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KPFA and the Blame Game
by repost from the Berkeley Daily Planet
Tuesday Oct 16th, 2012 12:28 PM
It's election time at KPFA for the Local Station Board and there are 2 slates of candidates running,
United for Community Radio and SaveKPFA.
What are the differences? And why should you vote at all?
This article explains the major controversy at the station, and how the "Save" KPFA faction has led to
the near demise of KPFA and the Pacifica network.
KPFA and the Blame Game reprinted from the Berkeley Daily Planet
By Tracy Rosenberg
Friday October 12, 2012

KPFA Radio, the first listener-sponsored radio station and progressive media outlet, is having board elections in November. Many of you will say “again?” - having recently received postcards and ballots for a recall election just a few months ago. This time, however, your vote will count, and there are some important decisions to be made. This article is intended to help you decide how to vote if you are a KPFA member – and encourage you to do so. It’s not as hard as it may feel to decipher all the rhetoric!

Basically, there are two slates of candidates--United for Community Radio (UCR) and Save KPFA --and you will make a choice to largely support one or the other. Details on the candidates running and their statements can be found on the web as each slate has a website: UCR at and Save KPFA at

But let’s cut to the chase and answer the question: what is the fighting all about?

It all began five or six years ago. KPFA started to show declining membership numbers in 2006 and hit a deep crevice when the economy collapsed. The decline was up to 30% by the spring of 2009. At a non-profit where 85% of all income derives from listener-member donations, that is a big crisis.

When then-board treasurer (and Save KPFA poster boy) Brian Edwards-Tiekert presented the draft budget to the board on July 11, 2009, here is what he said:

“The bottom line--with all the caveats about rough numbers that I spelled out above--is a minimul (sic) operating surplus before capital expenses, and a minimal cash deficit afterwards. But getting to that break-even point requires cutting around $430,000 in salaries and benefits, and eliminating most consultant spending”

A year before, in May of 2008, Edwards-Tiekert had addressed the national board of directors and said:

"We have spent, and budgeted, as if a one-time spike in listenership and listener support was long term growth, which it was not. … We have a lot more people on payroll; and it hurts to cut jobs … it hurts us as social-justice people. …And you get pushed back, you get politicking, you get coalitions to block any kind of job cut, so the path of least resistance is to first spend down your savings, as long as you got money to pay the bills, and then go, ‘Oh my god, we’re headed over a cliff now,’ which is where we are now.”

In fact, neither the final 2008 nor the 2009 budgets contained the cuts necessary to get to the break-even point, and just as Edwards-Tiekert anticipated, the station went right over the cliff., losing $575,000 in the year ending September 30, 2008 and another $585,000 in the year ending September 30, 2009. By 2010, there was no money left to pay the bills and the cuts happened.

The tragic thing for KPFA, besides the fiscal crisis itself, was that the scenario Edwards-Tiekert laid out went down exactly as predicted: There was push back, there was politicking, there was a coalition to block any kind of job cut. Ironically, it was Edwards-Tiekert himself who led the charge, along with his comrades in Save KPFA.

They inundated KPFA members with accusatory and angry emails, filed (and lost) five different complaints with the National Labor Relations Board, filed (and lost) a union arbitration, filed bogus lawsuits and a recall election, ran competing private fund drives and basically did everything they could to make people (and KPFA itself) “pay” for getting back to the breakeven point from the bottom of the cliff where they never should have gone in the first place.

There’s a fundamental dishonesty to that.

So here we are in 2012. The last two years have been filled with charges and denunciations. Recall elections have been launched. Another executive director has bitten the dust. Yet KPFA’s website is technologically backward, no Internet channels have been launched, KPFA hasn’t gotten a grant in years, and the current fund drive is struggling. What have we gotten from this Save KPFA coalition to block any kind of job cut, this politicking, this push back?

Obstruction, anger, declarations of revenge. Making people pay.

I don’t want it to seem as if this article is an attack on Brian Edwards-Tiekert. It’s not. I would fight to save my job if it was in danger and everyone’s job is in danger when their employer experiences huge losses and a fiscal crisis. Nowadays, everyone’s job is in danger all the time because the 1% has looted this country and brought it to the brink of catastrophe.

Which is why we have to stop messing around with one of the few progressive media outlets we have and hold Save KPFA accountable for their destructive and fear-based campaign. They aren’t helping KPFA. In the year since the recall campaign was launched last fall, KPFA slipped from 21,455 members to 19,800 in July of 2012. That’s the wrong direction. It’s not working.

So to you 19,800 remaining members and anyone reading this who isn’t a member and should be, we don’t have to keep falling over the cliff again and again. $3.4 million dollars (KPFA’s current annual budget) is a lot of money. Stations all over the country demonstrate every day that you can have a vital, healthy, radical voice for change for a lot less than that. You just can’t piddle it all away in a pitched battle about who is to blame for financial stresses everyone understands and no one likes.

