FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Nation’s Oldest Public Station Under Arrest

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:

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

June 18, 2019
John McMurtry
Koch-Oil Big Lies and Ecocide Writ Large in Canada
Robert Fisk
Trump’s Evidence About Iran is “Dodgy” at Best
Yoav Litvin
Catch 2020 – Trump’s Authoritarian Endgame
Thomas Knapp
Opposition Research: It’s Not Trump’s Fault That Politics is a “Dirty” Game
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
U.S. Sanctions: Economic Sabotage that is Deadly, Illegal and Ineffective
Gary Leupp
Marx and Walking Zen
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Color Revolution In Hong Kong: Usa Vs. China
Howard Lisnoff
The False Prophets Cometh
Michael T. Klare
Bolton Wants to Fight Iran, But the Pentagon Has Its Sights on China
Steve Early
The Global Movement Against Gentrification
Dean Baker
The Wall Street Journal Doesn’t Like Rent Control
Tom Engelhardt
If Trump’s the Symptom, Then What’s the Disease?
June 17, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
The Dark Side of Brexit: Britain’s Ethnic Minorities Are Facing More and More Violence
Linn Washington Jr.
Remember the Vincennes? The US’s Long History of Provoking Iran
Geoff Dutton
Where the Wild Things Were: Abbey’s Road Revisited
Nick Licata
Did a Coverup of Who Caused Flint Michigan’s Contaminated Water Continue During Its Investigation? 
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange and the Scales of Justice: Exceptions, Extraditions and Politics
John Feffer
Democracy Faces a Global Crisis
Louisa Willcox
Revamping Grizzly Bear Recovery
Stephen Cooper
“Wheel! Of! Fortune!” (A Vegas Story)
Daniel Warner
Let Us Laugh Together, On Principle
Brian Cloughley
Trump Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative
Weekend Edition
June 14, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump’s Trade Threats are Really Cold War 2.0
Bruce E. Levine
Tom Paine, Christianity, and Modern Psychiatry
Jason Hirthler
Mainstream 101: Supporting Imperialism, Suppressing Socialism
T.J. Coles
How Much Do Humans Pollute? A Breakdown of Industrial, Vehicular and Household C02 Emissions
Andrew Levine
Whither The Trump Paradox?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of 10,000 Talkers, All With Broken Tongues
Pete Dolack
Look to U.S. Executive Suites, Not Beijing, For Why Production is Moved
Paul Street
It Can’t Happen Here: From Buzz Windrip and Doremus Jessup to Donald Trump and MSNBC
Rob Urie
Capitalism Versus Democracy
Richard Moser
The Climate Counter-Offensive: Secrecy, Deception and Disarming the Green New Deal
Naman Habtom-Desta
Up in the Air: the Fallacy of Aerial Campaigns
Ramzy Baroud
Kushner as a Colonial Administrator: Let’s Talk About the ‘Israeli Model’
Mark Hand
Residents of Toxic W.Va. Town Keep Hope Alive
John Kendall Hawkins
Alias Anything You Please: a Lifetime of Dylan
Linn Washington Jr.
Bigots in Blue: Philadelphia Police Department is a Home For Hate
David Macaray
UAW Faces Its Moment of Truth
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Washington Detests the Belt and Road Initiative
Horace G. Campbell
Edward Seaga and the Institutionalization of Thuggery, Violence and Dehumanization in Jamaica
Graham Peebles
Zero Waste: The Global Plastics Crisis
Michael Schwalbe
Oppose Inequality, Not Cops
Ron Jacobs
Scott Noble’s History of Resistance
Olivia Alperstein
The Climate Crisis is Also a Health Emergency
David Rosen
Time to Break Up the 21st Century Tech Trusts
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail