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Rescuing Lew Hill’s Pacifica

by Akio Tanaka
The real threats to the Pacifica network are the stations that are not self-sustaining, and a National Board that is unable to address the problem.

Each station has to be self-sustaining, and a functional National Board has to be able to take appropriate remedial action when they're not.
Lew Hill founded Pacifica with a promising vision, yet Pacifica is struggling mightily to survive. How did this come about?

One problem is that some stations misconstrued Lew Hill's view on programming. Because Lew Hill was a conscientious objector during WWII, many people have assumed that he founded Pacifica to broadcast only "wildly unpopular perspectives that could never get on the air anywhere else.“ Lew Hill's view on programming was more expansive and enlightened. He said Pacifica was “to give the genuine artist and thinker a possible, even a desirable, place to work in radio.” He added “KPFA’s present [1951] air schedule is a modest example. It embraces four main categories— 1) music, 2) drama and literature, 3) public affairs, and 4) children’s programs.”

Another problem is that some stations are ignoring the critical need for listener sponsorship. Stations can choose to focus on programming for peace, social justice and diversity as long as they remember that the programs still have to garner enough listener members to support the station. Having poorly produced shows that don't do that, don't help fulfill the Pacifica mission. Lew Hill said, “We make a considerable step forward, it seems to me, when we use a system of broadcasting [listener sponsorship] which promises that the mediocre will not survive.”

By narrowing the scope of programming, and ignoring the necessity for listener support, some stations run large deficits year after year and drain the network of resources. The Pacifica National Board (PNB) has been dealing with this problem by taking money from self-sustaining stations. This fails to deal with the root problems noted above and is simply not sustainable.

The current governing structure, set in place over 20 years ago, has proven to be incapable of dealing with Pacifica's root problems. It is also undemocratic, allowing all stations the same number of representatives, regardless of their listening audience size and/or their ability to be self-sustaining.

In order to have a more democratic and functional National Board, members petitioned and voted for new bylaws in June 2021. Members approved these new bylaws by a margin of 55% to 45%. Under the New Day Bylaws, the National Board would be smaller, more nimble, and have a majority of Directors (12 of 15) directly elected by the members, resulting in much more democratic representation.

To date, these new bylaws have not been implemented because Pacifica ruled that the new bylaws were NOT approved, based on a highly questionable interpretation of our current bylaws and California law. That ruling is currently being challenged in the courts.

Lew Hill said “Anyone can understand the rationale of listener sponsorship—that unless the station is supported by those who value it, no one can listen to it, including those who value it. This is common sense.”

To rescue Lew Hill’s listener sponsored Pacifica Radio, each station has to be self-supporting, and a functional National Board has to be able to take appropriate remedial action when they're not.

The status-quo situation is neither tenable nor sustainable.

For more information on New Day Pacifica visit:

by Virginia Browning
Aki, I guess your hope is to eventually wear down us old-time supporters of Lew Hill's actual vision of alternative news etc. And add to that younger people who (for all their Jimmy Dore's, Matt Taibbis, Christian Parentis, Caitlin Johnstones, and a very few other sources) are also vulnerable to the blandishments (ha ha what a mild word for that onslaught) of constant b.s.blastation in the form of admirably thoughtful analysis combined with the carefully focused propaganda du jour. And so it is that KPFA mouths the mainstream, thanks to your allies who would prefer that to working to form alliances with those of us who really would like alternative news supported. You know, the kind Lew Hill advocated.
by James McFadden
The New Day Pacifica faction (previously called United for Independent Radio), which pushed to elect Aki Tanaka as part of their bylaws takeover, has branches in both California stations (KPFA, KPFK) and allies at the Texas station, but fortunately remains in a minority position. This faction, perhaps cult is a better word, has been crying “the sky is falling” for the last 4 years while simultaneous doing its best to create havoc and drain Pacifica reserves with lawsuits and bylaw elections. In my 3.5 years on the LSB they have attempted multiple lawsuits that failed (but cost Pacifica dearly), attempted two bylaws changes to put them in charge (that failed but drained Pacifica coffers), supported a shutdown of WBAI in New York which was reversed (but cost WBAI donations since in happened during a fund drive), and most recently their members helped file a petition with the FCC to deny WBAI its standard license renewal (putting at risk our license estimated at $50+ million). Their crying foul in the last bylaws election, trying to change the election rules after the fact, rules they had agreed to, is reminiscent of Trump trying to overturn the 2020 election. The pettiness and vindictive actions by this group to silence some members of the KPFA LSB are there for all to hear since those meetings are recorded ( Those meetings give clues to how Pacifica would be run should New Day ever gain control. To top it off, the above Aki article seems to be one more attempt to kick Pacifica when it is struggling to undo the damage inflicted by New Day and by the drop in revenues from the current COVID caused recession. If you really want to understand how Kooky this cult is, read my year old article in Counterpunch which covers most of their antics. However, it does not include their latest lawsuit attempts and their attempts to deny WBAI its FCC license. Lastly, if you care about keeping Pacifica a multi-station network, with locally independent community radio shows, then please don’t help this New Day cult to gain control of the network. One way to help Pacifica remain a network, and protect Pacifica’s historical archive recordings for future generations, is to donate directly to the Pacifica Radio Archives at this site.
by Akio Tanaka
We are all for alternative news, the kind Lew Hill advocated, but even he would have said that it need to have enough listener supporters.

