Compiled and written by Sally Sommer
August 24, 1946 – Lewis Hill moves from Washington DC to the San Francisco Bay Area and begins work toward creating a non-profit educational radio station dedicated to promoting ‘ethical communication’ and a “pacific world in our time”, presenting dialogue as a humanizing force. The original structure of Pacifica: Executive members – anyone who worked for the foundation. Control of the organization was vested in the executive members. The executive members elected a five person Committee of Directors, entrusted with managing the business and property of the corporation. The Directors chose the foundations four officers, chair, vice-char, secretary, treasurer. The chair acted as CEO. Decision making authority was fuzzy, but usually made by those three people who were around most of the time. Later Hill would call this structure unworkable.
April 15, 1949 – KPFA goes on the air as ‘KPFA Interim’ at 100.1 fm with a power of 1000 watts in Berkeley for 7.5 hours a day. In addition to Public Affairs, arts, literature and childrens programming. One program, “Inside KPFA’, brought listeners into the station to comment on the station’s policies and programs.
November 30, 1949 – First on air fund drive.
March 7, 1950 – KPFA moves to 104.9 fm at 1000 watts, due to interference at previous location from KNBC at 99.7 fm with much higher power.
August 9, 1950 – KPFA is off the air for next 9 months, possibly precipitated by loss of listeners and listener subscriptions possibly due to degraded signal caused by interference over previous 5 months.
October 1950 – 250 volunteers solicit pledges and donations to put KPFA back on the air. By December more than 1000 pledges totaling $23,000 had been raised, half of what was needed.
May 19, 1951 – KPFA returns to the air with new transmitting facilities at with 16,000 watts of power and broadcasting 57 hours per week. Lew Hill’s weekly program “Report to the Listeners” presented programming policies to financial status of station.
Opponents to the Korean war are among the many minority viewpoints given freedom of speech on Pacifica during the McCarthy era.
(From folio at this time “The aims of Pacifica are to increase the capacities of the individual for creative participation in his own culture and to enlarge the base of public opinion which will support ethically oriented public policies)
October 16, 1951 – KPFA receives a $132,000 grant from Ford Foundation”s Fund for Adult Education in 3 year increments.
January 1952 – KPFA moves to 2207 Shattuck Ave. and goes to 59,000 watts.
May 19, 1952 – After KPFA antenna is blown down in a windstorm, a new location and a 52,000 watt transmitter is obtained for broadcast at 94.1 fm.
1952 – Wallace Hamilton brought in to head Public Affairs Dept., takes KPFA beyond ‘carefully balanced commentary’ to ‘free speech, first amendment radio’ free from interference from management.
Oct. 9, 1952 – Lew Hill asks Executive Membership for authority to organize the staff and operate the station. Received with hostility from the board, he resigns.
May 29, 1953 – FCC grants KPFA its first station permit. The previous permit was an STA (Special Temporary Authority.
Lew Hill Report to Listeners-”KPFA was not designed to be, and does not intend to be, a project whose operation depends upon regular gifts from philanthropic sources.”
July 1953 – Lew Hill and 3 others resign from Pacifica due to disagreements regarding governence. Hill returns in August. A period of organizational restructuring began to clarify authority and decision making status of Lew Hill, Executive Membership, Committee of Directors, Station Manager and staff.
1953 – KPFA receives $30,000 grant from National Association of Educational Broadcasters.
Staffers communicate that they consider KPFA a vehicle for expression of personal freedom and resent Hill’s effort to control their activities.
Philosopher/author Alan Watts begins a regular program on KPFA that continues until his death in 1973. Lew Hill stated, “The idea was that we should try to get away from the Eurocentric perspective, Eurocentric culture, and Eurocentric religious systems.”
Lew Hill resigns again. He requests that internal matters not be discussed in public. He withdraws resignation before it is effective but does not return to the station. Wallace Hamilton takes over with a less cautious approach to programming. R. Schutz, Treasurer, writes “Ideally it would be hoped that the aims of the foundation ‘to gather and disseminate information on the cause of conflict between any and all groups’ should apply here ‘at home’ “. Amidst disagreements on foundation structure a ‘structure committee’ is formed. The main recommendation is that the station manager is given the authority to hire and fire staff members.
February 1954 – KPFB begins broadcasting at 89.3 fm with a 250 watt transmitter from the station. This was designed to fill in the broadcast shadow of the larger transmitter in the Berkeley hills.
1954 – Pacifica sponsoring board is formed, made up of well known community members of Bay Area cultural establishment.
April 22, 1954 – KPFA investigated by the State Narcotics Bureau and Alameda District Attorney for airing a program about the use of marijuana. Twenty three members of Pacifica’s Sponsoring Board (non-governing) resign in protest to the program. Amidst major disagreements on programming and structure, an advisory board member, Frank Freeman, on behalf of Hill, files a complaint about the marijuana program with the FCC. No action was taken by the FCC. At that time Wallace Hamilton and Alan Watts pledged on the air that KPFA would continue to support ‘adventurous and intelligent broadcasting, giving freedom of speech and a ‘fair say’ to unpopular, as well as popular causes, whether political, moral, or cultural.’
August 4, 1954 – The Executive Membership creates a new position, ‘President of Pacifica Foundation and Radio Station KPFA’ with power over personnel and budgetary matters. It is offered to Hill. Hamilton and 5 others resign their staff positions.
1957 – Felix Greene and a group opposed to Hill’s leadership attempt to democratize the foundation claiming KPFA is mismanaged and had become top heavy with salaried staff. Legal action is threatened. Listeners ask Hill for suitable representation and insist the democratization process must go on.
