Listener outrage forces KPFA management to abandon plans to remove 9AM Democracy Now!

BREAKING NEWS — A VICTORY! Over the weekend, hundreds of you sent letters to KPFA’s managers protesting their plan to make sweeping programming changes without input from staff and listeners. In a hastily-called staff meeting yesterday morning, according to KPFA workers, the station’s interim general manager Andrew Phillips and interim program director Carrie Core agreed to not cancel the 9 AM broadcast of Democracy Now!. They said they’d been influenced by the outpouring of listener letters and phone calls over the weekend. You made the difference!

For instance, referring to new revelations of corporate money from Goldman Sachs, Daniel Goodwin writes “I have listened and contributed to KPFA since I moved to the Bay Area 35 years ago. I have never before witnessed such a grotesque assault on noncommercial radio, on the very core of Lewis Hill’s vision, as we see unfolding today. Corporate money flows into WBAI programming, while KPFA’s GM characterizes Lewis Hill’s values as outdated…. these people have no shame.”

Listener Iris Biblowitz wrote: “I don’t understand how Pacifica can make dictatorial changes in KPFA’s schedule, treating competent, truth-seeking, and hard-working journalists like cards to be shuffled.”

“What has been happening to KPFA programming — and what I understand is now about to happen at the hands of people who temporarily occupy positions with decision-making authority — is really horrific,” wrote listener Phyllis Willett. We need to have The Morning Show restored and we certainly should not be reducing Democracy Now’s airtime.” | MORE LETTERS

Unfortunately, Phillips and Core say they’re committed to keeping the Morning Show from returning to KPFA, and to many of the other program changes they announced last week, including moving Hard Knock Radio and Flashpoints to the morning (without explaining where exactly they’d go).

KEEP THE PRESSURE ON! Tell management to back off on these unwise changes, respect KPFA staff and listeners, and return the Morning Show to the air. EMAIL via this page or PHONE interim managers Andrew Phillips (510-848-6767 ext 203) and Carrie Core (510-848-6767 ext 209).

WBAI funds came from Goldman Sachs, says Pacifica

Three days after the story broke on April 22, Pacifica management is now saying that its New York City station, WBAI, received $10,000 from corporate finance giant Goldman Sachs (not corporate finance giant Merrill Lynch/Bank of America, as originally stated by WBAI’s general manager). The Pacifica network has a long-standing policy of not taking corporate underwriting.

The KPFA Weekend News ran a story April 24 about the funding, which included an interview with former Pacifica correspondent Larry Bensky (audio here) on the issues at stake. On April 25, Pacifica executive director Arlene Engelhardt spoke to KPFA News (audio here), and called the money a “grant,” but said that she would not rule out underwriting in the future.

It’s still unclear what strings were attached to the gift — Pacifica managers have told various people that the gift was either unrestricted, or specifically for a series on the topic of hydro-fracking. No-strings-attached gifts are not, legally-speaking, “underwriting.” Donations to fund a particular program or series are. Engelhardt was unable to produce any documents related to the “grant.”

Supporting radio, not bureaucracy

On the matter of Pacifica’s finances, Matthew Lasar, writes on Radio Survivor that the network’s “governance sector is still clearly unable to control its own internal expenses.” The newest audit shows Pacifica has spent nearly $3 million since 2002 on governance.

If you’d like 100% of your donation to go to KPFA (none to Pacifica), support KPFA’s events like this talk by Pulitzer-Prize winner Chris Hedges next Monday, May 2 in Berkeley.

If you live in the Central Valley, consider attending this talk to benefit KFCF (KPFA’s sister station) on Thursday, April 28 by  Against the Grain’s Sasha Lilley.

KPFA’s interim managers announce sweeping changes, cancellation of 9AM Democracy Now!

An email from interim managers Andrew Phillips and Carrie Core announces the most extensive programming changes to the station in the last decade, including canceling the 9 AM broadcast of the station’s most popular program, Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman.