As far as the cult of New Day, the network needs a National Board that can ensure that the stations are self sustaining. If the current board can get their act together and do that, that would solve the problem.
Without going into excruciating detail, Mr. McFadden's comments are part of the ongoing misinformation campaign by the powers that be, who in fact represent a minority of Pacifica members, as evidenced by the fact that the referendum to amend the Pacifica Bylaws won a 55% majority of votes (to the 45% of "keep the status quo" No votes, in the Bylaws and Election of Officers referendum, and subsequently won about 2/3's of the LSB seats at each of the stations in which New Day endorsed candidates.

And now, in their efforts to keep a death grip on power over the Network, the powers that be are saying that there isn't enough money to have the Bylaw mandated elections. That sounds to me like the powers that be are also saying that Pacifica's economic sky is falling...either that, or its an excuse to not have the elections which they know that they will lose.

Just to point out a few more of the misinformation McFadden perpetuates:
* Pacifica's finances have been in a spiraling decline for years -- New Day just pointed it out and is trying to do something about it -- it is not the cause of it. ("The emperor has no clothes")
* Pacifica Filed the law suit against New Day -- not the reverse.
* New Day Pacifica was not even in existence when WBAI had the format change -- which was a mistake and a disaster, but it was not actually shut down, as has oft been repeated...
* Neither New Day, nor its members, filed the FCC complaint, nor did they support it. However, the issues that are in my mind are -- what are the complaints that were raised? Are they valid? Shouldn't Pacifica and WBAI actually address any issues raised in that complaint if they are valid, and if they are not, make it clear that they aren't?
by please stand up
You all should also not forget that Aki Tanaka was 2017 PNB Secretary when his faction on KPFA, called the Crisis Group at the time, was requiring that KPFA LSB members support filing for bankruptcy in order to get elected to be 2018 PNB Directors from KPFA by the super-majority. When the PNB pushed back on what was an irregular election on January 6, 2018, KPFA LSB member Bill Campisi sued Pacifica to seat Susan da Silva and prevent Tom Voorhees from being seated. Aki supported that lawsuit, and when he and his allies finally realized that da Silva had not been eligible to be on the PNB aside from their having gamed the election process to try to seat her, they held another illegitimate election and elected Aki for the third Listener PNB seat
Campisi lost his lawsuit at the trial level in which the judge called nominating Campisi as a "placeholder" for Susan da Silva a scheme. Campisi the, took it to the Appeals court where he lost as well. But although Pacifica won and Tom was seated, Pacifica lost by having to pay tens of thousands of donor dollars in legal fees. So talk about in-fighting which NDP claims their bylaws amendment will end, they were/are the ones who start the fights, even stooping so low as to use the courts in many instances to fuel them. Also note that when I was elected PNB Secretary in the 2018 PNB officers elections where Aki and I were the two nominated candidates for that seat, I was told by someone that Aki had hard feelings about that loss. So one way to look at the proposed NDP amendment is that since he couldn't get re-elected PNB Secretary or re-elected as a PNB Director through the bylaws process, he chose to try to amend the bylaws in order to be crowned PNB Secretary and Director.
To rebuild all Pacifica radio stations, bring back the national news director fired by KPFA in 1971. Also end stale political analysis by bringing back the independent commentary hour dumped by KPFA in 1992.
by Akio Tanaka
Pacifica needs a functional National Board that can ensure that each station is self-sustaining, which is the basis of Lew Hill’s listener sponsored radio.

