The Magic of Illusion

"We don't care what they say. We will create the 'facts on the Ground.'" (Ariel Sharron)

by Marc Sapir
November 2010

Please take a minute or two and figure out which of the following are statements of fact and which are magical illusionary "facts on the ground". My answers follow below. But beware that I have been called "a consistent liar" by some, so you better do your own fact checking beyond me (and, hopefully, beyond

1 TRUE OR FALSE: Currently, the KPFA staff is basically unified in the opinion that Pacifica Executive Director Arlene Engelhardt is an outside usurper (similar to Mary Frances Berry a decade ago) and acts on a political agenda targeting vital key programmers to layoff. (i)

2 TRUE OR FALSE: The Communications Workers of America (CWA) represents 30% of the people who work at KPFA. Seventy percent of those who work at KPFA are represented by the Unpaid Staff Organization. The on air views now streaming to listeners explicitly represent those of about 25% of KPFA workers, most of them paid staff. No body knows what a majority of staff think about resolving the fiscal crisis. (ii)

3 TRUE OR FALSE: The majority of paid staff represented by CWA supported management decertification of the Unpaid Staff Organization (UPSO); Arlene Engelhardt and her predecessor Grace Aaron required KPFA to re-recognize UPSO, upending the legitimization of CWA group as unitary spokespeople for the entire staff. (iii)

4 TRUE OR FALSE: Pacifica profligacy is responsible for the KPFA financial crisis and there is an alternative budget created by the CWA majority group that would curb Pacifica to prevent layoffs, ignored by Engelhardt. (iv)

5 TRUE OR FALSE: The current Pacifica National Board, similar to 1999, is accountable to no one but themselves, and certainly not to the listeners or to the KPFA staff, thus creating the crisis. (v)

6 TRUE OR FALSE: There are no well known Bay Area progressive leaders who disagree with what is being said on air by long time professional KPFA programmers or they would have been invited on the air at KPFA by the regular programmers who actively promote open discourse. (vi)

7 TRUE OR FALSE: KPFA problems, in the view of key paid programmers, stem from the law suit that created elected station boards. The elected boards have to be done away with so professional staff can run the stations without interference. (vii)

8 TRUE OR FALSE: Since no mechanism exists to eliminate elected station boards, bankrupting KPFA and blaming it on the parent organization might allow for KPFA's reorganization outside Pacifica, with different by-laws. (viii)

9 TRUE OR FALSE: When a few layoffs began earlier in 2010 the CWA paid staff group made every effort to defend their fellow union members from those layoffs-as they are now doing. (ix)

10 TRUE OR FALSE: If "fringe leftists" and "loonies" were out of the way, ending the incessant in-fighting at KPFA would allow the station to become a stronger advocate for the disenfranchised and powerless. (x)

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1 This is false. Bullet number two is true (i.e. the unified theme represents about 25% of staff) and that bullet explains whose opinions the unified on-air themes represent. The rest of the staff have no public voice in this very public confrontation. Most volunteer staff can not get into this internal fight and would compromise their programs on air to do so. Because the regular paid staff are on air more than half the time during the day, every day, the fact that 75-80% of their 30% are united in their view translates into the "facts on the ground' paradigm: us (KPFA) and them (outsiders). An interesting sidebar to this general illusion is the creation of the idea that CFO LaVarn Williams is an outsider. LaVarn, a long time KPFA listener and an African-American, led the fundraising effort for the KPFA 50th anniversary celebration (the effort that was interrupted when the Mary Francis Berry Board, in 1999, attacked and locked out the staff). She was one of the leaders of the movement to take back the station from the Berry usurpers. LaVarn was subsequently elected to the KPFA station board and has represented KPFA on the National Board, more recently becoming the Chief Finance Officer for Pacifica (she has a professional background in finance). Now she is cast as an outsider-enemy of KPFA by core paid staff.

