Evil dies hard
For those who were not at the PNB [Pacifica national board] meeting last weekend, one salient understanding among the several hundred vocal attendees was that the managers of KPFK, KPFT, WBAI and WPFW are hostile forces to mission-oriented reform of Pacifica. While the board was silent on the matter, the audience loudly expressed demands for their immediate dismissal.
As predicted by veteran watchers of the KPFK scene, station manager Mark Schubb's proxy voice Marc Cooper, AFTRA union steward, proposed this week that the KPFK staff begin an on air "boycott" in protest of the reconstitution of the PNB. The proposed action would consist of the station playing only music, interspersed with a cart that would demand that instead of the addition of five board members chosen by the LAB's, the those five positions would be taken by the five managers.
Tell me, do you think that Schubb will fire those involved in this proposed action for violation of the gag rule in which he has professed such a strong belief? Most of KPFK's staff are new - almost everyone who was there before Schubb arrived has been fired, banned or otherwise driven out. Cooper is pitching a sort of "barbarians at the gate" argument, a return to "public access" radio, bad programming and no money.
This is really a blessing. We can use this opportunity to get on the air and raise the issues. There will by no means be unanimity. There are people inside yearning for the return of real community radio and ending the Schubb/Cooper domination of that station and we need to give those folks lots of support.
Lou Hankins, the WPFW manager tried a similar tactic this weekend, trying to bring "his listeners" out in force to the meeting. The problem they have is this, they have done their damnedest for years to replace activist, participatory listeners with passive entertainment-consuming listeners who respond to shopping channel type fundraising appeals. These people don't come out on picket lines, they don't fight or otherwise inconvenience themselves to keep a radio station.
Every month accross America, radio stations with thousands of listeners, many thousands more than listen to Pacifica stations, are subjected to overnight format changes. The response from their BIG AUDIENCES, "too bad, what's on TV tonight?"
Below is an interesting analysis of the present situation by KPFA reporter Kellia Ramares, that deals with the managment issues.
I am cautiously optimistic. But I have a specific picture of victory in mind that requires the termination of any jobs/contracts remaining with Mary Frances Berry (fomer chair, Pacifca National Board), Lynn Chadwick , Utrice Leid (formerly NY manager imposed during the "Christmas Coup" of Dec 22, 2000, now national program director), Garland Ganter (Houston manager), Mark Schubb (LA manager)
There seems to be some hesitation about labor and discrimination laws relative to the firing of these individuals. Perhaps Leid is threatening a sex and race discrimination suit. We cannot allow ourselves to be cowed by threats of suits. (Getting rid of all of them at once means getting rid of 3 women and two men, 2 blacks and 3 whites. All of whom have caused so much destruction and were on the losing side of a political war. No one is going to find race or sex discrimination in that.) Buy them out, I say, and while I don't have much money these days, I can come up with $10 a piece to a fund to get rid of them.
We can't allow the destroyers to remain within the institution. We can't rebuild in their midst. It's like saying let's rebuild this ruined house and let's work around the keg of dynamite that is sitting in the middle of the living room floor. I am troubled by what I see is pussyfooting around the issue. I don't hear a definitely commitment to get rid of them ASAP. Work with the law, not in fear of it. Business execs and sports coaches are dismissed all the time with no repercussions. You pay them their money and you show them the door. Agreements with upper management types are often regarded as personal services contracts, i.e. Pacifica made a contract with, say Chadwick, because of the skills and qualifications that came with being Lynn Chadwick. This is different from a union contract for fungible line workers in a factory. The law recognizes that it is unwise to force people to render or accept personal services.
As for the return of Democracy Now! merely putting it back on the air isn't enough. One good thing that has come out of this mess is that the DNx crew has built wonderful collaborations with the IndyMedia Centers, the Dish Network, Public Access TV and wbix.org. These efforts must not be abandoned! This is a great way to grow the audience for Pacifica without mainstreaming content according to Giovannoni's (a "consultant" who was the prime mover behind the idea to judge programs purely in terms of the ratings / revenue) numbers, selling KPFA and/or WBAI to buy a string of smaller stations, and what other nonsense the rogues have been planning. It is also an opportunity to open up new programming time as some people can produce for the web, (e.g. wbix.org) others for satellite and public access TV--I believe NYC IndyMedia even puts out a newspaper-- special programming for distribution to affiliate community stations, etc. and they can all be cross promoted with each other and on the radio. The programming can all be made accessible via links on one web portal. (Democracy Now's new website is the likely candidate). All of this should also include using these facilities, wherever possible, as teaching sites to help get technologically underrepresented communities tutored and wired, so that a reformed Pacifica and its progressive allies can be at the forefront of bridging the digital divide, just as KPFA helped get listeners to use FM in the mid 20th Century. All efforts would be editorially and financially independent of each other, but linked together by technology and cross promotion and perhaps a mission statement. People would be able to cross train and work on other media as their time, skills and interests permit
Restoring all the Pacifica stations to the traditional Pacifica mission and getting the affiliates back simply isn't enough in this day and age. And as we have seen, there is strength in numbers and strength in technological flexibility. If the rogues had come for us ten years ago, we would have lost. We can honestly say the Internet saved us, as it provided ways to communicate, organize and continue programming. I want to see a commitment to this process of cross-technology expansion from the new board.
As for the PNN (Pacifica National News) strike, I think it is obvious that Free Speech Radio News has journalistically left PNN in the dust. FSRN should become Pacifica's national news broadcast with secure and better funding to expand coverage and with the same people who have been working on it continuing their work. There needs to be a house cleaning in Washington (i.e. good bye Iyama, Rush, Hennelly, and whoever their anchor is.) and what's left there needs to become a Washington bureau, and not the centralized HQ of the broadcast. The decentralized model of FSRN works and should remain in place.
And of course, the bannings and firings at WBAI must be reversed. Clayton Riley, Paul DiRienzo and all their Utrice Leid-following ilk must be shown the door.
This is part of what I think victory looks like. Do you agree? I am NOT at war, no matter what Bush says!
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