her leadership of an important non-profit (Media Alliance) and her excellent work as Pacifica Treasurer have shown, even in the face of withering criticism by the CL-Save KPFA group. The tactics used against her to try to undermine her credibility would cause some to quit trying to do the right thing, but she hasn’t stopped. For example, they invited her to the on-air Board Program where unbeknownst to her she would be faced with a prearranged attack tape recording and not permitted to respond to it. When Tracy objected to being set up that way the moderator made it appear that she was disrupting the program.

No individual is indispensable to any social movement, but some leaders are harder to intimidate than others. Tracy is one of these. So too are the current managers—Arlene at Pacifica and Andrew at KPFA who have been harassed almost daily the year long. Because of the contentious atmosphere, presently, almost no independent leftist leaders in the Bay Area not aligned with the current Board majority have considered running for the station board. I realize that no one faction is to blame for the years of bitter acrimony that have accrued there, but I think that the recall effort perpetuates this problem and so it must be turned back. Moreover, the recall effort, being based in easily refutable distortions of Tracy’s role and work, is a spike through the heart of efforts and hopes to see the station’s governing board become a more amicable collaborative and collective working body that can actually improve our independent media source that the Bay Area needs and depends upon.

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