Houston publishes 2nd "tabloid" and goes after Ganter
[ "chug"'s KPFT fact sheet in lower section of page ]
From: Edwin Johnston
Date: Sat Sep 8, 2001 9:24 am
Subject: Sept. issue of Houston Radio Report published
The newest issue of Houston Radio Report has just hit the streets!
The 16 page tabloid that is covering the Pacifica struggle features some of
For sample copies, send two dollars. For bulk copies, send fifty cents each. Submit your writing, photos, artwork, calendar events, &c., for publication in next month's issue.
Website recently updated with more material from August preview issue of
Houston Radio Report, still more content to come:
[from] Edwin Johnston
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Edwin Johnston
Details of Press Conference: Assault Charges Dismissed Against Protester at Houston Radio Station, Activists Demand Resignation of Station Manager, call for Federal investigation of Pacifica Foundation
Speakers from local protest groups held a press conference outside the KPFT radio studios at 419 Lovett Blvd. on Thursday, September 6, 2001 at 10:30am. They called attention to the false arrest and malicious prosecution of one of their fellow protesters and demanded the resignation or firing of the KPFT station manager who initiated the charges against him.
Longtime Houston activist, Edwin Johnston, said that the final of two separate assault charges filed against him by KPFT station employees was dismissed in County Court on Monday, August 23, 2001. The other assault charge was dismissed in Municipal Court on July 16, 2001. These charges stemmed from an incident on March 23, 2001, when Johnston was involved in a peaceful protest outside the KPFT/Pacifica radio studios. For over two years Pacifica Radio has faced widespread protests concerning their five stations across the United States.
Johnston said that he has maintained all along that he and a fellow protester were the ones actually assaulted, by the very same KPFT station employees who brought the charges against him: KPFT station manager, Garland Ganter, and his wife, then development director, Molly (O'Brien) Ganter. The fact that the charges were dismissed vindicates Johnston's claims. Ganter's wife has since resigned her paid position at KPFT, now it is time for Ganter to follow her example.
Johnston spoke at the press conference about the facts of the case and called for the immediate resignation or firing of Garland Ganter, who not only assaulted him, but gave false reports to police about the incident on two separate occasions, resulting in Johnston's jailing and a five month long criminal prosecution. A local protest group, the Houston Committee for People's Radio, released a letter (follows) requesting the United States Department of Justice to investigate the Pacifica Foundation for being involved through its agents in a conspiracy to violate the civil rights of Johnston and some of his fellow protesters. These rights are protected under Title 18 of the United States Code, sections 241 and 242. This requested investigation extends to the actions of the Houston Police Department as well. Carbon copies were sent to House Representative, Major Owens and members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Two members of local organizations opposed to the way KPFT and Pacifica is operating also spoke and called for Ganter's resignation. Lee Loe, of the two year old Houston Committee for People's Radio and longtime co-editor of the Houston Peace News, criticized KPFT and the Pacifica Foundation for abandoning its mission of peace and the exercise of first amendment rights in regards to this incident. She said that Ganter has betrayed the trust of the Pacifica listeners through being violent, interfering with the public expression of free speech and by dishonestly reporting the incident to police. Michael Pimental, a member of the Houston chapter of the national Pacifica Listeners Union spoke about how Ganter intimidates KPFT programmers in an attempt to shut them up about Pacifica protest related issues. He said that Ganter is terrorizing the community by imposing a "gag rule" on producers, gutting community-based programs, censoring available news shows and removing programs whose producers speak out on Pacifica issues off the air.
Johnston was represented in his defense by Robert Luke of the DeGuerin and Dickson law firm.
For more information about Johnston's arrest, prosecution and court
victories, see his website:
Houston Committee for Peoples' Radio PO Box 66021 Houston, TX 77266-6021
John Ashcroft, Attorney General
September 6, 2001
Re: Dept/Justice Investigation of the Pacifica Foundation and its Members/Agents, and the Houston Police Department for The Violation of Opponents' Civil Rights Pursuant to Title18-USC Sections (§§) 241 and 242.
Dear Attorney Ashcroft,
The Houston Committee for Peoples' Radio, a two year old advocacy group, respectfully requests that the United States Department of Justice begin an investigation of the Pacifica Foundation radio network and the Houston Police Department for apparent violations of US Federal laws. Both entities may be guilty of colluding to violate the civil rights of a number of people who have been critical of the Pacifica Foundation. Title 18, sections 241 and 242, of the US Code protect people against individuals who act in a conspiracy or under the color of law to deprive anyone of their constitutionally protected rights under the US Constitution.
The facts, broadly: The Pacifica Foundation, a California-based non-profit corporation which owns and operates radio stations in five US cities, has come under very heavy public protest over the past few years by people criticizing the dramatic changes in Pacifica policy at local and national levels. On March 23, 2001, Edwin Johnston and three other protesters were leafletting peacefully outside the Houston Pacifica radio station, KPFT, when Johnston and fellow protester, Sheila Harris, were assaulted by members of the KPFT staff.
