Call for On-Air Fairness at KPFA 94.1 fm

The current tempest at KPFA is deeply troubling to those of us who value independent radio journalism. And it is confusing because so much of what we read and hear seems so vitriolic and biased.

Here's a little background. A highly vocal faction of KPFA staff and supporters, some of whose negligence is significantly responsible for the station's current financial mess, are currently at odds with the management of Pacifica, our umbrella network. Because the network is holding on against bankruptcy by a thread, its directors have initiated essential budget-balancing policies that promise to restore both the network and KPFA to solvency.

Thanks to Pacifica, KPFA has recently acquired a new, experienced interim general manager, who is committed to fairness in on-air reporting about KPFA's internal issues (the subject of the attached petition). And thanks in part to the long-overdue cost-cutting initiated by Pacifica, and to rebounding listener support, KPFA's financial health is showing signs of improvement, despite a huge negative campaign by the faction referred to above.

Pacifica still has a democratically elected board, not a self-selected one as in '99, though the insiders' faction is promoting a return to that. (If dialog is desired on that point, let's initiate dialog, not one-sided on-air skreeds.)

For a fuller account of the issues referred to here, please take a look at articles on this website and also those which are linked to here.

The Petition

Call for On-Air Fairness at KPFA 94.1 FM

We the undersigned KPFA listeners, sponsors, and staff members believe it's important that KPFA keep listeners informed about major issues involving the station and Pacifica, including disputes over budgets, staffing, labor policies, and programming. We do not, however, believe that one-sided, misleading reports and sniping about these issues serve that goal.

We therefore propose that the station adopt a fairness policy for coverage of such issues. The essence of the policy is that
whenever internal controversies are discussed on air, alternative positions should be fairly represented.

Specifically, we propose that:

a) When major controversies arise, the station should arrange special programming to discuss them on the air. These programs should have fair and neutral host(s), board operators, and call screeners; guests representing different points of view and all major constituencies (paid staff, unpaid staff, management, and listeners); and time for listeners to pose questions and comments.

b) When the KPFA news team reports on internal issues, it should adhere to standard practices of good journalism - i.e., assign such stories to reporters who are not directly involved in the conflict; give all parties a fair chance to explain their positions in their own words; avoid advocacy for one side or another; and, if directing listeners to websites or other sources, include sources from a variety of perspectives. (Such policies are nothing new - they are already spelled out in guidelines the KPFA news department itself adopted years ago - but they need to observed more carefully than they have been in recent months.)

c) Other programmers, paid and unpaid, should also refrain from one-sided comments on internal conflicts on the air. This policy applies to, among other things, "tags" introducing or describing shows, fundraising pitches, characterization of former or current staff and management, and promotion of outside events. Programmers who wish to state a personal position on internal controversies must allow equal time for opposing viewpoints. If directing listeners to websites or other sources about such issues, they should include sources representing opposing points of view.

To sign the petition press here


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