KPFA issues pale before dire state of Pacifica

By Ann Garrison

This morning I resolved to write something about a plank that I lobbied to have added to the United for Community Radio/Rescue KPFA platform in KPFA’s Local Station Board election: “Updating KPFA technology so that KPFA reporters can generate news headlines and stories that challenge corporate media’s dominant narratives on the Worldwide Web.” It seems strange that I need to explain something that seems so basic to the new media universe, but I promised to give it a try.

If you are saying something that radically departs from corporate news, you want people to find it in Google Search or whatever Web browser they may use.  Last week when the Blue Angels Air Show returned to San Francisco, I felt, as I do every year, that someone had to object to this grotesque celebration of war and militarism. The corporate press did nothing but applaud until a few sports reporters joked that the Blue Angels F-18 fighter bomber jets roaring over the Oakland Coliseum might have caused the Oakland Raiders quarterback to muff a pass and lose to the Denver Broncos

So I wrote a  piece for the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper, The Blue Angels Air Show: San Francisco’s Choice. It got over 11,500 hits, a lot for the SF Bay View, and appeared prominently in Google Search for “Blue Angels San Francisco 2015” throughout the air show and after, so I felt I’d fulfilled my moral obligation to object.

Google screen shot shows Ann's Blue Angel story as second option.

Google screen shot shows Ann’s Blue Angel story as second option.

 KPFA’s Project Censored, the KPFA Weekend News, and San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos were the only other dissident voices that surfaced on the Web, and the KPFA reports surfaced with their own headlines only because I made a point of posting the discrete audio segments to Indybay. 

It seems that KPFA, with its multimillion dollar budget, should be able to generate headlines on the Web at least as well as Indybay, which is all volunteer run, but it cannot, so I sometimes post KPFA reports to Indybay to generate headlines. I’ve often argued that KPFA should develop more of the technology required to generate headlines, or at least make better use of the technology that it already has, since KPFA so often claims – especially during fund drives – to bring us the news that no one else will.  That’s why I had asked that this be added to our station board listener candidates’ platform.

Dire news for KPFA and the Pacifica Network

That is all I’m going to say about that for now, however, because the news about KPFA and Pacifica itself is so dire. The Pacifica Network’s very infrastructure, the buildings and the broadcast licenses, could soon be gone.   Consider that:

1)  The Finance Committee of the Pacifica National Board (PNB) just voted down a motion that would have required all the stations to balance their budgets with reasonably projected revenues.

2) Pacifica’s KPFK-Los Angeles has been in meltdown ever since Margy Wilkinson, on her last day as interim executive director, appointed Leslie Radford, an unqualified political crony, as the station’s general manager. KPFK fund drive revenues immediately plummeted, staff resigned in droves, staff filed 20 complaints with KPFK’s union, SAG-AFTRA, and now staff are reporting that GM Leslie Radford’s assistant/body guard is packing heat inside the station.

3)  The PNB has been talking about taking out a high interest, non-collateralized loan to meet operating expenses, with no foreseeable means of paying it back.

 4)  The PNB has also been talking about taking out a line of credit collateralized by Pacifica property, also to meet operating expenses, and also with no foreseeable means of paying it back.
5)  Despite being in dire financial straits, Pacifica’s WBAI-NYC continues to pay roughly $650,000/yr. to rent a transmitter on the Empire State Building, instead of subletting it for its cost, as their Empire State contract allows, then renting less expensive transmission at 4 Times Square.  

6)  Pacifica has lost two million dollars in Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) funds, a million dollars a year for two years in a row, because of its failure to complete audits resulting from its inability to maintain internal financial controls or follow basic accounting procedures.

7)  The California Attorney General is investigating Pacifica consequent to a complaint by former national directors that the current national board majority is financially reckless and irresponsible and that the fundamental record-keeping requirements of non-profit corporations are not being met. The Attorney General’s Office staff confirmed this by telephone.

