Is KPFA Now Irrelevant?

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Posted by Thomas Payne on the Bay Area Independent Media Independent Center on December 8, 2014


As riots erupt across the nation and in Berkeley – the home of KPFA – and is covered by every news outlet including MSNBC, CNN and the rest of the web but not on KPFA, we need to ask is KPFA irrelevant?

KPFA seems unable to cover breaking news or be a station that truly represents our community, and instead seems more interested in creating the illusion of being a community radio station by hiring a new marketing service to sell the concepts of community and authenticity.

Where was KPFA when riots were erupting in Ferguson, NYC, Oakland and Berkeley? Nowhere to be seen.

With the exceptions of Flashpoints and Hard Knock Radio,  they were airing canned shows by journalists who are proud to say they are not activists and who have little real understanding of what is happening in the streets or our communities. Are you tired of hearing canned shows with tired hosts who spend 80 days a year hawking premiums rather than getting out of their cushy job for life and covering the news? WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR STATION?

Seems like when KPFA became a station that was largely dominated by paid staff who are largely white and seem to have a job for life, it lost its vitality and connection to what was happening on the ground. Instead it instituted a two tiered system where the journalists of color were pushed into the middle of the night, not paid, and treated as little more than slaves.  But they are the ones who are producing 60% of the programming on the air, and most of the more vital programming, and the white males who are not activists are all on prime time. So when Ferguson and Berkeley were burning, what you heard on KPFA was pre-produced shows.

Now, KPFA is managed by a slick former MTV person who has more interest in spending our hard earned money hiring a marketing firm to improve the KPFA logo and image and is selling KPFA to us as “community radio”,  packaging the station as authentic rather than caring about producing cutting edge-political journalism and creating a station that truly “is” the vision it is selling. KPFA’s new GM seems to have no politics and is only interested in selling a new image to raise more money to pay the staid hosts with a job for life who have no real connection to activism or the community and proudly say they are not activists but journalists, as if activism was some kind of dirty word – except of course when they want your money. Then we hear how we are supposed to support our community radio, the station that only wants to hear from us when we send a check.

When unpaid staff members suggested KPFA have special live coverage of the march to block the Israeli Zim ship docking in the Oakland port, KPFA’s GM went along with the news department rejection of such a plan. Which is to be expected from journalists who have a job for life and who have been at KPFA for 40 years with a sweetheart contract so they don’t need to be creative or create more dynamic news coverage because they basically can’t ever be fired. KPFA fund drives all the time expecting us to pay for these lifers with a union contract that makes it impossible to cut anyone even when they spend their time suing the station and creating a hostile place they want to run for themselves. They seem to live in an alternative universe, the crazy world of Pacifica, where they keep churning our the same old product, rarely taking calls from listeners, or covering community events or demonstrations and producing almost no live programming. Certainly none that is taking place in the community or covering a march or demonstration which even CNN does better than KPFA or Pacifica, while at the same time selling us the community as their brand. KPFA’s CWA union is so corrupt and the network so dysfunctional and yet they just keep asking us for more money rather than trying to fix themselves. And perhaps they can’t fix themselves because like so many corrupt unions they are only interested in their paychecks and fundraising to keep getting that paycheck and have no real interest in the community.

So now there is yet another fund drive at KPFA where they will once again try and sell themselves as “free speech radio” or “community radio” while they take our money and in return have no interest in hearing from us the rest of the time. KPFA is now becoming irrelevant as people turn to Democracy Now directly on the web and other news online that is more immediate, interesting, challenging and diverse. Kind of like the Democratic party, KPFA has become corrupt, and dominated by old white men who are only interested in getting their paychecks and keeping the status quo lead by an Obama-like Manchurian manager who is slick. He is so arrogant he doesn’t see how transparent he is when he sells KPFA to us as representing us!

SO maybe instead of shelling out more money and keeping the status quo – Call into KPFA this fund drive – and tell them you are no longer going to to subsidize KPFA until KPFA gets its act together, and becomes what they preach, a transparent, activist, community-involved open place that walks the talk.