2 This statement is true to the best of my knowledge

3 This statement is true to the best of my knowledge.

4 False. Its been said but needs repeating that KPFA ran up a million dollar debt in 2009, at a time when the management and the Station Board were under control of the CWA core staff. The core staff had appointed their own people as Station Manager and Program manager added many new hires and had dissolved the existing staff-listener Program Council. In 2008-9, then Pacifica ED, Grace Aaron, told KPFA it had to balance it's budget and make necessary cuts to do so, but the CWA group (then in control of management) refused. The deficit continued to accrue and KPFA is now broke, but cuts are still being resisted. What the CWA group calls their sustainable budget proposal went to the finance committee of the National Pacifica Board which found the proposal unworkable. Engelhardt is an employee of the National Board (see v) that rejected the proposal. The proposal in large part is an attack on the governance of the Foundation. Why is this happening? Please continue with the bullet points.

5 False. The crisis in 1999 was resolved by the Listener Law Suit initiated by Carol Spooner with about 1,500 listeners who signed on as plaintiffs. The court agreed that governance of Pacifica had been stolen away from the members and accepted new by-laws requiring each station to have an elected governing board and a national board of the Pacifica Foundation elected yearly from the local boards. The Pacifica National Board consists of elected representatives from the KPFA Board and the Boards at the other 4 stations. The National Board hired Arlene Engelhardt last year as Pacifica Executive Director. She is responsible to and carries out the policies of the elected representatives from the 5 stations. The National Board supported her implementation of cuts at KPFA because the KPFA paid CWA staff group had blocked efforts to balance the budget for 2 years.

6 False. People like Peter Philips, former long time head of Project Censored, Peter Franck, well known lawyer working in the media field, Carol Spooner, also a lawyer and the person most responsible for a legal solution to the 1999 crisis, Willie Ratcliff editor of the Bay View Newspaper and a former KPFA Board member, and other progressive leaders are known to hold opposing views to the mantra being broadcast, but are not being heard on air in an open dialogue.

7 This is true to the best of my knowledge.

8 This is true. But does it represent accurately the intentions of the core paid staff group and their supporters on the KPFA Board? Some present and former independent members (ICR) of the station board claim that this intention has been often stated in public and private meetings and there is written documentation that eliminating elected Boards is a key goal for the CWA majority grouping. The failure by the last station manager (who the CWA group got appointed) to deposit a $375,000 foundation check for 10 months and the resistance to budget balancing and necessary lay-offs, along with the current effort encouraging that supporters raise money for KPFA outside of Pacifica channels, are offered as elements in this agenda.

9 False. The Flashpoints program suffered major cuts (one and a half full time equivalents-FTEs-I believe) in staff earlier in the year in a round of lay-offs that did not conform to the CWA Union contract. Nora Barrows-Friedman, the key programmer on Palestine, responsible for setting up a news bureau of young people in the occupied territories, had her position cut to 50% and later resigned. When she protested the cuts, she was subjected to personal attack at a Union meeting. The Union refused to defend her position from the cuts although Nora had more seniority than many untouched staff at the time; and the value of her role as producer-programmer on Palestine were ignored. Eliminating Flashpoints and Hard Knock-vital programs with greater staff seniority--was proposed by the CWA staff as an alternative to layoffs at the morning show. Unlike the morning show where more senior staff can be moved into a pre-set format, Flashpoints and Hard Knock are dependent upon the outreach and key worldwide contacts of specific staff. The weakening of programming on Palestine was a political (not an economic) decision given that the FTEs (staff salaries budget) at KPFA is almost identical today to a year ago.

10 False. It is public knowledge that the core paid staff-chosen managers attacked the concept of "advocacy journalism, " warning programmers (incorrectly) that it violates public radio regulations and creates legal liability for KPFA. The progressive CWA staff does believe in covering the plight of oppressed people and in a full range of political analyses and educational formats. But they have opposed "non-professional" programming that aims to have KPFA partnering with communities in resistance to their own oppression, or incorporating those communities into regular programming roles on air-which is why eliminating Hard Knock and Flashpoints were proposed. As individuals, some of the staff who are supporting the CWA overview do believe in advocacy journalism, but the truth is that programmers on at least 4 programs have been warned by manager- CWP advocates that they must cease engaging in even limited advocacy or face disciplinary consequences. A list of programmers who were so warned is available.

November 2010

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10 Years of KPFA Finances in TABLE FORMAT

and, presented as a GRAPH, the same data:
10 Years of KPFA Finances GRAPH

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