8)  Despite the Attorney General’s investigation, which included a request for all KPFA Local Station Board meeting minutes, the board has not published minutes of any of this year’s meetings as of October 23, 2015. Why is all this happening? I can’t say for sure, I’m not a mind reader, but such bizarre decision-making looks a lot like controlled demolition. And, lo and behold, as things got worse and worse, it came out – in July this year – that former PNB member, legal counsel and executive director Dan Siegel and former interim executive director Margy Wilkinson had filed secret papers incorporating a secret “KPFA Foundation” with the State of California. This entity, if legally “perfected,” could be used to apply for KPFA’s license if the Attorney General and/or the FCC takes it away.

So forget the subversive Web strategy for now.  I’m so close to speechless every time I listen to KPFA Local Station Board or Pacifica National Board meetings that all I can say is “Rescue KPFA!” (And Pacifica, but this is, most of all, about the Local Station Board election at the station I know best, KPFA-Berkeley.) Please open your KPFA Local Station Board ballot and vote for Scott Olson and the UCR 9: Scott Olsen, Jeremy Miller, T.M. Scruggs, Janet Kobren, Don Macleay, Virginia Browning, Marilla Arguilles, G. Mario Fernandez, and Sharon Adams..

More on NPR Programming — Don’t Let This Happen to Pacifica!


By UCR Candidate Sharon Adams

Chrissie Hynde

Chrissie Hynde

NPR Music did an interview with Chrissie Hynde about her new book. The interviewer asked Hynde to read from her book, and she replied:

“Can I just not repeat stories that I’ve already said in the book? Can we talk about things outside of that? Is that possible?”

But, the NPR host couldn’t get out of his ordinary NPR mindset — he had prepped by reading her book, and most authors will just tell stories from their books. So, apparently thinking “must talk about stories in her book, even though she just said she doesn’t want to talk about stories in the book” he tries again, and Hynde slaps him down, like the real artist and rebel that she is.

“No! I’m not going to tell you stories that are in the book!”

The NPR host really can’t understand Hynde’s zeitgeist, which steps outside ordinary bourgeois boundaries. There is something so insipid about the NPR zeitgeist, something so timid. When Hynde states: “I don’t care what a lot of people want. I’d rather say, ‘just don’t buy the book’… I’m just telling my story” — he is speechless, and the interview immediately cuts away.

We need boldness and courage to face the challenges ahead of all of us — not just radio listeners, but the whole world. We need less certainty about the correctness of our views, and more willingness to listen.

And within Pacifica and KPFA — we need radio that is willing to allow the people to speak. We need radio that trusts the intelligence of its audience to listen and make their own decisions about what is true. As was so eloquently discussed on a recent KPFA Project Censored show, there has been a winnowing of what is considered legitimate discussion, a subtle self-censorship that is occurring in film, books and general dialogue. Censorship does not just happen by government intervention, it happens when NPR can’t allow Hynde to be who she really is; or when NPR can’t understand the facts about Syria.

Protect Free Speech Radio — Vote for UCR in the upcoming election!

photo credit: The Pretenders Day on the Park via photopin (license)

Marilla Argüelles

Marilla Argüelles

Marilla Argüelles

Former President of home care workers’ chapter, SEIU, Local 616, editor of “Extracts from Pelican Bay,” former KPFA Labor Collective member.

I, Marilla Argüelles, have developed, provided, and advocated 30 years for services to those facing trauma, deprivation, and stigma. I welcome the idea of serving KPFA because it’s given me my best teachers and allies. Everyday its programming helps me as an artist and teacher to battle bureaucratic obtuseness and lack of funds with creativity and Socratic obstinacy.

•  I am well aware of the frustration, waste and expense that accompany litigious solutions. In 1983 Barbara Lubin and I co-founded Project PLAE, Play and Learning in Adapted Environment, the East Bay’s first physically integrated, children’s recreation program.  It became a model for programs ranging from Palestine to Siberia.  During the three years that Berkeley Unified School District sued our family for insisting on a language-based, local education for our son, every Berkeley Special Education student under 12 was referred to its summer sessions. (Our son became the first wheelchair user to attend Berkeley High School.)

Photo by Kiren Koehl, from Tages Zietung

Photo by Kiren Koehl, from Tages Zietung

• In 1984 I founded Consensus, California’s first nonprofit head injury program to receive Adult Ed funding.  As Community Colleges became more inclusive, our focus morphed into media education projects at underachieving high schools.  These differed radically from other digital storytelling programs because it taught students to look for the root causes of social problems, rather than to focus on personal histories of injustice as isolated instances of cruel fate or bad luck.