Join Larry Shoup, Karen Pickett, Ramses Teon Nichols, Samsarah Morgan, Andrea Prichett, Dave Welsh, Oriana Saportas, Beth Seligman, and Kate Tanaka and vote United for Community Radio ( for a vision for KPFA's survival a little deeper than the blame game.

[Author Tracy Rosenberg is the executive director of Media Alliance, and a local and national board member for KPFA. She knows a little bit about the blame game.]

by Mara
Tuesday Oct 16th, 2012 11:57 PM
Another candidate to add to the UCR slate:
Virginia Browning.

I can't agree with one thing Tracy says here:
Brian Edwards-Tiekert did not have to fight for his job, when another was available to him; according to the union contract, he was allowed to "bump" a newsperson of lower seniority, which he did when he saw he couldn't get his Morning Show position back. (There was a *relatively* happy ending, as other staff made some of their hours available to the other worker.)
Of course he preferred not to displace a fellow worker, *but* he was leading a dishonest campaign to resist the layoffs at KPFA, without which KPFA would have gone belly up, causing the entire Pacifica network to founder, as well as Free Speech Radio News, the Pacifica Archives, and to
deprive the 180 Pacifica affiliated stations of Pacifica programming.
"Save" KPFA's repeated denial of KPFA/Pacifica's financial crisis in the face of the actual figures is egregious and inexplicable, as if they want to bring down the network.
What progressives would want to bring down the only progressive radio network in the US?
For the sake of 2 jobs? What can they be thinking?
The other Pacifica stations all made the necessary cuts as did the Pacifica National Office, in the 3 year time frame after Pacifica requested it of them. It couldn't have been easy for them either.

Please do not vote for "Save" KPFA.

For real change, vote for all 9 SaveKPFA candidates in KPFA’s local board election

Check out the 9 wonderful activists running as SaveKPFA candidates in this fall’s KPFA Local Station Board Election: Craig Alderson, Paula Errkila, Jose Luis Fuentes-Roman, Kate Gowen, Mark Hernandez, Dan Siegel, Carole Travis, Barbara Whipperman and Burton White.

Between them, they have a wealth of background in radio, nonprofit administration, fundraising, labor, grassroots organizing, and social and economic justice movements. They come from around the Bay Area and beyond, all enthusiastic listeners of KPFA who want to make a positive difference in its future.

Read SaveKPFA‘s election platform, What We Stand For, which includes: • Restore local control at KPFA • Ensure high quality, progressive programming • Respect KPFA’s listeners • Support KPFA’s staff • Require transparency and accountability from Pacifica.

Please distribute widely — let your friends and neighbors know that this vote will be crucial for KPFA’s future. Let’s elect all 9 SaveKPFA candidates and get KPFA and the Pacifica network back on track!

We welcome endorsements from all members of the KPFA community – listeners, staff, writers, artists, community and labor activists, etc.
by Stuart Mills
Thursday Oct 18th, 2012 11:57 AM
Save KPFA advocates and one listener candidate for the KPFA board endorsed by Save KPFA, Kate Gowen, engaged in ethnic slurs on a Facebook page where they invoked Chandler Harris's controversial Uncle Remus stories and the term "tar baby" and then claimed it is just a children's fable like "Aesop" and they are ignorant of any other implications.

This calls into pretty serious question their cultural competency to serve on the board of a diverse community institution, not to mention the ability to outreach to underserved communities while relapsing into ethnic slurs at a moment's notice and then claimiing to be ignorant of the history of race relations in the United States.

Also running on the slate is civil rights lawyer Dan Siegel and his employee at the Siegel and Yee law firm Jose Fuentes Roman.

Do they endorse the words of their running mate, Kate Gowen?

Here's the exchange:

Barrie Ann Mason Punching the tar baby only gets you stuck in the mess.
Yesterday at 9:37pm ·

Tracy Rosenberg That's a bit of a racist comment, Barrie. Do you often use language like that? It's offensive.
Yesterday at 11:08pm ·

Kate Gowen It's hard to see an Uncle Remus fable as being racist, any more than Aesop, or La Fontaine: it's a parable about enmiring oneself in argument.
16 hours ago ·

Tracy Rosenberg You must be kidding. You realize the "Uncle Remus Museum" in Atlanta banned blacks from visiting it until 1984!
16 hours ago ·

Tracy Rosenberg In 1981 the writer Alice Walker accused Harris of "stealing a good part of my heritage" in a searing essay called "Uncle Remus, No Friend of Mine".[39]
16 hours ago ·

Richard Wolinsky Folks, Tracy's right on this one. Maybe the first time on this page, but she's right.
14 hours ago ·