1957 – Hill puts edited version of Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ on the air.
July 30, 1957 – Lew Hill commits suicide at age 38. He had suffered for years from arthritis of the spine.
August 1957 – First on-air marathon fund drive.
October 1957 – Harold Winkler becomes president of Pacifica and manager of KPFA. He was dismissed from UC Berkeley in 1949 after refusing to sign the loyalty oath. Before coming to Pacifica he had served as director of several large corporations. He institutes a policy in which no ‘opinions’ were allowed to be expressed by programmers, a reversal of Lew Hill’s and Wallace Hamilton’s policies
1957 – Pacifica/KPFA wins its first George Foster Peabody Award for “distinguished service and meritorious public service” for programming that takes strong issue with McCarthyism.
1958 – Nuclear war and the arms race are debated on the air by Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling and Edward Teller, the “Father of the H-Bomb.”
April 1958 – KPFA receives a George Foster Peabody Award for Public Service.
1958 – William Mandel begins his program on Soviet society and politics on KPFA. By 1959 he is the most popular commentator on the station.
1957 – Elsa Knight Thompson joins KPFA, and in 1958 becomes director of Public Affairs. Her mission became to tell the truth about what was going on in the world. Most likely conducted the first on air comprehensive gay rights documentary. She assembled a group of volunteer news people that, under her direction, covered early civil rights actions in the south and more in a rich legacy of high standard, progressive news reporting and public affairs programming. Highly principled and critical of liberals, she set the tone throughout her tenure for admitting that there is such a thing as right and such a thing as wrong while always allowing many viewpoints to be heard. She saw the station as a place where the ideas of the left would be celebrated and receive the hearing they’d been denied elsewhere.
1959 – Hannah Pitkin and Gene Marine start news coverage, with rules and guidelines set by Elsa Knight Thompson, collecting primary source material and some investigative reporting.
July 16, 1959 – KPFK Los Angeles, the second Pacifica station, goes on the air under the direction of Terry Drinkwater and Gene Marine. Organized by people around the Southern California ACLU who wanted something like KPFA in LA.
1960 – Harold Winkler removes staff members from Pacifica Board of Directors and convinces executive membership to vote itself out of existence.
1960s – KPFA is the voice of communication for meetings and demonstrations for the Free Speech Movement and People’s Park. KPFA is accused of promoting communism.
1960 – Privately owned commercial station WBAI is given to Pacifica by philanthropist Louis Schweitzer and becomes the network’s third listener supported station. Early programs include a documentary on George Lincoln Rockwell and a speech by Herbert Aptheker. The Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (SISS) requests files of WBAI programs and program guides.
1960-1963 – HUAC, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and SISS investigate Pacifica programming for “subversion.” Broadcasts featuring Bertolt Brecht, Norman Cousins, Carey McWilliams, Dorothy Healey, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, and W.E.B. DuBois were cited.
September, 1961 – Harold Winkler quits and Trevor Thomas becomes President of the Foundation. He states ”We do not attempt a one-for-one balancing of alternatives. We are committed to the presentation of minority views which may be challenging, unfamiliar, even obnoxious, but which are necessary to a full examination of the Establishment.”
1961 – KPFK wins Pacifica’s another George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting.
1961 – WBAI interviews disenchanted ex-FBI agents Jack Levine and William Turner, who reveal infiltration of FBI in the Communist Party and the bureau’s internal activities, internal racism and anti-semitism, and information about how the bureau is run. The program is followed by threats of arrests and bombings, as well as pressure from the FBI, the Justice Department, and major broadcast networks. Pacifica emerged from the crisis that followed as a network of dissenting ideas and giving voice to those who challenged the national security state.
November, 1962 – 150 people associated with Pacifica are investigated by the FBI.
1962 – The FCC withholds the license renewals of KPFA, KPFB, and KPFK pending its investigation into “communist affiliations.” Pacifica was never ultimately cited in any of these or subsequent investigations.
1962 – Pacifica trains volunteers to travel to the South for coverage of the awakening civil rights movement. Andrew Goodman, son of the Pacifica president, is murdered in Mississippi with Michael Schwerner and James Cheney.
1962 – Pauline Kael, longtime outspoken movie critic on KPFA, demands community wide discussion on how KPFA does business. Her request for program examination is ignored by management.
January 1963 – Officers and members of the Pacifica board are subpoenaed by the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee to define the foundation’s purpose.
1963 – I. F. Stone and Bertrand Russell take to the Pacifica airwaves, leading a long list of luminaries to oppose U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
1964 – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) renews the licenses of all three Pacifica stations after a three-year delay.
1965 – WBAI reporter Chris Koch is the first American to cover the war from North Vietnam.
1968 – Pacifica Radio News (originally the Washington News Bureau of WBAI/New York) is established in Washington DC.
1970 Lincoln Bergman and Claude Marks challenge the ban on expressing opinions by speaking our against the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, and the attack on students at Kent State.
1970 – Pacifica’s fourth station, KPFT in Houston, goes on the air and is bombed off twice during its first year by Ku Klux Klan attacks on its transmitter tower. After months of inactivity by federal agents and Houston police, Pacifica mounts a media campaign. Federal agents ultimately arrest a Klansman and charge him with plotting to blow up KPFA and KPFK, as well as the actual KPFT bombing.
1970s – Department heads, who are responsible for programming at KPFA, solicit programs from the community with open time slots for those programs.
