FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Nation’s Oldest Public Station Under Arrest

by Dennis Bernstein

BERKELEY — As a broadcaster at radio station KPFA for the last ten years, I often wondered just how many people were tuning in. After all, these are the apathetic 1990s, the passions of the 1960s are supposedly long gone. But when Pacifica Foundation pulled me off the air, arrested me for trespassing and seized the station, the response came from an inspiring diversity of people — from far beyond Berkeley and well beyond the 1960s. They had been listening, and they cared deeply about progressive, alternative radio. Pacifica’s action touches some very raw nerves. It involves not just one radio station, but the new world of corporate control and the relentless logic of the market. This battle is about the future, not reliving the 1960s. Those who pay attention to media issues — including many in mainstream organizations — were shocked at the news that a radio journalist was forcibly removed from his radio station and put on “administrative leave” for covering a public press conference. Or that broadcasters would be fired for discussing the overall direction of a listener-sponsored station. Or that armed guards would be hired to seize a station founded by pacifists. KPFA is the country’s oldest community radio station, founded in 1948. The board of Pacifica Foundation, which includes KPFA and stations in Los Angeles, Dallas, Washington, DC and New York City, has moved to take accountability away from local stations. At KPFA, it fired the station manager without explanation, illegally locked out the staff, and secretly discussed selling off the stations. Pacifica claims it is simply trying to modernize, expand and diversify the network. Pacifica’s envisions “modernization” along corporate lines — more top-down control, greater reliance on foundation money, and programming based on ratings. It characterizes those who oppose these moves as holdovers from a bygone era. Pacifica’s tactics mirror those used in corporate takeovers. It has hired lawyers who specialize in fighting unions, a high-powered PR firm and IPSA International, a security firm which specializes in “hostile terminations” or firing in hostile takeovers. These moves took place with the connivance of the government’s Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which worked closely with the top Pacifica management and encouraged the move away from local oversight. Of course all radio stations want to attract more listeners, but robbing KPFA of its independence will rob it of its uniqueness, its loyal listener-base and its reason for existence. KPFA at its best has been about conscience and truth, not about audience-share.

We have seen what happens when market-driven solutions are implemented. They lead to less diversity — racially and politically. For millions of us, the market just doesn’t work. Sure, stock prices are soaring, there are more Silicon Valley millionaires than ever, and U.S. military and economic supremacy is unchallenged. But there is also an obscene chasm between rich and poor. There is still racism, discrimination, and official brutality. More prisons are being built than universities, the numbers on death row keep growing, dictators thrive, unjust military actions continue…. KPFA has drawn wide support by speaking forcefully and directly about these issues. The corporate market-driven approach has particularly troubling features when applied to the media. Will everything we see and hear be filtered through corporate public relations departments and market-share accountants? Will sensationalism, celebrity and homogenized coverage rule everywhere? In this era of U.S. triumph, is even one alternative, sometimes radical, voice too many? My arrest by Pacifica is a violation of everything KPFA stands for. But I will not be silenced. What’s at stake here is the future of community radio and the preservation of a Bay Area institution, nourished by listeners for 50 years, that has provided a voice for the voiceless and a platform for activists and progressives to speak truth to power — without fear of reprisal.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 29, 2017
Dave Lindorff
Sy Hersh, Exposer of My Lai and Abu Ghraib, Strikes Again, Exposing US Lies About Alleged Assad Sarin ‘Attack’
Chuck Collins
What Happened to America’s Wealth? The Rich Hid It
Rev. William Alberts
When the Bible is the Root of Evil
Jeff Mackler
Trumps ‘No Fly Zone’ Escalates U.S. War Against Syria
Bill Willers
The Next World War Won’t Just Be “Over There” 
Ellen Brown
Sovereign Debt Jubilee, Japanese-Style
Jack Laun
Will There Finally be Peace With Justice in Colombia?
Binoy Kampmark
Holding the Police to Account in the UK
David Swanson
Against Ignoring the KKK
Rima Najjar
Israel’s Illegitimate Tactics Against Palestinian Armed Resistance vs. Legitimate Global Security Concerns
Mel Gurtov
Advise, Assist, Arm: The United States at War
David Welsh
Berkeley Capitulates to Police Militarization and Spying
Marion Andrew
Not Being Considerate of One’s Audience: US Television’s Coverage of Olympic and International Sports
June 28, 2017
Diana Johnstone
Macron’s Mission: Save the European Union From Itself
Jordon Kraemer
The Cultural Anxiety of the White Middle Class
Vijay Prashad
Modi and Trump: When the Titans of Hate Politics Meet
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Efforts to Hide Palestinians From View No Longer Fools Young American Jews
Ron Jacobs
Gonna’ Have to Face It, You’re Addicted to War
Jim Lobe – Giulia McDonnell Nieto Del Rio
Is Trump Blundering Into the Next Middle East War?
Radical Washtenaw
David Ware, Killed By Police: a Vindication
John W. Whitehead
The Age of No Privacy: the Surveillance State Shifts into High Gear
Robert Mejia, Kay Beckermann and Curtis Sullivan
The Racial Politics of the Left’s Political Nostalgia
Tom H. Hastings
Courting Each Other
Winslow Myers
“A Decent Respect for the Opinions of Mankind”
Leonard Peltier
The Struggle is Never for Nothing
Jonathan Latham
Illegal GE Bacteria Detected in an Animal Feed Supplement
Deborah James
State of Play in the WTO: Toward the 11th Ministerial in Argentina
Andrew Stewart
Health Care for All: Why I Occupied Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s Office
Binoy Kampmark
The European Commission, Google and Anti-Competition
Jesse Jackson
A Savage Health Care Bill
Jimmy Centeno
Cats and Meows in L.A.
June 27, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
California Scheming: Democrats Betray Single-Payer Again
Jonathan Cook
Hersh’s New Syria Revelations Buried From View
Edward Hunt
Excessive and Avoidable Harm in Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Death of Democracy Both Here and Abroad and All Those Colorful Sneakers
Gary Leupp
Immanuel Kant on Electoral Interference
Kenneth Surin
Theresa May and the Tories are in Freefall
Slavoj Zizek
Get the Left
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia Wants to Reduce Qatar to a Vassal State
Ralph Nader
Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris and Distractions
Rima Najjar
Palestinians Are Seeking Justice in Jerusalem – Not an Abusive Life-Long Mate
Norman Solomon
Is ‘Russiagate’ Collapsing as a Political Strategy?
Binoy Kampmark
In the Twitter Building: Tech Incubators and Altering Perceptions
Dean Baker
Uber’s Repudiation is the Moment for the U.S. to Finally Start Regulating the So-called Sharing Economy
Rob Seimetz
What I Saw From The Law
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail