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VFJR Forum: The Real "Save KPFA" Story With Jeff Blankfort And Others

Friday, September 24, 2010
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Event Type:
Panel Discussion
voices For Justice Radio
Location Details:
522 Valencia St/16th St.
San Francisco, CA

9/24/2010 VFJR Forum: The Real "Save KPFA" Story With Jeff Blankfort And Others
September 24, 2010 7:30 PM
522 Valencia St./16th St.
San Francisco, CA
The Real "Save KPFA" Story With Jeff Blankfort And Others
The struggle against the attempted corporate take over of KPFA and Pacifica which began in 1994 is an important
part of the history in understanding the present struggle at KPFA and the network. Where people stood and what
they did when Pat Scott and her NPR supporters took over and implemented the "healthy station project"
is a story that is now playing out in the elections at KPFA. The former political grouping Concerned Listeners
now renamed "Save KPFA" is seeking to identify themselves with people who went to the street to "Save KPFA"
Jeff Blankfort and others who fought to protect KPFA and Pacifica from those who wanted to either sell the stations
or turn it into an NPR affilate will speak.
Jeff Blankfort was a key organizer against the take-over and will report on that struggle along with others who
were involved in defending KPFA and Pacifica.
Sponsored by
Voices For Justice Radio
A Vision To Rebuild KPFA & Pacifica
Rebuilding KPFA and Pacifica

1. End merged nightly news with KPFK & KPFA to expand local news reports. More community based reporters with volunteer news bureaus in the South Bay, N. Bay, Peninsula, Fresno and Sacramento and training of community reporters in these areas. Also web links to these news bureaus with reports from the regions and that can be reached on the web through google news and other search engines.

2. Open up the Program Council meetings to the public. Programmers and management can have a voice but no vote. The outside listeners need to be the decision makers on changing and evaluating programs.

3. Re-organize the KPFA news department to get more in depth news reporting and make segments such as labor and environment available as a google news feed. We also support combining labor, environmental, Black, GBLT and other programming nationally so it is searchable on the web. We support putting on Workers News as a feed which has been offered free to the station but is not used by news department managers.

4. We need to increase Public Affairs programming at KPFA including all communities in the Northern California. At present there is no public affairs director with a budget of $4.5 million and a population in the bay area of 12 million.

5. Better utilize KPFB by webcasting it and using new internet technology that will allow more new programs on housing & tenants rights and many other issues. We also propose to encourage use of video for interviews and programming.

6. Re-establish the Women's Department, the Third World Department and establish a Labor Department with voices of the rank & file, leaders of unions and a news information calendar on the web. We also support national labor news programming and other national programs on the Pacifica website containing programming on education, war, the environment and the economy from throughout the network news and others programs and shows. Lets make Pacifica a real national news and information portal.

7. Bring back the monthly folio in print and on line with interactive feedback on programming and how to build the station and Pacifica. We also support a regular survey by mail during the elections of what listeners support and what changes they want at our community radio station

8. Support the establishment of a Pacifica New Orleans Station Affiliate that can be a beacon from the South and more international partnerships with programmers from Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. We need to build an alternative international media network to break the information blockade of the corporate controlled media.

9. The development of a national and regional community producers network from Pacifica and It’s affiliates that will develop national and regional programming proposals that can link up the stations and the network from the ground up instead of a top down approach to national and regional programming.

10. Re-establish regular community town hall meetings every 6 months that are required under station bylaws but have been ignored by the present board officers despite the importance of having local community town hall meetings. We also support a return to monthly KPFA board meetings with minutes posted quickly when they are approved.

11. End the unfair and retaliatory ban against Black community programmer Nadra Foster. The station needs to apologize to her for the use of the police against her for “trespassing” and her injuries from the police.

We need to be a beacon for all the people of the bay area and this country!

That Will Bring Help Solve Our Financial Crisis & Build New Support For KPFA And Pacifica

KPFA Members Vote For



A Pacifica National Board meeting with lawyer Dan Siegel at the end of the table
Added to the calendar on Sat, Sep 11, 2010 8:27PM

Comments (Hide Comments)
by Steve Zeltzer
Union Busting, Labor and Pacifica Radio
Union Busting, Labor and Pacifica Radio by Steve Zeltzer

When the only national alternative radio network is threatened with corporatization, this must be the concern of all unionists and working people. This is the present state of struggle and crisis at the Pacifica radio network.

This network covers over 20% of the US population with stations in Houston, Washington, DC, Los Angeles and San Francisco as well as over 20 affiliated stations around the country. From the 1950s to the present, the Pacifica stations have been the only voice against the anti-communist witch-hunts, the Vietnam War and the Reagan union busting drive.

For the dispossessed and the working class, Pacifica has been in many, many cases the ONLY voice of truth against power. It is also in this context that the latest battle takes place against Clinton appointee to the US Civil Rights Commission Mary Frances Berry and her operative in Pacifica, Lynn Chadwick. The most recent battle at Pacifica's first and largest affiliate KPFA began for many in 1992 under the regime of
ex-labor lawyer David Salniker. Salniker, who is now Executive Director of the San Francisco based Tides Foundation, proposed in 1992 that Pacifica accept Foundation money from the Pew, Ford and McArthur Foundations. This was followed in 1993 by protests over the efforts of then KPFA manager Pat Scott to purge public affairs programming.

Salniker rewarded her by appointing her to Pacifica Executive Director and she launched the drive to tie programming at Pacifica stations to arbitron ratings. At the same time, Pacifica bosses began to seek ways to break down union conditions. Pat Scott, under the direction of Salniker, hired the union busting consultant firm American Consulting Group ACG. Their new "proposal" included stripping workers of all say in the organization, eliminating the right to strike and excluding the unpaid staff from the station's unions. Pacifica management also denied knowing about the role of these unionbusters. Long time Sovietologist William Mandel was also unceremoniously thrown off the air. This was just the beginning of a purge of other programs including three labor programs by Steve Zeltzer [this writer], Reese Erlick, and R.J Thomson. The last remaining regular KPFA labor program is half-hour a week and is hosted by labor journalist David Bacon. Over 300 programmers ended up losing their radio shows.

The potential for labor programming on Pacifica is significant. Pacifica, if it wanted to, could have a weekly hour-long labor show put up by satellite and also on the internet. This program would fill a large vacuum and would attract a significant audience among working people, yet a proposal for just such a program was rejected by David Salniker.

By 1996, Pacifica had already spent over $60,000 on the ACG and other union busting proposals. It also sought to exclude New York WBAI non-paid staff from representation by the UE Local that represented the workers. It is presently fighting a decision of the NLRB that the union has the right to represent unpaid staff. It also hired ex-US Justice Department spokesperson Burt Glass to do "damage control." At KPFA, Pacifica management was successful in getting a new union, the CWA, and in excluding the unpaid staff from being represented by the union.

Jack O'Dell, who had functioned as a tool of Salniker, now resigned because of the growing opposition to these policies and was replaced by Mary Frances Berry. Berry, a Clinton fan, supported a new policy for Pacifica in 1998 that barred programmers from encouraging attendance at rallies opposing the US blockade and war on Iraq. The effort by Berry and her supporters to "cleanse" the network was just beginning.

At the same time, the board added a new labor representative William Lucy, Executive Vice President of AFSCME and also president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.

The effort to totally separate the Pacifica board from the community and further insulate the board operated in tandem with a proposal that the Pacifica Board would no longer contain Local Representatives. This was supported by Lucy and East Bay Congressperson Barbara Lee's assistant Roberta Brooks. Unlike even bay area KQED, the Pacifica board is unelected and unaccountable to the subscribers and funders of the stations. In February 1998, the Board met in Berkeley and all the local representatives resigned to become non-elected members of the new board. In October 1998, the Board also appointed Lynn Chadwick to take Pat Scott's position. Chadwick moved quickly to clean house. In December she fired national programmer and AFTRA member Larry Bensky--Bensky, because he felt that his program "Living Room" had been bled of funding. Nicole Sawaya, the news KPFA station manager, supported Bensky and allowed him to speak out. This would be one of the reasons that Sawaya would also get the ax in March of this year. She was supported on the air by Larry Bensky. For this violation of the unwritten "gag rule", Bensky was then fired again by Chadwick.

One of the most corrupting aspects of this whole sorry story is the potential destruction of the Pacifica archives. These archives contain invaluable labor stories and labor history. Alan Stein, a Labor Archivist hired by Pacifica to be in charge of rescuing the archives, discovered that not only is it in worse shape than he thought but funds that should have been used to preserve the archives have instead been used on "consultants" who have relatives in the organization or are friends with Pat Scott.

Literally thousands of dollars have been wasted on these "consultants" who have absolutely no experience in professional archival work yet are funded by foundation grants for this very project. Stein, who spoke at the February 99 Pacifica Board meetings, warned of the problems of the archives and received no response from his warning. In fact he was unceremoniously fired only 2 weeks before the board meeting to prevent him from making a report to the full board.

Unfortunately, William Lucy again went along with Berry and professed no knowledge of the firing of Stein. In a debate at this same board meeting with poet and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Lucy defended Berry and the actions of the board to eliminate local representation. He also made no effort to contact Stein and find out what happened with his firing.

According to a May 31, 1999 Mary Frances Berry letter to The Nation, the "strategic plan" required "greater administrative efficiency, consolidation of financial management, and support services and other functions to provide greater resource for programming." Interestingly enough Berry said she wanted more support for programs like "Democracy Now." "Democracy Now" has also been strangely very silent about the recent battles going on at KPFA.

Berry also used the race card, accusing Alexander Cockburn of attacking her, Pat Scott and Marian Wright Edelman only because "we are Black women." Edelman, who actively supported Clinton's "welfare reform" which put welfare workers into unionized public jobs, is another one of Clinton's appointees. Is this an accident? Cockburn in his response to Berry makes it clear whom she supports. "I thought I'd make it clear that what Berry, Scott and Edelman have in common is their willingness in their public role as liberal black women to act as troopers in defense of white capitalist power, which likes to keep everything shipshape, not just in 'welfare reform' (Edelman's role) but in tidying up such minimally disruptive elements as Pacifica." The "tidying" up has certainly got more difficult for these "liberals." Over 2000 people have rallied to the station on a protest on Mother's Day after Bensky was again fired for speaking out against the removal of Chadwick at the end of March.

The purge went on with the firing of programmer Robbie Osman on June 12 and on June 21 Chadwick did a citizen's arrest of 14 people who were blocking the doorway to Pacifica.

In an important example of the role of the Clinton administration in this struggle, a call by Berry to Reno of the Justice Department was used to put heat on the Berkeley police department for not being more aggressive with the demonstrators.

A call was made from the Justice Department in Washington to the Berkeley police department to play a more active role. Chadwick then changed the combination of the lock and required all staff to get permission to enter from the guards. This is done without consultation of CWA Local 9415 which then filed a grievance against Chadwick and the change of work conditions without a discussion by the union.

The latest escalation is the installation of armed guards in the station by Chadwick and Berry to protect it from itself. Chadwick and Berry have also brought in another union buster, Marie Acosta-Colon, formerly executive director of the San Francisco Mexican Museum. She was hired by Pacifica to raise funds. Acosta-Colon, according to the San Francisco Chronicle of May 26, 1996, had nearly destroyed the museum. During her six-year tenure there, the museum's finances fell into shambles and so great was workers' dissatisfaction that they decided to unionize. Acosta-Colon's rule finally ended, according to the Chronicle, when "a last-minute attempt to fire the staff, break the union and temporarily shutter the museum was defeated by a narrow majority of the board of trustees."

Acosta-Colon was dismissed and the workers were successful in affiliating with SEIU 790. Berry and others might be looking for offers to sell the Pacifica stations since they are worth hundreds of millions of dollars and this may in fact be their end game. Trade unionists, unions and all labor communicators should take note. A critical battle is going on for the soul of independent radio and the only voice of working people. Please let Lucy know what you think as well as Berry. *

by P Did
Watch "SaveKPFA" candidate Matthew Hallinan's brother Conn menace the KPFA LSB Chair. She uses her skills as a dog obedience trainer. Then watch Dan Seigel invite Richard Phelps to take their disagreement outside.
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