Mid 70’s – CPB and National Public Radio (NPR) lobby to get rid of low power fm stations, which is adopted by FCC in 1980. National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB) is formed and allies with CPB and NPR to eliminate low power stations..
January 1971 – ‘The Midnight Flash’ begins broadcasting on the Roland Young Show. It later becomes ‘Freedom is a Constant Struggle’ and ran for 24 years. The first producer was Lincoln Bergman.
1971 – Elsa Knight Thompson is discharged. KPFA manager claims to subscribers that she retired. She was the last staff member who had been hired by Lew Hill.
WBAI station manager Ed Goodman is jailed for refusing to turn over taped statements by rebelling prisoners at the “Tombs,” the New York City jail.
June 1972 – Third World Women voice grievances at KPFA. Follow-up meeting establishes ‘Third World Project’ with Yolande de Freitas as paid staff coordinator. In July they go on the air to protest unfair treatment and announce demands. Larry Lee becomes station manager.
1972 – Archives from KPFA are merged with Pacifica Program Service to establish the Pacifica Radio Archive in Los Angeles.
1973 – Third World programmers at KPFA organize to demand a programming department with paid staff and control over some air time. The station management opposes this effort and obtains a court order banning Third World Collective coordinator, Emiliano Echeverria from the KPFA premises. Mention of his name is made grounds for suspension. The suspension and ‘gag rule’ contribute to the eventual strike in 1974. The Third World programmers file a challenge to KPFA’s license on grounds of discrimination in hiring practices. The lawyer representing them is David Salniker, later to become KPFA manager and Executive Director of Pacifica.
KPFA acclaimed for the Third World Collective’s coverage of the coup in Chile.
1974 – In the summer, KPFA staff and programmers go on strike to demand a more democratic decision-making process, the reinstatement of the fired Third World Collective staff and station management. After KPFA is off the air for one month, Pacifica agrees to most of the strikers’ demands. In the fall, KPFA formally creates the Third World Department with a paid department head and control over some air time. The Third World Collective trains about 30 volunteers of color in broadcasting skills.
1974 – The Symbionese Liberation Army delivers the Patty Hearst tapes to KPFA/Berkeley and KPFK/Los Angeles. KPFK manager Will Lewis is jailed for refusing to turn the tapes over to the FBI.
1975 – Joel Kugelmass becomes the first Executive Director of the Pacifica Foundation.
1975 – Comedian George Carlin’s “dirty words you can’t say on television” routine, broadcast by WBAI/New York in 1973, leads to several years of First Amendment litigation and a hearing by the U.S. Supreme Court. No sanctions are imposed, but the Carlin Case establishes ‘indecency’ and sets limits on daytime and early evening broadcasting for over a decade.
1976 – The Pacifica documentary on the assassination of Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier is instrumental in piecing together evidence that later convicts the murderers.
November 1976 – Members of Third World News Bureau (created in response to now watered down Third World Dept.) and members of Mission Community oppose creation of San Francisco news bureau in the Mission District on grounds of lack of community input.
December 1976 – Station manager Larry Bensky bans Emiliano Echeverria from station again for breaking ‘gag rule’ and publicizing community demands on the air.
1977 – WPFW/Washington DC, Pacifica’s fifth station, goes on the air, after winning a six-year competitive process for the last available frequency in the nation’s capital. WPFW was originally intended by Pacifica to be aimed at policy makers in Washington; KPFA staff and board waged a successful fight to make it a community based station (i.e. rooted in the majority Black community of DC).
Jack O’Dell becomes Chair of the Pacifica Foundation a position he will hold for 20 years.
1979 – Pacifica challenges the constitutionality of the prohibition on editorializing by non-commercial broadcasters. The League of Women Voters, and congressman Henry Waxman lend their names and become co-plaintiffs in the ultimately successful case.
1978 – The Pacifica Radio News begins to distribute news services to 20 non-Pacifica stations across the U.S. and Canada and expanding coverage with correspondents in a number of foreign capitals.
Late 70s-Early 80s – With pressure from Washington and CPB to be more conventional, the control of money changed from the stations to Pacifica. This moved Pacifica stations from relative independence to more centralized structure. CPB dropped “listener sponsored station” idea and shifted to “listener supported” (like KQED). Distinction between listener sponsored stations and Public Broadcasting starts to erode.
1980 – Peter Franck, from the KPFA Board is elected President of Foundation. He had served as Pacifica’s lawyer through the 70s. By-Laws were revised to reflect the long-standing actual practice of having each station advisory board elect 4 people to the Pacifica Board.
1981 – KPFT/Houston becomes the first public radio station to broadcast special programs in 11 different languages, serving the multi- ethnic Texas Gulf Coast communities.
1981 – KPFA/Berkeley creates a Women’s Department with a paid director and control over some airtime. Ginny Z. Berson (a member of the collective that created Olivia Records) becomes the first director of the Women’s Dept. Women’s programming had been done on KPFA since the early 1970s by a collective called ‘Unlearning To Not Speak’.
1982 – After years of development by women and people of color, the KPFA Apprentice Program is formally established as an intensive training program in broadcast skills. The first director is Norman Jayo. Teaching of radio skills had previously been done through the Third World Training Program.
1982 – Pacifica provides the only continuous live national coverage of one million people demonstrating for jobs, peace, and freedom in New York’s Central Park during the U.N. special session on disarmament.
1984 – San Luis Obispo Doctrine – Listeners meeting proclaims Pacifica is losing its left perspective. This was in response to some staff responding to pressure from CPB.
