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It's Not Free Speech Radio Anymore
by reposted by Virginia B
Saturday Sep 28th, 2019 12:08 PM
Hypocritical attempt to dislodge vigilant Pacifica board member. I do hope you can get through this, and especially the last 3 or 4 paragraphs - then go back and read about the sausage-making if that's easier. Please forward to any you think care about Pacifica. I don't agree with this newsletter always, but I think this is important. I hope others will write to the board as article suggests - if nothing else, for the record. They may not be able to ignore thousands of emails.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Saturday September 28, 2019

It's Not Free Speech Radio Anymore


Dear Readers - It has been a long interval since Pacifica in Exile has published. Like many of you, we were relieved when Pacifica was able to avert catastrophe in the wake of the Empire State Building disaster. It seemed like the Pacifica National Board was in saner, stabler hands by 2018. After many years of regular bulletins and long hours of assembling the documentation that accompanies these reports to you, it was time for a break. But recent events have changed that assessment. It is necessary once again to inform you of things you won't otherwise be told. Understand that the news is not good. In between the unsettling reports, Pacifica's finances are in bad shape. I hope you will consider, to the extent that your resources allow, increasing your financial support. But with financial support comes accountability, and it is time for that as well. Every time you open your pocketbook, you can also open your mouth and put a stop to things that are happening that should not be. Please do both.

Berkeley- When a nationwide uprising hit Pacifica Radio in the late 1990's, it adopted the mantle of saving "free speech radio" from a takeover driven by beltway politics and powered by a lack of democratic accountability and transparency from a self-selected board of directors. That board, while grappling with real questions like shifts in the media landscape, technological innovation, and the balance between grassroots volunteer-driven community media and professionally produced strip programs that would be competitive with NPR-style offerings, chose to hunker down and embrace totalitarian tactics to strip the communities that built and owned these stations from any say in what would happen to them. They were sent packing in 2002.

17 years later, it is fair to say that the democratic model has done good things and bad things. It has protected all 5 stations, and none have been sold off for scrap metal. The stations remain non-commercial and free of ubiquitous corporate sponsorship. All of them have at least some volunteer corps making content for the love of it, and voices are still heard on Pacifica that get play on very few other mass media platforms. Despite the episodes of boardroom Game of Thrones, the network has continued to exist when much more well-resourced media platforms have curled up and died.But there's no doubt that all the challenges inherent in the questions on the table in 2000 have not been met and the stations have been slow in embracing technological innovation, jumping on the latest currents in alternative thought and culture, incorporating young people, and expanding programmatic content. This slowness has led to the loss of listener-members and contraction instead of growth. Changes are in order. But they can't happen without you speaking up now. Because in the absence of transparency (which this publication's absence aided and abetted), all the wrong things are going down. That's why transparency matters. It's a tool so you can make things right. Here's some stuff that needs to be straightened out.

Free Speech: If free speech radio is not just to be an empty slogan, it must be embraced throughout the organization as a value. That means not shutting down dissenting points of view and not engaging in retaliatory censorship. Pacifica can choose who it features on its platforms. That is the editorial right of every outlet. But it cannot operate internally as a gulag with gag orders. Because totalitarianism creeps. If employees, board members, and volunteers can't speak freely, then the atmosphere of fear that is created inevitably chills creativity, risk-taking and initiative. And for an organization painfully dependent on volunteer energy for 2/3 of its content product, that is fatal. So Houston, we have a problem. Actually, Berkeley is where we have a problem. Because the KPFA local station board is uninterested in free speech. They intend to kick off a PNB director on October 26th because he sent an email with his opinion to the board.

If you've spent any time around Pacifica governance, you know members of the board of directors send emails with their opinions about 10 times a day. What's unique about this one? Nothing. What's unique is that the KPFA local board has a 2/3 majority tilted towards one group and therefore they are free to expel their opposition. An 11-11 tie on a decision at the national board? No problem. Take out one of the votes on the other side. Except that's not how reasoned debate in a collectively-run organization works. It is the path to hell because if you do it to them, they will then turn around and do it to you down the line. And instead of reaching out to young people to find the next big thing, or approaching tech companies to donate needed equipment or pitching in on the fund drive, it's Game of Thrones.

The victim this time is Tom Voorhees, a community radio engineer of distinction and one of the best-qualified members of the national board. Voorhees has been building community radio stations from the ground up for decades. He was given an award by the National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB) in 2014 for dedicated service to community media. His horrible email? You can read it in its entirety here. Voorhees states his objection to a bylaws amendment proposal (more on that below) which would reinstall a majority self-selecting board of directors and to what he says is a plan by his colleagues to shut down WBAI, which as he reasonably points out is the only Pacifica station that increased its membership numbers in the last year. Even more reasonably, Voorhees only sent his email to his colleagues on the board, just saying they could share it with others if they wished.