Kate Gowen No offense intended-- I'm not a politico, nor a southerner, just a mom who read stories to her kids a couple of decades ago. And I think Tracy's got a peculiar hair-trigger expecting racism-- or willing to impute it-- to suit her agenda.
13 hours ago ·

Richard Wolinsky Kate, if Tracy had said something similar, I'd have responded pretty much as she did, though I wouldn't use a link to prove my point. There's a reason "Song of the South" by Disney has never been released on DVD, though it might be an educational experience because the racism is woven all through the work. I'd also say that because Rosenberg is particularly unscrupulous and will use anything to discredit her opponents, it pays to be particularly careful in one's use of language.
13 hours ago ·

Earl Marty Price I fin myself with Ms. Rosenberg on this. Uncle Remus, Tar Baby are all recially offensive. I taught secondary English, yea Ms. Rosenberg you had the gall to criticize my spanish which I am probably way beter then you with, but Twain used Jim to make a point about how smart the balck dude was...Tar Babay is something we as negroes had to suffer with. Any of you justifying this archaic racist term, maybe you would like to familiarize yourself with peckerwood, red neck, trailer park trash because that is where this crap comes from and those terms are just as offensive..tar baby indeed!!
4 hours ago ·

Kate Gowen From what I know of Barrie, she's as ignorant as I was, that "Uncle Remus" and any reference to it has apparently been anathematized. I know that I am no racist, and think it extremely unlikely that she is. I know that I am no racist, and think it extremely unlikely that she is. I'd have thought that "racist" meant deliberately demeaning, intimidating, harassing or inequitable words or actions. Not failure to be au courant on what literature is acceptable. I recall that there was at some time controversy about *Huckleberry Finn*.
Earl, my friend: I'm extremely familiar with the equivalent "honky" epithets-- as a child, I suspected my grandmother of bigotry on the basis of her having lived her life in Georgia [let us not omit "cracker" from the list]. She's been dead for 30 years, so I can't apologize for my ignorance and admit that she never said or did anything to justify my suspicion.
3 hours ago ·

Is this really what KPFA needs to be "saved"?
by Old Lib
Thursday Oct 18th, 2012 2:56 PM

Wasn't the original reference made by Barrie? Why are you attacking someone responding to it, even in ignorance, instead of the person who originally used it?

Smells like political character assassination...smells like a put up job than any real outrage.

Truly offended people would go to the source, not anyone 'downstream' from it.
by Dave Hart
Thursday Oct 25th, 2012 10:16 PM
Why do I get the feeling that the UCR slate is engaged in more spin than the SaveKPFA slate? That's the way it feels to me. From my distant location in the Sacramento area, I see a national Pacifica Foundation that regards KPFA as a cash cow to maintain the national network. The national foundation should figure out how to raise money, independently, for the national network instead of tapping us KPFA listeners. I might consider donating as I did for Free Speech Radio News.

I don't know all the details, the ins and outs of what is going on down there in Berkeley, and I assume a certain amount of spin on both sides, but the UCR slate seems to favor anyone who is willing to not challenge the Pacifica National Board. They are focused on getting more time for their own message, on using KPFA's signal for their own thing. I don't hear that they are focused on what they can do for KPFA. I also think it is curious and telling that they sneer at the idea of elevating professional standards for programmers. How can the UCR slate believe that they will expand the listener (financial) base by providing airtime to people whose heart may be in the right place, but are in over their heads? KPFA is not just some low-power community radio station that can operate on a shoestring and survive on a minimal diet.

And, anyway, we can only take so much hand-wringing and serious, no smilin' haranguing by people who are desperate that you know what they think. The UCR faction doesn't seem to realize just how much really high quality programming in literature and music (that are made for radio) have been eliminated over the years and replaced by so-called public affairs programming that is often repetitive and too often amateurish. KPFA will not add significant numbers of new, committed subscribers without the diversity and balance of literature, music and public affairs that are professionally produced. I travel and it seems like WBAI and KPFK have nothing but public affairs. I can't stand to listen to them, though I always tune in, hoping for new directions.

I just don't believe the UCR group understands or values KPFA for what it COULD be. I see them supporting programming decisions that are going the WRONG way. The WBAI and KPFK way. I'll continue to hang in there as a subscriber until my distress at seeing good programming replaced by humdrum and boring programming pushes me over the edge.
by Dave...
Friday Oct 26th, 2012 10:42 AM
KPFA is not a very effective cash cow. It lost more than a million dollars combined in 2009-2010, hasn't broken even since 2008, and came up $140,000 short in its last fund drive. Where do you get the idea that KPFA subsidizes the network? I guess that would be Save KPFA spin. Sad thing is it isn't remotely true.
by Call it.
Friday Oct 26th, 2012 1:29 PM
'Nuff said.