1984 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Pacifica’s favor that non-commercial broadcasters have a constitutional right to editorialize.
Late 80’s – National Programming begins. Whole Local Advisory Board of KPFK removed by Pacifica, ostensibly to get rid of Ron Wilkins, a radical black programmer, who is a Local Advisory Board and National Board member.
1985 – Pacifica broadcasts its first editorial, condemning the apartheid South African government. Pacifica Chair Jack O’Dell calls upon U.S. citizens to bring pressure on the White House to cut all ties with South Africa on the 10th anniversary of the Soweto uprising.
1986 – The National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB) radio archives are consolidated with Pacifica’s, making the Pacifica Radio Archive 30,000 tapes strong.
1987 – Pacifica’s coverage of the Iran-Contra affair, hosted by Larry Bensky, is carried by 33 stations and wins two national journalism awards.
1987 – Pacifica provides the only national live radio coverage of the complete confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, hosted by Larry Bensky, began a tradition of broadcasting important congressional hearings.
1990 – Pacifica declines two NEA grants because of content restrictions attached to the funds.
1991 – Pacifica leads a coalition with PEN, Allen Ginsberg and broadcasters opposing Senator Jesse Helms’ (R-NC) and the FCC’s 24-hour ban against “indecency” on radio. The Court of Appeals agrees with Pacifica and sets the ban aside as unconstitutional.
September 1991 – KPFA/Berkeley moves into its newly constructed building. During planning stage, staff wanted an area for programs and forums open to the public. It was not in final plans.
1992 – KPFA’s ‘Flashpoints’ program begins, headed by Dennis Bernstein, evolving from the daily Persian Gulf War update program.
1992 – David Salniker becomes Pacifica Executive Director and hires Pat Scott as KPFA station manager.
1992 – Senate Republicans put a hold on funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, claiming “liberal bias” A bill is passed imposing “objectivity and balance” conditions on CPB funding. Pacifica protests any content-conditional funding, pressing CPB to shield all news programming and editorial integrity of individual producers–which CPB agrees to in its implementation protocols. Immediately after passage of the content restrictions, CPB Board member Victor Gold targets KPFK for strident African American programming and controversial speech aired during Black History month, by filing an FCC complaint.
September 1, 1992 – Pacifica produces the ‘Strategy for National Programming’, a five year plan for 100 hours per month of prepared, national, standardized, programming to be distributed from Washington DC to 100 stations. The programs will be aired at the same times on all the stations. A late night “personality driven’ talk show is envisioned. The programs are to be designed to ‘draw large audiences and generous subscribers’. All programs would be ultimately chosen by a National Director of Programming. All submitted programs must guarantee revenue. Each program would be evaluated for continuation every 13 weeks on the basis of audience appeal and value to user stations. National programming would be funded with donations and grants from corporate foundations like Pew, Ford and MacArthur, (NPR and APR funders), affiliate fees and program sales, on-air fundraising, off-air fundraising by mail and telemarketing, major donors, endowments, and archival tape sales. Major corporate funders to be approached by Pacifica to become ‘players and partners’. Programs with radical perspectives, in other languages, or directed toward particular ethnic or poor communities were targeted for cancellation. Many of these programs had strong community support. This policy would eliminate programming by unpaid staff and local community programming.
November 1992 – The 7:00 – 8:00 evening public affairs programming on KPFA, including regular labor programming is given one months notice before it’s removal from KPFA.
January 1993 – ‘Save KPFA’ formed by listeners and 3 unpaid staff, starts meeting at Ashkenaz in response to ‘Strategy for National Programming’, removal of evening public affairs programming, undemocratic management of KPFA by general manager Pat Scott, moves to obtain corporate funding, and lack of financial disclosure.
February 1993 – KPFA Manager Pat Scott, embroiled in battles with staff at KPFA, is sent by Pacifica Executive Director David Salniker to lobby Congress, which is threatening to de-fund Pacifica. Marci Lockwood becomes general manager at KPFA.
1993 – CPB Board member Victor Gold calls for de-funding Pacifica, echoing lobbying campaign orchestrated by right-wing media critics. CPB reaffirms Pacifica’s funding irrespective of program content. Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole (R-KS) threatens public broadcasting, his aide explaining: “The First Amendment, freedom of speech, doesn’t apply, because we are able to put conditions on the grants of federal money. The same as we do for farmers.” Pacifica launches a campaign for unconditional funding and self-defense, led by a tremendous outpouring of “fight back donations” from listeners nationwide. CPB funding narrowly escapes cuts in the House of Representatives, with program content the issue. A lobbying effort keeps Pacifica funding off the Senate agenda. This is the second year in which Pacifica has received no discretionary funding from CPB (only the matching funding based upon listener contributions).
1993 – Pacifica wins its third Court of Appeals ruling in six years, overturning the FCC restrictions on “indecent” programming as unconstitutional restrictions of the First Amendment rights of the radio audience.
1993 – WBAI wins an ACLU award : “In the winter of 1991…a war hysteria seemed to engulf the United States and its mainstream media…. In this overheated, thought-muddling atmosphere, one of the few cool, on-target voices of rational discussion and dissent was a small FM radio station beaming steadily out of New York City…. From the armies converging on Iraq to the march for women’s lives in Washington, from the killing fields of East Timor to the mean streets of Manhattan’s homeless, WBAI covers the local, national and international scene with a depth and integrity not even conceived of by commercial broadcasting.”