The reaction from the thought police?

Subject:My motion for consideration at the October 26th meeting of the KPFA LSB.

Date:2019-09-27 16:57

From:Donald Goldmacher

I plan to make the following motion for consideration at the upcoming LSB Delegate Assembly.

We the members of the KPFA Local Station Board at this Delegate Assembly, Saturday, October 26, 2019, at KPFA at 1929 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way vote to remove and replace Tom Voorhees as a KPFA Listener, Pacifica National Board Director as we find that Mr. Voorhees has exhibited conduct that is adverse to the best interests of the Foundation.

Information that I will present at the meeting will include issues related to fiduciary duty given the urgent financial situation of the foundation and concerns about the following email you sent to the Pacifica National Board with a request to share widely.

If Goldmacher had been around in the days of Mary Francis Berry, he would have fit in really well.

The Urgent Financial Situation

The nature of the urgent financial situation was revealed by a cash flow report submitted by NETA, the independent fiscal contractor now tending to the station's books. A cash flow report is not a firmed up profit and loss statement, and those numbers for 2019 will not be available until after the close of fiscal year on 9/30/2019. But the snapshot is revealing. KPFA-Berkeley's cash flow in 2018-2019 has been an unmitigated disaster at (-433,000), a sea of red ink that is much larger than the negatives at any of Pacifica's other 4 stations, or at all 4 of the other stations combined.

KPFA has been in this kind of pickle before, notably in 2009-2010 when two year operating losses of $1.2 million dollars led to contentious layoffs. What led to deficits now, much as happened before, was the local station board's abandonment of sensible budgeting practices and reality-based forecasting. After booking $3.2 million dollars in revenues in 2018 (down from $3.4 million in 2017), KPFA's local station board decided to forecast $3.85 million dollars in revenues for 2019, because why shouldn't $600,000 fall from the sky? It didn't. 2019 revenues came in at approximately $3.1 million dollars, as a sane board would have expected.

What is Goldmacher and the rest of the local board, who are elected by you and accountable to you for KPFA's health and well-being, going to do about their budgetary mistake and the cash flow problems for KPFA that have ensued? Kick Voorhees off the national board.

The Return of Self-Selecting Boards

Kicking Voorhees off the board is, in all fairness, not their only solution to the urgent financial problem. There are also bylaws amendments, another well-known way to pay the bills. You may have gotten an email recently from something called the Pacifica Restructuring Project. They asked you to sign a petition to change Pacifica's bylaws by abolishing all the local boards and replacing them with six appointed people they considerately picked out for you, along with one solitary elected director from each of the 5 signal areas. This proposed new set of bylaws also lets the chosen people, who will appoint their successors ad infinitum to maintain a permanent unelected majority on the board of directors, further change the bylaws as they wish with only 30 days notice. In other words, 8 people will decide what happens to free speech radio. We know what happened the last time we tried that:

“I was under the impression there was support in the proper quarters, and a definite majority, for shutting down that unit [KPFA] and re-programming immediately. Has that changed? Is there consensus among the national staff that anything other than that is acceptable/bearable?" (Self-selecting board member Michael Palmer's misdirected email July 13, 1999).

What To Do

Democracy takes all of us. It's a burden, but the alternatives are worse. The national and local boards are still accountable to you. You can write to the KPFA local station board at kpfalsb [at] googlegroups.com and to the national board at PNB [at] pacifica.org to tell them voting to remove Tom Voorhees for expressing his opinion is unacceptable. You can tell them shuttering or selling WBAI to solve their own bad budgeting is unethical, destructive and immoral. And you can say that you're not planning on handing over your vote to 8 people any time soon because you have not forgotten the lessons of history.

There is plenty to do. The stations need more members and infusions of volunteers with creative programming ideas and stories to tell for the generations coming of age now. Equipment needs to be upgraded, modern membership and accounting software systems need to be installed, and digital platforms need to be expanded. Democratic Socialists of America is running a slate for WBAI's LSB this election proposing to reinvent the station for young people like themselves so the Pacifica station can be to them what it was to the boomers in their younger days; a compass, a teaching and organizing tool, a window into exciting ideas and radical analysis, and an engine for change and social progress in an era that is every bit as frightening as the Vietnam era, if not more.

Insist on it. It is what we owe to those who come after us. Not a sad tale of how some angry old people frittered away the only American mass media network not owned by corporations or the government.

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