Students-created Powerpoint presentations on child slavery (BitterSweets: The Dark Side of the Chocolate Trade), criminal injustice, agribusiness, and With or Against Us: The U.S. Patriot Act). They presented these for community service credits to Union meetings, church groups, adult education classes and public library community forums.

• In 1993 a Flashpoints’ interview led me to the California Prison Focus, where Bato Talamantez graciously allowed me to edit letters from the SHU at Pelican Bay into an unauthorized (underground) anthology lauded by Adrienne Rich, Carlos Muñoz, June Jordan, and the BBC.

Since then I’ve spent equal time and heartache serving on Union Contract Negotiations and Executive Boards. As a current member of ULTCW, United For Long Term Care Workers and former president of SEIU 616’s chapter for In-Home Support Service providers, I’m keenly aware of the need for fiscal vigilance, transparency, and resilience. And for the need of unions to work cooperatively with local grassroots efforts on campaigns such as the Fight For $15, MediCare For All, and CoalFreeOakland. KPFA and other Pacifica stations have long supported teachers’ unions, it’s time to empower PTA parents at the local level by hosting events focused on examining the impact of deregulation and international corporate interests on local budgets and cuts.

I pledge to work to replace corporate obsessions of profit, growth, and technology with local democratic economies geared towards Justice and Survival. I’m endorsed by the UnitedforCommunityRadio slate and by Barbara Lubin, Michael Parenti, and Judith Ehrlich.


Official Q. & A.

1.  In what ways are the station moving in a positive direction, that you would want to continue or perhaps improve?
KPFA (particularly Dennis Bernstein) does an excellent job fulfilling Sections (d) of the Mission Statement: “obtain[ing] access to sources of news not commonly brought together in the same medium,” by Guns & Butterexposing the craven manipulation of news by main stream media. I’ve learned far more from Letters and Politics, Project Censored, Guns and Butter, Uprising, HardKnockRadio, and Against The Grain about history, politics, and economics than I did at The University of Chicago despite majoring in history.  They’re certainly better at explaining “the causes of religious, philosophical and racial antagonisms” (growing up in Tennessee, always considered immutable and inevitable).  I’m indebted to KPFA for Joy De Gruy-Leary, Tim Wise, and others analysts of white privilege, and pleased that a more racially, age-diverse audience now attends the speaker series. Pacifica Archives’/KPFA’s Adopt a School Library day is a brilliant collaboration.


2.  In what ways are the station moving in a negative direction, that you would want to stop or change? What changes would you work for?

Except for speaker series, KPFA apparently lacks a coordinated plan to involve Berkeley’s 30,000+ college students – most have never heard of KPFA.  Several UC professors have created “Course Threads” and “Big Ideas Courses” that synthesize knowledge from different disciplines to promote nuanced understanding of an important topic.  Could apprentice staff broadcast these regularly?  We need to support Social Action Committees of local Faith Based Congregations.  They’d probably welcome guest speakers with information about the Archives, especially if Archives were cataloged by topic. (Robert Reich recently joined with MoveOn to promote 300+ small house party Teach-Ins featuring 12 different 3-minute videos on ways to Save the Economy. Many filled within days.)
Richmond public housing residents at a crowded discussion called by Richmond Alliance's then Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.

Richmond public housing residents at a crowded discussion called by Richmond Alliance’s then Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.

We need a daily half hour early morning labor show with Andres Soto and/or Steve Zeltzer covering issues and actions like The Richmond Alliance. Volunteers could staff KPFA information booths at Farmers’ Markets.


3.  What key experience, connections, skills or traits would you bring to the Local Station Board to advance the station’s mission?