1993 – Amy Goodman, WBAI News Director and co-anchor of WBAI’s Morning Show, wins a number of awards for “Massacre: The Story of East Timor”.
1993 – The CPB Silver Award for Children’s and Youth Programming goes to “Youth in Control,” the two-hour live radio magazine of Executive Producer Ellin O’Leary’s Youth Radio Project, produced weekly in KPFB studios. This two-time CPB Award-winning program is a show produced by teens for teens, a project recruiting low income and minority youth, providing training in all aspects of news and music programming, and featuring live weekly Pacifica broadcasts and special pieces on KQED-FM, NPR, Monitor Radio and Inner City Broadcasting.
November 22,1993 – San Francisco Foundation Executive Director Robert Fisher selects KPFA/Pacifica for the San Francisco Chronicle ‘s feature, “How To Spot a Charity That Deserves Support: Pros Pick Notable Nonprofits”.
May 1994 – Pacifica Radio broadcasts commentaries by Pennsylvania death row inmate and African American journalist Mumia Abu Jamal after National Public Radio decided not to air a series of audio essays it commissioned by him. Pacifica takes a strong first amendment stand against censorship by broadcasting the views and experiences of a man on death row.
1994 – Pat Scott is made acting Pacifica Executive Director and begins imposing program formats on stations. She participates on CPB “task force” with Lynn Chadwick, Executive Director of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, that recommends new funding guidelines tying stations to Arbitron ratings and higher fundraising goals. Arbitron ratings were developed by the commercial broadcasting industry to establish advertising rates. Firings begin at WPFW (Washington, D.C.). General Manager, Program Director, and Business Manager at KPFK are fired.
December 1994 – Pacifica Covers the Zapatista Uprising In Mexico.
January 1995 – Pat Scott fires KPFK (L.A.) management and seizes control of books. Contract negotiations there are suspended.’ Gag rules’ are enforced against any staff member trying to inform the public regarding the firings. Firings of programmers continue at KPFK. Producer Al Huebner is removed for criticizing firing of KPFK managers. His engineer, Neal Connor is threatened with removal for not cutting Al’s microphone.
February 1995 – Pacifica station Program Directors are told by hired consultants to mainstream the programming.
March-April 1995 – A union-busting organization, American Consulting Group, is hired by Pacifica to draft new contracts stripping workers of all say in the organization, eliminating the right to strike, and removing unpaid staff from the stations’ unions.
May 1995 – Bill Mandel, 37 year KPFA veteran programmer is fired for breaking ‘gag rule’. Listeners picket station.
June 1995 – Pacifica Board closes all future finance committee meetings to the public in violation of FCC and CPB law. Board minutes and board meetings are now “confidential.”
July 1995 – Pacifica Board Executive Committee announces “vast changes” and advises Local Advisory Board members who disagree with the new direction of Pacifica to resign.
August 1995 – Massive firing of programmers at KPFA by general manager, Marci Lockwood, under direction of Pat Scott. Listeners group ’Take Back KPFA’ forms.
September 1995 – Observers, including former KPFT staff members and ‘Take Back KPFA’ representative barred from National Board meeting in Houston.
November 1995 – Brian McConnville, investigator from Inspector General’s (IG) office of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), learns of closed board meetings and begins investigation of Pacifica’s violation of open meeting rules. He is fired 17 days later before he can release a critical report.
February 1996 – Pacifica launches Democracy Now!, a daily election program focusing on the state of democracy in the U.S. and around the world. Hosted by Amy Goodman, with Larry Bensky, Juan Gonzalez and Salim Muwakkil and produced by Julie Drizin, program garners unprecedented listener and foundation support.
February 1996 – KPFK producer Ron Wilkins and his guests are removed from the air mid-broadcast and banned from KPFK for attempting to discuss treatment of African American programmers at the station. Bob Marston, who was in the building repairing equipment at the time is also banned because he was talking with Wilkins and the others after they were cut off the air.
February 26, 1996 – “Gag rule” issued by Mark Schubb at KPFK saying that staff will be fired if they let callers criticize Pacifica policy on-air.
March 1996 – Pacifica Executive Director Pat Scott, News Bureau Chief Julie Drizin and the Pacifica Radio Network are named one of the “Top Ten Media Heroes of 1996” by the Institute for Alternative Journalism “for tough, creative and unrelenting efforts in a time when alternative viewpoints and independent voices in the media have never been more vital.
May 1996 – Hiring of anti-union American Consulting Group by Pacifica is revealed. Criticism mounts. Management files a “clarification of unit” with the National Labor Relations Board to have unpaid staff at WBAI removed from the union.
August 29, 1996 – Mark Schubb threatens to ban United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers Representative John Fernandes from KPFK.
November 1996 – A Pacifica 5 -Year Strategic Plan is released, after a year and a half of secret meetings. It is a blueprint for remaking Pacifica into a top-down, national, standardized, corporate network. More than $60,000 has been spent on union-busting activities and consultants. ‘Save Our Stations’ (SOS) formed at WBAI.
February 1997 – WBAI workers win union representation at the NLRB. Pacifica appeals the decision, spending tens of thousands of dollars of the subscribers’ money. Mary Francis Berry becomes Pacifica Board chair.
March 1997 – Under fire from listeners and the media, Scott hires Former Justice Dept. spokesperson Burt Glass as Pacifica’s first “communications director”. He drafts a “cheat sheet’ for use in answering questions from the subscribers. Pacifica releases plan to reduce local representation on the National Board by half, which would give the board the ability to appoint a 2/3 majority. This is tabled in June when community members hire a lawyer.