There was no consultation with KPFA’s elected local board, or any other parts of KPFA’s community. Phillips and Core were appointed to their temporary jobs only a few months ago by Pacifica’s Arlene Engelhardt. describes the changes: “Management intends to move Flashpoints to 8am and Hard Knock Radio to 9am, while Against the Grain and Living Room would be moved to 11am and music moved to the noontime for an hour and a half.  FSRN and Al Jazeera, which often duplicate coverage, would be put back-to-back at 4pm.  And an unformulated program, which sounds a lot like the concept of the unpopular Morning Mix, would be on from 5-6pm with five rotating hosts.” MORE FROM KPFAWORKER.ORG | KPFA News report

“These ridiculous changes make no sense,” said Pamela Drake, a local KPFA board member.  “And they will drive away thousands of listeners at a very difficult economic time. What listeners want is the return of the Morning Show.”

Before the changes were announced, KPFA staff had begun circulating this letter, calling for management to reinstate Aimee Allison, instead of continuing to spend listener dollars on anti-union lawyers.

Merrill Lynch underwriting Pacifica programs?

Other disturbing news surfaced today that Pacifica, which owns KPFA’s license, appears to have taken corporate underwriting from financial giant Merrill Lynch.

Activists at Pacifica-owned station WBAI in New York report that during the station’s April 21 Finance Committee meeting, its general manager admitted taking $10,000 from Merrill Lynch to fund a producer’s work on “hydro-fracking,” an environmentally-destructive method of extracting natural gas.

“No way does this happen without the approval of the CFO and PNB Treasurer,” said Debbie Speer, a long-time activist and KPFA listener via sister station KFCF in Fresno. “In my opinion, if they weren’t in the loop on this, they are incompetent. If they were, they are corrupt. Either way, they need to resign or be removed.”

KPFA’s interim GM Andrew Phillips has also said that he favors underwriting by businesses.

Judith Scherr, an unpaid staffer at KPFA, asked the question on many people’s minds: “Who are these people and what are they doing to my radio station?”

The Pacifica National Board is responsible for what happens at each of the 5 Pacifica stations, including KPFA. They hire and can fire the executive director, Arlene EngelhardtEngelhardt herself hand-picked KPFA’s interim managers Andrew Phillips and Carrie Core, who are directly responsible for the programming changes.

Outraged? TAKE ACTION!

EMAIL the Pacifica National Board via this page. We’ll forward your mail to all 20 members of that board, as well as KPFA’s interim managers and local board members. We will not release your email address.

PHONE KPFA’s interim managers are at (510) 848-6767. The receptionist was laid off, so please dial these direct extensions: Andrew Phillips (ext 203) and Carrie Core (ext 209).

Board member censured for failing to protect KPFA listeners’ email privacy

“None of your business.” That was board member Tracy Rosenberg‘s response at the local station board meeting this weekend when pressed on how she had obtained the email addresses of more than 5,000 KPFA subscribers and donors.

The issue arose in early March, when KPFA subscribers received phony email messages promoting the controversial and unpopular Morning Mix program. The emails purported to come from KPFA but in fact came from Media Alliance, which Rosenberg heads. The phony Morning Mix emails linked directly to Media Alliance’s database, which then collected information about the recipients’ viewing habits and actions.

KPFA’s board chair Margy Wilkinson asked a group of board members from both sides of the political divide to investigate. They presented their report at the April 16 board meeting, expressing great concern about how critical proprietary information had been obtained by an unaffiliated organization, in violation of listener trust. Their investigation confirmed that the misappropriated email addresses came from the official voter list used in KPFA’s 2010 election, which had been released only to Pacifica national election supervisor Renee Asteria and KPFA local election supervisor Oriana Suportas.

Critical KPFA voter information released

One of the members of the investigating committee, Sasha Futran, told KPFA’s board that the release of the voter emails could compromise the fairness of future balloting, and that KPFA had a responsibility to keep its subscribers’ data private, and “not have it just be passed around to various individuals.” Futran said at least 175 members had unsubscribed because of the fake emails. “Why should KPFA have to suffer 175 people opting out of receiving our official, real, sanctioned email because they got an illegal email that appeared to be from us?” | 3 MINUTE AUDIO CLIP OF FUTRAN

Rosenberg responded that it was her prerogative to use KPFA voters’ emails as she saw fit. She claimed to have received the emails from Pacifica’s lawyer, Ricardo DeAnda, in order to send out a negotiated apology from Pacifica after a judge ruled against the network in its attempt to nullify staff votes to swing last year’s board election its way. (Incidentally, the apology was never sent).

