This blatant attack on locally produced community programming at KPFA is opposed by a growing number of staff unpaid and paid and the community which wants more locally produced programming at KPFA. This attack on local community programming at KPFA has angered activists and others who see this as a effort to turn Pacifica and KPFA into and NPR type operation.
Cross Roads at Pacifica Radio and KPFA
By Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff
Co-hosts of the Project Censored show on the Morning Mix at KPFA Berkeley
Late in the evening on Wednesday May 21 the volunteer hosts for the Morning Mix show (8:00-9:00 AM weekdays) were sent an e-mail stating that the program was being permanently replaced by a daily show from KPFK in LA. This was a total surprise to Mix producers as just the previous Friday the Interim General Manager of KPFA/KPFK told us in his office that program changes would be discussed and reviewed by the new KPFA manager to be hired in June and nothing would happen until a new manager was in place.
Instead, we received a top down administrative command without explanation or discussion, that provided alternative times slots for some of the Morning Mix producers but reduced our overall time on KPFA from five hours in the morning drive time to two and half hours in afternoon time slots. The Project Censored show fared the best with a one hour time slot on Fridays from 1:00 to 2:00 P.M., but the Tuesday and Wednesday Morning Mix hosts were not offered any additional air time. The three other Morning Mix hosts were scheduled for a half hour each later in the afternoon.
The Morning Mix has been on KPFA at 8:00 A.M. for three and half years. As the Morning Mix, we are men and women; black, white, and brown; we are gay and straight; radical scholars and labor activists; young, old, retirees, and we are all volunteers in service to the mission of KPFA and Pacifica as founded by Lew Hill for community free speech radio.
We are part of a KPFA Mix of volunteer programmers across the programming schedule here in Berkeley and other Pacifica stations around the county. Volunteer producers at KPFA are culturally diverse, socially just, and rooted in the Northern California community. Some of our programs are carried by Pacifica affiliate stations all over the country. We firmly believe Pacifica was established for community-based programming, not just establishment professionals. We are every bit as professional, yet unpaid, and we are as fully committed to the future of KPFA as those who would have us disbanded or replaced. We have a voice, we are the community, and we are the Mix.
We do not think that bringing in a daily program created in LA is what KPFA and Pacifica is about for a drive time program. There are procedures for program changes in place through our local democratically elected station councils. The current board of directors of Pacifica is seriously divided into two contentious factions. The factions at KPFA are Support KPFA—United for Community Radio; and Save KPFA (formerly “Concerned Listeners”). Each faction has allies and/or representatives on the board from the collective stations with the Save KPFA faction recently obtaining a small majority. It was this slim majority that lead to the late-night firing of Pacifica’s recently appointed Executive Director, Summer Reese, on March 13. Now this faction representing a small clique is acting undemocratically, non-transparently, and in violation of organizational by-laws and rules by eliminating the Morning Mix show.
We believe that openness is needed in Pacifica, not top down commands without discussion or transparency. We also believe that community based programming is the foundation of KPFA and Pacifica therefore any move in the direction of national-NPR style programs is a violation of our deep traditions. We need dialogue and understanding, we need cooperation and kindness, not sniping, not circular firing squads, not behavior that mirrors right wing agit-prop attacks, not from any side. We at KPFA and Pacifica have common goals, and our attention needs to be focused on the plutocratic corporatocracy that is killing our country, the world, and literally the planet. There is work to be done...and it is not about any of us as individuals. Together, at KPFA, we are strong, we can be the change we want to see. We are the Mix, and we need to work as one.
Peter Phillips is a Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University and President of Media freedom Foundation/Project Censored
Mickey Huff is a Professor and Department Chair of History at Diablo Valley College and Director of Project Censored
On Memorial Day morning at Berkeley’s KPFA radio, the AM hour did not go off as planned.