April-May 1997 – A “softer” CPB Inspector General’s report is released which, nevertheless, cites Pacifica for violating open meeting laws. CPB disregards it own IG’s report, and praises the new Pacifica regime.
May 27, 1997 – WBAI Program Director tells the WBAI local board that Pacifica is pressuring Democracy Now! producers to downplay criticism of Clinton and to remove Mumia Abu Jamal commentaries.
July 1997 – KPFA Manager Marci Lockwood resigns. Lynn Chadwick, Executive Director of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters for 10 years, is made manager of KPFA and negotiates a contract which eliminates previously represented unpaid staff. KPFA Folio is eliminated .
August 1997 – Pacifica writes a ‘gag clause’ into the contracts for affiliate stations, many of whom have been running disclaimers about union-busting at Pacifica preceding broadcasts of Pacifica programs.
February 1998 – KPFK Management sends memo barring programmers from encouraging attendance at anti-war, ant-sanctions demonstrations for Iraq.
April 1998 – Pat Scott resigns. Between 1995-2004 more than 300 people are fired from Pacifica stations.
October 1998 – Pacifica Board meeting in Houston initiates bylaws changes prohibiting local advisory board members from serving on the national board. Lynn Chadwick named Executive Director of Pacifica replacing Pat Scott.
December 1998 – Larry Bensky abruptly fired then reinstated after public outcry. KPFA’s new manager Nicole Sawaya supports Bensky and allows him to defend himself on the air.
February 22, 1999 – Pacifica Archivist Al Stein is fired before he can give a report on neglect and mismanagement of the Pacifica archives.
February 24, 1999 – Professors Noam Chomsky, Ed Herman, and Howard Zinn send letter to Mary Francis Berry stating “apparent trends toward increased centralization of power and decision-making are bringing Pacifica closer to a corporate model” and “urge the board to make a firm commitment to democratic forms of governance and participation.” Their plea is ignored by the board.
February 26,1999 – Pacifica Board, meeting in Berkeley, overrides the votes of local Boards, staff and communities, and makes itself a self-selecting body, eliminating appointments from the Local Advisory Boards (LAB). Board claims the CPB made them do it, even though LABS had been appointing members to the PNB for many years. WBAI staff goes on the air to mobilize the community against this ruling.
In an unpublicized meeting of the Pacifica Executive Committee on the eve of the meeting, it is agreed that Sawaya, the most popular manager in KPFA history, has to go.
March 31, 1999 – Nicole Sawaya fired (technically, her contract was not renewed). Protests begin as KPFA staff goes on the air to tell the community what’s going on inside Pacifica. The staff begins making on-air statements demanding the reinstatement of Sawaya. The 50th anniversary committee suspends its fundraising and operations.
April 4, 1999 – Larry Bensky reads the speech he had prepared to deliver to the Pacifica Board in February but was prevented from completing, on the expansion of Pacifica Foundatiion at the expense of KPFA and its sister stations.
April 9, 1999 – Bensky fired again after promising on the air to discuss Chadwick’s firing of Sawaya on his Sunday Salon program. On the air, the staff continues calling for the reinstatement of both Sawaya and Bensky and an independent mediator to deal with the underlying disputes between Pacifica and KPFA.
April 15. 1999 – Over 1000 people demonstrate outside Pacifica’s offices in Berkeley.
April 16, 1999 – KPFK Manager Schubb pulls FAIR’s Counterspin program off the air mid-broadcast to prevent airing of interview with fired broadcaster Larry Bensky from being heard by KPFK listeners. Other programs covering the events at KPFA are also censored.
May 9, 1999 – Close to 2000 KPFA supporters rally for staff at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park to hear June Jordan, Utah Phillips, Holly Near, Wavy Gravy, Barbara Lubin and many others speak in support of KPFA staff.
May 10, 1999 – KPFK phone volunteers forbidden from discussing KPFA/Pacifica matters among themselves in the phone room.
May 13-27, 1999 – KPFA staff has record $605,000 Spring Fund Drive, having set a goal of $400,000. 6200 of 7000 subscribers pledge ‘under protest of censorship’.
May 19, 1999 – National Labor Relations Board files complaint for unfair labor practices against Pacifica/WBAI.
June 12, 1999 – KPFA programmer Robbie Osman exposes Lynn Chadwick’s attempt to portray the station to Pacifica Board as returning to “equilibrium.”
June 14, 1999 – Attorney Dan Siegel, representing 16 members of Local Advisory Boards (LABs) of KPFA, KPFK and WBAI, sends a demand letter to Mary Frances Berry advising her that bylaw amendments approved by the Pacifica Board in September ’98 and February ’99 violate California Corporation law and requests that they be rescinded. Deadline for a response is June 25.
June 18, 1999 – Chadwick fires Robbie Osman, accusing him of having “forfeited” his access to KPFA/Pacifica airwaves.”
June 20, 1999 – Hundreds turn out for an emergency rally at the station as KPFA goes off the air for the two hours of Osman’s program.
June 21, 1999 – After camping overnight in front of KPFA and Pacifica headquarters, 14 people are arrested in a citizens arrest by Lynn Chadwick for blocking Pacifica’s doorway. Chadwick and Pacifica’s six employees remove their files to another location.
June 22, 1999 – Several hundred again show up for a press conference in front of the station, part of which is played live on Flashpoints. Speakers include June Jordan, Michael Parenti, Elizabeth Martinez, Van Jones, and Medea Benjamin.