Our son’s stays in ICUs staffed by physicians and technicians dangerously ignorant about nutrition, health alternatives, and environmental dangers force us to tread carefully when challenging privilege and authority.  It’s vital to distinguish between genuinely held beliefs, arbitrary decisions, and assumptions.  Layna Berman taught us to challenge “impossible” odds, health systems, and environmental dangers (saving our son’s life twice without meeting him).
Serving as unpaid founder/director of a nonprofit for brain injured, learning disabled individuals honed my skills for grant writing, collaborating, and creating programs that stress inclusion. Providing homecare for 37 years has taught me how low wage workers must organize.   Steve Zeltzer and the Labor Collective generously coached me in producing shows on pesticides and farm workers, Sami Al-Arian, unorganized labor and unions, so I know something about production and editing.  I listen carefully, have a rather photographic memory, and can be a stickler for detail (mixed blessing/curse).


4. What ideas do you have for helping the station and the Pacifica Foundation meet the financial challenges currently being faced?


Pacifica’s Mission Statement Section (c) urges us “to establish awards and scholarships for creative writing, and to promote and aid other creative activities that serve the cultural welfare of the community.” My husband is a widely published poet. I’m an artist and writer. We’ve never heard this goal mentioned on air. Many of KPFA’s more affluent members/listeners would support such efforts, particularly if encouraged to fund them at their former schools, clubs, and houses of worship, and acknowledged as co-sponsors. (more fun and influential than your name on a plaque.) Pacifica’s Archives could be the source of reference materials for topics of competitions.
Winners of awards and scholarships could be invited to submit and/or perform productions at workshops (“Mini-Oscar” events), producing further revenue from the general public. If KPFA (especially HardKnockRadio) publicized BUSKERS ON BART (transient performers from youth programs) it could win hearts, minds, and donations.


National Lawyers Guild Letter to KPFA On The Morning Mix

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The recent removal of the Morning Mix radio program from the 8:00 AM time slot on KPFA has raised some concern at the San Francisco chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (“Guild”). We write this letter because KPFA and its free speech mission, are important to the Guild and to many activists that either work with, or are represented by, Guild members.

The Guild views KPFA not as simply another movement organization, but as a key part of the information commons. In that sense, KPFA is similar to a public utility — it is for the public benefit. KPFA policies on openness and actions regarding access to its airwaves affect all of us striving for a better world.

Like KPFA and Pacifica, the Guild was created with a particular mission: it was founded in 1937 as an alternative to the American Bar Association’s exclusionary practices and political orientation, and the Guild was the first integrated bar association. KPFA was launched in 1949, three years after pacifist Lew Hill created Pacifica. The aim of the station has always been to promote cultural diversity, to promote pluralistic cultural expression,  to contribute to a lasting understanding among diverse constituents, to maintain freedom of the press, and to create a forum for various viewpoints.

At KPFA’s core is the concept of pacifism or non-violence. Non-violence is often mistaken for being simply the absence of, or opposite of, violence. Instead nonviolence is a systematic framework of both conceptual principles and pragmatic strategies to reduce harm and promote positive peace at the personal, community, national and global levels. Contrary to popular belief, non-violence requires boldness and courage. Moreover, it is easy to fall astray from the path of non-violence in the pursuit of financial stability or in response to political pressure.

With this framework and history in mind, we raise our concerns about an uncomfortable pattern of events that have transpired at KPFA that appear to be the antithesis of non-violence. We do not list these concerns to cast blame, or to impose our set of values on another organization. We list these concerns because our collective silence could be perceived as approval or consent. We consider individuals and organizations on both sides of this debate as both friends and allies. It is in the spirit of a friend and ally that we speak about the recent decisions at KPFA, and seek to build trust through transparency.

The Morning Mix was unique within the KPFA lineup because it was hosted by a diverse group of community volunteers with programming important to community members. The Morning Mix often reported on local political movements that were under-reported elsewhere. One such issue is tar sand extraction and transportation by rail to refineries. Andres Soto, one of the hosts of the Morning Mix, and a Richmond resident and activist, often reported on this issue. He frequently reported on Chevron’s efforts to refine tar sands in Richmond which will have a direct impact on the people of Richmond and surrounding communities. Across the nation, we see a growing movement on this issue, and the Guild has recently received reports of brutal arrests of people who oppose tar sands. Instead of supporting this excellent reporting done by Andres Soto on this issue, KPFA has essentially silenced him by eliminating the prime time Morning Mix program. It is doubtful that the new paid host from LA will report on local efforts to oppose refining tar sands in the same way.