If the current National Board can get their act together and do that, there would be no need for New Day.
by Virginia Browning
1. She says "New Day wasn't even in power." The bunch calling themselves "New Day" have changed names at least 4 times, often taking names that are so close to their opponents' names as to purposely confuse listeners and potential voters. Yes, the same power-brokers WERE the ones who
2. "closed WBAI." You may technically say I suppose that trashing equipment, locking out programmers during a fund drive that was finally succeeding in gaining listeners and instead putting absolutely unlistenable crap onto the air is not "closing" the station. But they did do these things, no matter what you call it.
I assume there are other parts of her message that are not accurate. But for me on this busy day, this is enough and it should be enough for readers to realize trustworthiness is a not "New Day" trait. OH YES - and the most important thing is - the core group of this bunch has been pulling these stunts for now over 10 years. They have been working to bankrupt the network and then using their success to put themselves in charge. NO DOUBT something must be done, but putting THEM in charge, is not the right something. KPFA has been told by auditors since I was on the audit committee 6 or 7 years ago that their information was incomplete - and this has continued to hold up the audits (and CPB funding as well as grant monies that LOOK at CPB fund-worthiness) all these years. This is not a group to put in charge!
by Just Making Shit Up
These conversations verge on the ridiculous. Let's take a couple basic pieces of history first:

1. Lew Hill's Pacifica (at that time KPFA) was a financial failure. It would have gone under in the 1950's if not bailed out by the Ford Foundation.

2. Lew Hill was a World War 2 pacifist. Probably the least popualr political position in existence at the time. He got frustrated with conventional radio because it wasn't possible to talk about what he believed in and build support for it. Later, Pacifica was the refuge for Communists under McCarthyism, when Bill Mandel told them to go suck eggs. Wildly unpopular. Pacifica got confused in the 1960's when the "counterculture" went mainstream, got fat and happy and could never adjust to its former small footprint as a radical outlet.

The comments here are wildly ahistorical about the 40's, 50's and 60's and just as wildly ahistorical about the recent past.

A smaller board will be just as stupid as a bigger board. 15 is still a large board and since Pacifica listeners don't agree on what the network should be, neither will the board members they elect. It's a fantasy that the New Day amendment would have fixed anything, except putting Jan and Aki in control of the network for 3 years, which is all they mean by "working better".

They signed a piece of paper agreeing that the bylaws election would be held according to the current bylaws: requiring a majority of the votes in both classes: listeners and staffers. They didn't get it and they lost the election. Now they are just wasting money in court trying to pretend they won. And like Trump, they get nowhere. Meanwhile the LA station that Jan Goodman supposedly represents has lost 40% of its revenue and is collapsing and she does nothing.

Goodman did shut down WBAI. She boycotted the PNB meetings held to restore it and in phone calls, said she supported the shutdown of WBAI. Which makes her a modern day Mary Frances Berry.

What it comes down to is Pacifica wants to live large with multi-million dollar payrolls when it needs to shrink down and fulfill its mission to make space for artists and alternative voices to make programs for listeners. That's all. There is plenty of money for that. Pacifica was a platform for volunteer programmers. That is all it was ever designed to be.
by Akio Tanaka
For a listener sponsored radio network to work, all the stations need to be self sustaining .
The stations that are not self self-sustaining can learn from the stations that are.
by Virginia
Akio Tanaka says those stations not self-sustaining should learn from those that are. And which area of the country contains by far the highest percentage of ultra-wealthy self-styled "leftists?" Why if it isn't Northern California by gum. Why can't the other stations learn to live where the most billionaire anti-Republicans per capita live? If his group is offering to teach, we who have been teachers know that the best way is to meet with, listen, and work with "students." In exciting community radio, as in classrooms, that often means the teacher learns as much as the students or more. "Teachers who refuse to understand their "students," who disparage and undermine them and rely on punishment tend to have dismal and often tragic results.
by Akio Tanaka
One can also learn from WPFW, which is actually the most solvent of all the stations.
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