June 23, 1999 – Janet Reno’s Justice department intervenes on behalf of Pacifica management; US DOJ staffer questions Berkeley Police Chief about their reluctance to arrest Pacifica demonstrators.
June 23, 1999 – Pacifica affiliates vote no confidence in Pacifica management
June 25 – 27, 1999 – Pacifica Board meets and attempts to deflect critics with accusations of racism and violence. KPFA union files unfair labor practice charges.
June 27, 1999 – Armed guards are brought into KPFA. The security company, IPSA, is the 4th largest in the country and has had clients such as ABC (against the NABET strikers). The cost is tens of thousands a month. Pacifica doesn’t have that kind of money. Tapes are being brought up secretly to Berkeley from Pacifica Archive as Chadwick prepares to shut down KPFA.
July 12, 1999 – Andrea Buffa at Media Alliance receives misdirected memo from Pacifica Board member Michael Palmer discussing plans to “shutdown and reprogram KPFA” and sell KPFA and/or WBAI. M.F. Berry comes to Berkeley and holds an invitation-only press conference, attempting to keep out reporters from media who have been critical.
July 13, 1999 – During the broadcasting of ‘Flashpoints ’Dennis Bernstein broadcasts the press conference where the Palmer email memo of July 12 is discussed. He is physically pulled off the air and pursued by Pacifica’s armed guards into the newsroom where his tussle with them is heard by listeners, interrupting the evening news. Garland Ganter, KPFT manager who had been brought in to enforce the ‘gag rule’ throws the switch and takes KPFA off the air. Tapes begin playing as hundreds converge on the station. 52 staff and community members, including Dennis Bernstein and the news staff, are arrested.
July 14, 1999 – Staff arrive to find KPFA locked and boarded up. They are informed that they are on “administrative leave.” Democracy Now! covers the story – and is again censored from Pacifica stations. Pacifica chains the doors of KPFA. Programming is being piped in from elsewhere.
July 15, 1999 – California legislators call for investigation into Pacifica finances and actions. Camp KPFA is established outside the now boarded-up building.
Hundreds of listeners, staff, and local leaders rally in front of the station and march through Berkeley in protest.
July 16, 1999 – FAIR calls for resignation of Pacifica Board and management. Counterspin segment on Pacifica censored by GM Mark Schubb at KPFK. Class action lawsuit filed to reverse hostile takeover of Pacifica. Daily protests continue as Communications Workers of America sets up picket around KPFA transmitter to prevent installation of an ISDN line that would allow programming to be fed in from another station.
July 18, 1999 – Berkeley police swoop down on Camp KPFA in the middle of the night and make mass arrests. ‘Camp KPFA’ is back the following day.
July 19, 1999 – Huge benefit concert with Joan Baez and others organized on a few days notice sells out. Statements of solidarity come from many groups, protests continue. Protests in solidarity are held at WBAI and KPFK.
July 22, 1999 – Pacifica hires Fineman and Associates, high priced PR firm to do damage control. Berkeley police sweep ‘Camp KPFA’ in the wee hours again, and arrest demonstrators.
July 26, 1999 – Daily protests begin outside Fineman and Associates.
July 27, 1999 – Berkeley City council holds special session. Calls for Pacifica Board resignations and return of KPFA to community control. City will contribute to lawsuit and file amicus brief. Police are instructed to facilitate peaceful protests
July 28, 1999 – National Board member Pete Bramson goes public – reveals Pacifica Board executive committee will hold secret meeting that day to vote on sale of KPFA. Pacifica almost bankrupt as a result of the expenditures in the KPFA take over. They also plan to discuss taking a $5 million dollar loan with KPFA’s frequency as collateral.
July 29, 1999 – Exposed by the Bramson revelation, MF Berry sidesteps mediators goes to press with statement that KPFA will reopen and staff should return. Claims staff may “run the station.” Denies sale in progress. Deflects attention from sale exposure. Michael Moore revokes permission to have his programs broadcast on Pacifica in protest; calls for resignations.
July 30, 1999 – Fineman quits.
July 31, 1999 -Over 10,000 march in Berkeley to support KPFA and Free Speech radio – call for removal of Pacifica Board. and the reopening of the station. It is Berkeley’s largest march since the Vietnam protests. The community continues to set up tents in the street in front of KPFA. Lawsuits against Pacifica are filed.
August 3, 1999 – WBAI Local Advisory Board calls for resignations of Berry and Chadwick, and a democratic restructuring of Pacifica’s governance.
August 5, 1999 – KPFA staff are admitted into building after Pacifica has spent more than a half million dollars on anti-union consultants, armed security guards, PR, and damage to the station. An estimated $30,000 worth of damage has been done to the facilities and studios by IPSA security guards. The KU Satellite uplink equipment, actually owned by KFCF has also been mishandled and damaged.
August 17, 1999 – As part of a national day of action, KPFA staffers file Civil Rights complaint against Pacifica management and Mary Frances Berry with the US Commission on Civil Rights, which Berry chairs. Demonstrations and actions take place at all 5 Pacifica stations; meanwhile Pacifica CEO Chadwick announces that Pacifica officials will not testify.
August 18, 1999 – Ad runs in New York Times condemning the actions of Pacifica’s Board and Management. It is signed by dozens of prominent activists, intellectuals, journalists and other community leaders.