We could go through other hosts and programs on the Morning Mix, and discuss how each is connected to a local community and movement, however the point is that KPFA’s actions have actually decreased the diversity of speech on its airwaves.

As a community-based radio station dedicated to pluralistic expression, it would seem that KPFA would wish to avoid even the appearance of decreasing diversity, or of favoritism, or of bias. Gentrification of a neighborhood transforms it by displacing local residents, which in turn erases local character. Defenders of gentrification support the transformation, claiming that it increases public safety. Some at KPFA have described the removal of the Morning Mix as a ” move towards professionalism”. However we fear that “professionalism”, like “public safety” is pretext. The unqie character of the Morning Mix came from its local voices, accents, topics and perspectives. KPFA erased this local character with a single paid host out of LA.

Another reason put forth by by KPFA management is that the LA program will allegedly bring in more revenue. Although people can and do argue about interpretation of financial figures, the financial documents produced at the KPFA Local Station Board show that the Morning Mix was pulling is weight during fund drive. Thus, KPFA’s reliance on a specific interpretation of its financial figures, when there are other valid interpretations,  is a factor that creates the appearance of viewpoint bias. For example, the KPFA financial documents do not take into account the expenses incrred by having paid hosts. Thus, the financials purport to measure programs in terms of revenue generated, and disregard specific costs incurred by having paid hosts.

Moreover, and this point cannot be emphasized too much, KPFA can not and must not base all of its programming decisions on finance alone.

Although this letter was prompted by the removal of the Morning Mix, in the course of drafting this letter, we have learned of complaints that KPFA management has silenced specifically black programmers and/or failed to provide support for critical black programming or programming on critical local issues relevant to black communities. We are concerned that the removal of the Morning Mix, a show frequently hosted by black local hosts, is part of this pattern. We understand that KPFA is filling the Morning Mix time slot with a show hosted by a person of color, however the show is not produced locally, and does not have as close a connection to Bay Area black communities, and that features voices of black programmers, and not assume that programming by or for people of color generally will necessarily cover these issues.

KPFA, as part of its mission, must be ever vigilant of protecting diversity of viewpoints. Removal of the Morning Mix has narrowed the range of speech on its airwaves.

KPFA appears to promote radio programs that would prefer to talk about global economics, rather than race and the local displacement of black and immigrant families. It is an agenda that appears it would rather talk about gender discrimination in the boardroom, but not talk about the impact of gender, race and poverty on the young girls caught up in sex trafficking on Bay Area streets. It is an agenda that appears it would rather solve problems abroad, rather than those at home.

The Guild is an organization dedicated to human rights over property rights, and our collective conscious is touched when KPFA – a radio station dedicated to promoting diversity – consciously or unconsciously engages in viewpoint suppression. The allegations may be uncomfortable, however we in the Guild believe that it is through transparency and discussion of diverse viewpoints that this situation can be resolved.

In solidarity,

Sharon Adams, Vice President

National Lawyers Guild, Bay Area Chapter

August 12, 2014

NLG letter re Mix & KPFA



KPFA’s Andres Soto at the San Francisco Labor Council


Communities for a Better Environment Richmond campaign coordinator and KPFA host Andres Soto speaks at the San Francisco Labor Council about the programming he and his Morning Mix colleagues were creating for KPFA and Pacifica on July 14, 2014.

Green Party of Alameda County Signs on to SF Green Party Statement to “Report Locally”




The Green Party of Alameda joins the San Francisco Labor Councilthe Gray Panthers,ILWU Local 10East Bay Veterans for Peace,Sonoma County Veterans for PeaceILWU Local 10the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, the Richmond Progressive Alliance, the San Francisco Green Party and the Golden Gate Letter Carriers in calling for restoration of the KPFA Morning Mix to its 8 am weekday hour.

“Think globally, act locally” is as relevant today as it was in 1915, when Scots biologist, sociologist, and town planner Patrick Geddes wrote Cities in Evolution.  “We need locally produced, locally relevant programming to help us make specific connections between our daily lives and politics and those of the international community and the planet.”

