On Memorial Day morning at Berkeley’s KPFA radio, the AM hour did not go off as planned.
A sudden programming change was announced only five days ago to replace the Morning Mix, a programming collective including:
- Andres Soto from the Richmond Progressive Alliance,
- The legendary Project Censored, authors for more than 30 years of the “Censored” collections of the year’s most-neglected news stories and the nation’s most prominent media literacy educators,
- Hard Knock Radio’s Davey D, a nationally known African-American reporter and commentator,
- Steve Zeltzer’s Work Week,
- Poor News Network,
- Strike Debt Audio Essays and interviews,
- The Vegan Commentary,
- Mumia Abu Jamal’s reports,
- Anthony Fest, one of KPFA’s best news hounds,
- African American host, Sabrina Jacobs,
- and others.
The change would have driven out of KPFA’s prime time the few new Bay Area-based programs generated in the last few years. Replacement plans substituted Uprising, which has occupied the 8 am hour at Los Angeles sister station KPFK, for the last decade, 5 days a week.
But that’s not what happened. At the last minute, 100 community members showed up at KPFA’s doors. At 8 am, despite the on-air announcement that Uprising was to follow, the station aired a special Morning Mix open house with Morning Mix hosts Sabrina Jacobs, Steve Zeltzer, Anthony Fest, Andres Soto, and Peter Phillips. Flashpoints producers were on hand to lend support.
The festive rally ended with the station’s heavy metal doors thrown open to the sidewalk and supporters filled the lobby during the impromptu broadcast which featured several guests by telephone and supporters on the air talking about why they came to the protest/broadcast and what the Mix has meant to them.
KPFA news staffers remained on the second floor of the building and did not come down the stairs to greet the protestors for the hour-long duration of the open house.
On Tuesday, supporters are again invited to an AM open house at the station’s downtown Berkeley studio at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr Way and Berkeley
The sound archive will be available on Soundcloud shortly, but for the moment can still be heard on KPFA’s archives.
The Morning Mix came onto KPFA’s air in the fall of 2010, after two years of more than a half million dollar deficits drained KPFA’s million dollar reserve down to zero. A recovery plan approved by the national board unanimously in October of 2010 called for $375,000 in staffing reductions.
Many staffers at the station and members of the community have come to see the Mix as precious open space in the schedule that is accessible for a wide range of content and focuses on local issues often neglected by pundits and celebrities, as well as more subversive analyses of race, class and political issues than is present in two-party-based political affairs coverage. The flexibility in the Mix provided opportunities often missing at KPFA, where program slots are usually held for a decade or more and have been known to be passed down from one family member to another.
The proposed replacement program, Uprising, hosted by Sonali Kolhatkar claimed to have posted large sums of money during a one week fund drive pre-emption in Berkeley. The extravagant amounts claimed by the Save KPFA faction in a newsletter they distribute were bizarre, with receipts exceeding $11,000 an hour and close to $100,000 in one week of broadcast. Kolhatkar’s show, which has been on the air in the morning in LA for close to a decade, collected an average of $2,051 an hour on KPFK during its ten fund drive broadcasts on KPFK between May 1 and May 17, 2014, never once cracking the $3,000 mark and once collecting as little as $600. The KPFK fund drive dailes for May 1-20 can be seen here.
Long-time La Onda Bajita and Flashpoints co-host Miguel Molina exploded on-air on Friday May 23rd at 5:30pm in the closing hours of KPFA’s extended fund drive. Molina reported that less than 5 days before the change was abruptly announced, interim manager Richard Pirodsky told Project Censored co-host Dr. Peter Phillips he would not be making changes prior to his departure, leading Molina to ask who exactly was making the decisions, if not Pirodsky. Molina stated the “slashing and scattering” was destroying the morale of a new group of emerging producers. Molina’s complete remarks can be found here in audio, here in video and here in printed form.
The latest tumult comes only days after an eight week occupation of the foundation’s Berkeley headquarters ended on May 13th after an illegitimate majority set off chaos by suddenly firing the executive director only weeks after a permanent hire and reinstating a CFO who had been let go for poor performance and workplace complaints. The re-hired CFO has still not been able to enter the headquarters without being accompanied by a professional mediator and the investigation report has vanished for months.