Upon hearing Rosenberg’s claim, board member Dan Siegel immediately emailed DeAnda, who quickly replied that he never gave Rosenberg any lists.  “As a board member, she baldly lied to us, we all heard her,” said Dan Siegel after reading DeAnda’s message aloud to board members. | 1 MINUTE AUDIO CLIP OF SIEGEL

KPFA’s local board passed a resolution censuring Rosenberg and asking Media Alliance to destroy all copies of the KPFA subscriber email list in its possession. A second resolution censuring Pacifica executive director Arlene Engelhardt for her role in the matter was tabled to give Engelhardt time to respond.

“Everybody knows this was a wrong thing to do,” said board member Matthew Hallinan “Anybody who has organizational lists knows that those are treasures, you don’t let those lists go to anybody else because you lose the trust of your membership. If KPFA members felt their lists were going to different people, particularly people with particular political agendas….no one would want to be on it and it would hurt the station tremendously.” | 2 MINUTE AUDIO CLIP OF HALLINAN

Rosenberg sits on both the KPFA and Pacifica boards, and is the chief proponent behind the cancellation of the Morning Show and the targeting of dissident staff for layoff.

You can find the minutes and the entire audio of the board meeting here.

Monterey Central Labor Council resolution against Pacifica’s anti-union actions

Another AFL-CIO labor council has come out in support of KPFA’s staff. The Monterey Bay Central Labor Council, representing more than 30,000 union members in Monterey and Santa Cruz passed a unanimous resolution taking Pacifica to task for “blatant anti-union actions” in its dealings with KPFA’s paid workers.

The resolution specifically criticized Pacifica’s national board for “making individual name recommendations for layoffs” — a reference to management’s targeting of its political opponents on the Morning Show, the Evening News and Against the Grain.

Similar resolutions have also been passed by the San Francisco Labor Council, the Alameda Labor Council and the South Bay Labor Council, as well as the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the Berkeley City Council.

KPFA supporters handed out this flyer this month at a picket in front of Pacifica’s offices.  Pacifica continues to refuse to mediate the dispute.

Aimee Allison layoff headed to arbitration

The layoff of KPFA Morning Show co-host Aimee Allison is going to binding arbitration next week. SaveKPFA raised $63,000 in pledges to restore the Morning Show — that’s enough to pay Allison’s salary and benefits for more than one year. But Pacifica management has turned down the pledges and instead is paying the anti-union law firm Folger Levin to fight KPFA’s union at $400/hour. Pacifica had already paid Folger Levin over $30,000 by the end of January 2011, and once arbitration begins, it will also have to pay expensive arbitrator’s fees.

KPFA listeners, workers picket Pacifica on national day of action for labor

April 4th’s national day of action in support of labor began in the bay area with KPFA staff and listeners outside the offices of parent organization Pacifica. They were protesting the actions of Pacifica’s executive director Arlene Engelhardt, whose campaign against KPFA’s workers has repeatedly violated the station’s union contract. Engelhardt killed the station’s popular Morning Show last November, and has spent over $30,000 of listeners’ money on an anti-union law firm, Folger Levin at the rate of $400 an hour.

News anchor John Hamilton speaks, steward Antonio Ortiz in background.

News anchor John Hamilton spoke to the crowd, describing how his job was saved after  coworkers donated their hours in an act of solidarity to keep him employed. (Hamilton’s annual salary is less than what KPFA has paid for three months union-busting lawyers.)

Micky Mayzes, director of KPFA First Voice Apprenticeship

Micky Mayzes, director of the KPFA First Voice Apprenticeship Program, spoke about how Pacifica was founded to raise money for KPFA, the original station in the Pacifica network. Yet now, she pointed out, KPFA and the other stations in the network pay “tribute” to Pacifica of 20% of their income, while the network raises little or nothing for the station.

Former Pacifica national affairs correspondent Larry Bensky spoke to picketers about the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr, who was assassinated on April 4th while supporting striking union sanitation workers in Memphis, and the irony of Pacifica spending money to fight KPFA’s union workers, when they should be spending that money on programming marking Martin Luther King’s legacy.

Larry Bensky speaks to picketers

Larry Bensky speaks to picketers

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Photo set 3 (KPFA workers at Oakland’s demo)