We find it difficult to understand why you replaced The Morning Mix with syndicated programming produced in Los Angeles, because locally produced programming about politics, art, culture, and the environment in a station’s fm signal area is the heart of community radio. We need to understand the realpolitik immediately around us, in the San Francisco Bay Area, not just in Iraq, the Ukraine, Nigeria, Los Angeles, or the distant chambers of Washington D.C. or the United Nations.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the movement towards community-based and/or regional renewable power infrastructure has reached a critical stage. We need to understand every step forward or backwards as this story unfolds on the ground, in our City Council and County Board of Supervisors offices, in public agencies and at public gatherings. San Franciscans need to know what is happening in the City of Richmond, in Marin, Sonoma, and Napa Counties, and in East Bay and South Bay counties where citizens are attempting create renewable energy infrastructure.

Despite a California State mandate to produce at least 20% renewable power by 2010, PG&E is still producing only 19%, four years later, and doing whatever it can to stop Bay Area communities from creating clean energy buyers’ co-ops, or banding together as one and eliminating its dirty energy monopoly. PG&E strategists may have been most successful at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, where they have used the San Francisco Mayor’s office – which they traditionally control – to block the implementation of our renewable power plan Clean EnergySF for two years, even after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimous vote for it.

PG&E has also been able to activate its union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 1245, to oppose CleanPowerSF; this calls for the attention of a local labor reporter like Morning Mix host Steve Seltzer.

Uprising host Sonali Kolhatkar lives within Southern California Edison’s monopoly and cannot possibly cover this as our local hosts can. We need diverse voices of hosts and reporters in touch with those on the ground, not the lone voice of Brian Edwards-Tiekert and/or his pinch hitter, Marie Choi, much as we appreciate the addition of Marie’s voice to the morning hours.

This is not a “narrowly focused, local issue,” as KPFA Interim General Manager Richard Pirodsky suggested the Morning Mix hosts had typically covered. in his parting lecture to the KPFA Local Station Board. We’re thinking globally and acting locally, for the survival of the planet and a sustainable peace rather than never-ending dirty energy wars. The same can be said of efforts to create municipal and regional mass transportation networks,local agriculture, just criminal justice, and other central elements of sustainable culture.

Every municipality in the Bay Area struggles with criminal justice issues including racial profiling, police brutality, police accountability, whether or not to arm police officers with tasers, whether to allow stop’n frisk, whether to allow Police Departments to report juveniles to immigration authorities, and police shootings of minority youth like Oscar Grant, Alan Blueford, Alex Nieto, and Andy Lopez. These police issues are all part of a national discussion, but local decisions determining how they play out here are made at multiple local levels every day. .

What does an LA or New York broadcast host know about the San Francisco Re-entry Council, which created a model for re-integrating ex-offenders that is now studied nationally? What do they know about former San Francisco Sheriff Mike Hennessey, current Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, and Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s groundbreaking work in rehabilitation and re-entry?

How much can they know about Oakland’s infamous police corruption or the Oakland Domain Surveillance Center proposed barely a year after Occupy Oakland grabbed the national and international stage?

How much can they know about the Richmond Progressive Alliance and Contra Costa County’s struggles with the Chevron refinery, crude-by-rail shipments, and expanding oil infrastructure?

Citizens are working to stop potentially explosive crude-by-rail shipments from the Bakken Shale all over the U.S. and Canada, but shouldn’t we be specifically informed about the crude-by-rail shipments threatening our own communities here? If not for KPFA Morning Mix host Andrés Soto and the Richmond Progressive Alliance, many residents of the Bay Area might not even realize that crude-by-rail shipments now threaten their own communities, not just Contra Costa County’s.

This may not be of concern to KPFA’s wealthier subscribers who never have and never will have to live next to an oil refinery, a crude-by-rail transit line, an oil storage tank, or any of the radioactive and otherwise toxic sites that the U.S. Navy abandoned all around San Francisco Bay. They may never have to face any number of other injustices in their daily lives, but if KPFA is to foster real community within the fm signal area it claims to serve, in accordance with its mission, it must consider these injustices to some as injustices to all. It must not exclude them from the station’s early morning hours.

On July 12, 2014, the Green Party of Alameda signed on this statement.