KPFT staff members then called the police, who arrested and jailed Johnston on two counts of simple assault, based on false reports given to police by KPFT staffers. Ten days later, one of the simple assault charges against Johnston was increased to assault/bodily injury due to meetings and other communication between KPFT staffers and a police officer who had previously worked at KPFT-sponsored events.
In addition, on March 26, 2001, Pacifica Foundation executives broke into regularly scheduled radio programs at each of their five stations and some 50-odd affiliates nationwide, to libel Johnston and others in regards to this incident. Numerous other statements of libel and defamation from KPFT staff and Pacifica executives were issued during the five month long prosecution of Johnston, heating up just prior to his trial scheduled in Harris County Criminal Court for August 27, 2001.
Both charges were ultimately dismissed against Johnston, which vindicate his claims and point to the guilt of the KPFT staff for providing false reports to the police. This incident is clearly a case where agents of the Pacifica Foundation acted to prevent non-violent protesters from exercising their First Amendment rights under the US Constitution and to target one of the protesters, Johnston, a long time activist leader, for arrest, jailing and false prosecution in order to limit his ability to protest. This was done with the aid of the Houston Police Department, whose officers may have had a prejudice against Johnston because; he previously had sued the police department in Federal Court, and/or witnessed him at previous KPFT protests, and/or the fact that a police officer, who had previously worked at KPFT-sponsored events, served as the affiant in the later increase of one of the original assault charges against him.
For the above reasons and because similar abuses have occurred at other Pacifica stations, most notably at WBAI in New York City this year, the Houston Committee for Peoples' Radio asks for an immediate investigation of the Pacifica Foundation and the Houston Police Department. The Houston Committee for Peoples' Radio will make itself available to the Department of Justice to supply whatever materials it needs to carry out its work in regards to this, including providing evidence and lists of witnesses. The Department of Justice may contact the Houston Committee for Peoples' Radio at this time through Edwin Johnston, who serves as the facilitator of the organization's general meetings.
cc: House Representative Major Owens and other members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus
Fact sheet on KPFT
KPFT/90.1 is a 100,000-watt radio station located in the non-commercial end of the dial. It is one of 5 stations (and over 70 affiliates) of the Pacifica Foundation, a radio network founded 50 years ago with a specific mission to build community by being a forum for various viewpoints. Pacifica was the world's first listener-sponsored radio network and is a 501-C3 Non-profit chartered in California. It accepts federal dollars through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and is thus regulated by Federal Telecommunication Law covering the FCC and CPB. KPFT, under the direction of station manager Garland Ganter, has abandoned its role as a Voice for the Community in favor of a popular-music format. KPFT is now using 2/3 thirds of its airtime on weekdays and 100% on weekends to play (predominantly) Americana/Texas music. WHAT KPFT AIRED DURING ITS FIRST TWENTY+ YEARS Local news and public affairs programming covering human and civil rights, racial, gender and sexual discrimination, education, environment, medicine and healthcare, religious/atheist discussion, free form and drama, other fine arts, ethnic communities, international affairs, local public policy, progressive and conservative political views A wide range of music including popular, folk, Latino, classical and traditional music, including featuring local artists Multi-lingual and children's programming Extensive Community events bulletin board Mostly volunteer programmers WHAT KPFT HAS BECOME IN THE LAST SEVEN YEARS Programmed by full-time paid weekday DJs (production classes for volunteers suspended) No local news and only 3 hours/week of local political/community programming Virtually no "minority" community affairs programming (1 hour/week) A play-listed AAA music format with little diversity (exploiting music fans vs. news divide) Censorship of national programming: Pacifica's news show Democracy Now! cancelled Strict gag-rule on any on-air discussion of Pacifica or programming at KPFT (firing of George Reiter) WHY DID THIS HAPPEN A national strategy to remove local content resulted in a top-heavy national office bureaucracy; forcing the need to raise more funds and reorient towards a "commercial-radio" model. (KPFT's Ganter has not succeeded in this goal, either, with only a 1.3 share in Arbitron ratings) A national strategy to "professionalize" programming was enacted by Ganter at KPFT. Pacifica's National Board (PNB) has tried to make itself self-selecting and thus isolated themselves from community involvement. Formerly the PNB was seeded from local boards. The listeners have organized in massive oppositions to these changes with funding boycotts. 3 lawsuits against Pacifica by listeners for breach of fiduciary responsibility and illegal governance changes. To defend themselves the PNB has hired the most expensive firms in the country (Fulbright & Jaworski, Williams & Connelly, Epstein, Becker & Green). Pacifica has spent untold tens of thousands of dollars on a succession of public relations firms (recently Westhill Partners, a DC firm specializing in "hopeless cases" -like Sen. Bob Kerrey). WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN TO FIX KPFT & PACIFICA Locally: Replace KPFT's local advisory board with a democratically elected
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