August 20, 1999 – California legislature holds public hearings in Oakland as to whether Pacifica violated its non-profit status by its recent actions. KPFA staffers testify, in spite of orders by Lynn Chadwick, Pacifica E.D., that they face termination if they do. A week later, the Legislative Audit Committee subpoenas financial records. Chadwick and Pacifica Board chair, Mary F. Berry, refuse to appear, challenging the jurisdiction of the committee. The committee chair, Scott Wildman, subpoenas Pacifica’s financial returns. Word leaks out that the Pacifica Board has spent more than half a million dollars of the subscriber’s funds on armed guards and PR experts to support the takeover of KPFA and Pacifica. Pacifica asks prosecutors to drop charges against arrested protestors. The committee report of June 17, 2000 concludes that the Pacifica Board mismanaged the station and may have broken state laws for nonprofit corporations.
Three listener groups form, ‘Coalition for a democratic Pacifica’ (CdP), ‘North Bay for KPFA’ and Friends of KPFA.
August 24, 1999 – Mary Frances Berry makes surprise visit to WBAI for unpublicized meeting with staff. She asks if WBAI staff would support the sale of KPFA to create a series of small stations in the South.
August 26, 1999 – National Labor Relations Board overturns earlier decision; rules to grant Pacifica management request to eject unpaid staff from WBAI’s union. Tens of thousands of dollars of listener funds have been spent to do this. This action was started by Pat Scott in 1996 to take away all rights from community producers.
September 1, 1999 – KPFK reporter Robin Urevich banned from KPFA for writing an article on censorship by station management.
September 2, 1999 – Legislative Committee votes to subpoena Pacifica financial records.
September 5, 1999 – Enfoque Latino, a Spanish language public affairs program that has aired on KPFK for 13 years is cancelled after covering the Pacifica crisis from a perspective critical of KPFK and Pacifica Management.
October 26, 1999 – 16 of Pacifica’s 60-plus affiliate stations call a one-day boycott of the Pacifica Network News (PNN) to protest Pacifica’s actions. In a press release they state: “The Pacifica debacle is the single best example of the cancer that has been eating at non-commercial media for more than a decade, disempowering communities in the name of professionalization, commercializing the airwaves in the guise of development, centralizing authority in the name of efficiency, and promoting high protection values at the expense of local color.”
October 26,1999 – KPFA has another successful fund drive. Pacifica Board passes resolutions to not sell any stations or use any listener contributions to pay for armed guards during KPFA lockout.
November 1, 1999 – Pacifica News Director Dan Coughlin is removed after he airs a report of the one-day boycott of Pacifica Programming by 16 Pacifica Affiliate stations. Vernal Avery Brown, anchor of Pacifica Network News, leaves PNN because of censorship in the news and removal of Dan Coughlin.
December 9, 1999 – Pacifica’s WPFW in Washington DC cancels FAIR’s Counterspin: a media criticism show canceled after three earlier instances of censorship.
January 5, 2000 – Pacifica, without any notice, moves the Pacifica headquarters from Berkeley to Washington DC. A press release reads, “the move allows the national staff easier access to agencies and public interest organizations headquartered in the nations capital.” Pacifica National News is suppressed. On January 31, 40 Pacifica freelance reporters begin a 3 month strike. Strikers produce a weekly broadcast which becomes Free Speech Radio News (FSRN).
February 27, 2000 – Mary Francis Berry resigns as Pacifica Board chair.
May 17, 2000 – KPFA Local Advisory Board members with the support of subscribers votes to democratize itself to serve as a model of accountability for the governing board of the Pacifica Foundation, which still appoints its members internally. Plans are made to implement an election process in a November election. Second election held November 2001.
December 22, 2000 – New WBAI General Manager changes locks, fires and bans programmers and management for defying ‘gag rule’. Over 25 of the stations most acclaimed and popular programmers have been fired/ banned over the previous year, followed by a decrease in listener pledges. Democracy Now! is harassed at WBAI.
March 4, 2001 – Representatives from local groups at all 5 stations form a national group to coordinate legal actions against Pacifica and to form a democratic, representative structure.
August 13, 2001 – Democracy Now! leaves WBAI, after continued harassment and interference. KPFA remains the only one of the five Pacifica Stations to continue broadcasting the show and supplying it to affiliates.
December 22, 2001 – Four lawsuits brought by local affiliates against the Pacifica National Board, with Carol Spooner and Leslie Cagan as lead plaintiffs for listeners in two of the suits, are negotiated and settled by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Ronald Sabraw. Under the terms of the settlement, a more representative board will govern for 15 months, during which it will revise Pacifica’s bylaws and resolve a range of personnel and financial problems. Under the terms of the settlement, the current board of directors will step down. The majority faction will then appoint five members to an interim board, the “dissident” minority faction will appoint five members and the local advisory boards at the five stations will each appoint a member. That arrangement was expected to give the lawsuit plaintiffs nine seats on the foundation’s 15-member board, The interim board had 15 months to revise the foundation’s bylaws to again include listeners in selecting future boards, resolving a host of personnel problems and massive debt, largely due to bills from law firms, security services and public-relations outfits.
January 11, 2002 – The Interim Pacifica National Board (I-PNB) votes overwhelmingly to reinstate thirty-seven former WBAI staff and management plus any listeners/volunteers that have been fired, banned, suspended, or driven from their former positions since December 22, 2000.
June 1, 2002 Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! sign a 5 year contract with Pacifica and become an independent production and no longer Pacifica employees.
July 8, 2003 – Judge Ronald M. Sabraw approves new Pacifica by-laws.
January, 2004 – Final approval after completion of first Local Station Board elections, ending court oversight.
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