A sudden programming change was announced only five days ago to replace the Morning Mix, a programming collective including:
- Andres Soto from the Richmond Progressive Alliance,
- The legendary Project Censored, authors for more than 30 years of the “Censored” collections of the year’s most-neglected news stories and the nation’s most prominent media literacy educators,
- Hard Knock Radio’s Davey D, a nationally known African-American reporter and commentator,
- Steve Zeltzer’s labor program,
- Poor News Network,
- Strike Debt Audio Essays and interviews,
- The Vegan Commentary,
- Mumia Abu Jamal’s reports,
- Anthony Fest, one of KPFA’s best news hounds,
- African American host, Sabrina Jacobs,
- and others.
The change would have driven out of KPFA’s prime time the few new Bay Area-based programs generated in the last few years. Replacement plans substituted Uprising, which has occupied the 8 am hour at Los Angeles sister station KPFK, for the last decade, 5 days a week.
But that’s not what happened. At the last minute, 100 community members showed up at KPFA’s doors. At 8 am, despite the on-air announcement that Uprising was to follow, the station aired a special Morning Mix open house with Morning Mix hosts Sabrina Jacobs, Steve Zeltzer, Anthony Fest, Andres Soto, and Peter Phillips. Flashpoints producers were on hand to lend support.
The festive rally ended with the station’s heavy metal doors thrown open to the sidewalk and supporters filled the lobby during the impromptu broadcast which featured several guests by telephone and supporters on the air talking about why they came to the protest/broadcast and what the Mix has meant to them.
KPFA news staffers remained on the second floor of the building and did not come down the stairs to greet the protestors for the hour-long duration of the open house.
On Tuesday, supporters are again invited to an AM open house at the station’s downtown Berkeley studio at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr Way and Berkeley
The sound archive will be available on Soundcloud shortly, but for the moment can still be heard on KPFA’s archives.
The Morning Mix came onto KPFA’s air in the fall of 2010, after two years of more than a half million dollar deficits drained KPFA’s million dollar reserve down to zero. A recovery plan approved by the national board unanimously in October of 2010 called for $375,000 in staffing reductions.
Many staffers at the station and members of the community have come to see the Mix as precious open space in the schedule that is accessible for a wide range of content and focuses on local issues often neglected by pundits and celebrities, as well as more subversive analyses of race, class and political issues than is present in two-party-based political affairs coverage. The flexibility in the Mix provided opportunities often missing at KPFA, where program slots are usually held for a decade or more and have been known to be passed down from one family member to another.
The proposed replacement program, Uprising, hosted by Sonali Kolhatkar claimed to have posted large sums of money during a one week fund drive pre-emption in Berkeley. The extravagant amounts claimed by the Save KPFA faction in a newsletter they distribute were bizarre, with receipts exceeding $11,000 an hour and close to $100,000 in one week of broadcast. Kolhatkar’s show, which has been on the air in the morning in LA for close to a decade, collected an average of $2,051 an hour on KPFK during its ten fund drive broadcasts on KPFK between May 1 and May 17, 2014, never once cracking the $3,000 mark and once collecting as little as $600. The KPFK fund drive dailes for May 1-20 can be seen here.
Long-time La Onda Bajita and Flashpoints co-host Miguel Molina exploded on-air on Friday May 23rd at 5:30pm in the closing hours of KPFA’s extended fund drive. Molina reported that less than 5 days before the change was abruptly announced, interim manager Richard Pirodsky told Project Censored co-host Dr. Peter Phillips he would not be making changes prior to his departure, leading Molina to ask who exactly was making the decisions, if not Pirodsky. Molina stated the “slashing and scattering” was destroying the morale of a new group of emerging producers. Molina’s complete remarks can be found here in audio, here in video and here in printed form.
The latest tumult comes only days after an eight week occupation of the foundation’s Berkeley headquarters ended on May 13th after an illegitimate majority set off chaos by suddenly firing the executive director only weeks after a permanent hire and reinstating a CFO who had been let go for poor performance and workplace complaints. The re-hired CFO has still not been able to enter the headquarters without being accompanied by a professional mediator and the investigation report has vanished for months.