Dangling off the Cliff

kpfa history

A commentary from the KPFA Crisis of 2010

Originally aired on Pushing Limits, KPFA, Friday, November 19, 2010
by Adrienne Lauby, collective member of KPFA’s disability rights programs, Pushing Limits.

This is the Asthmatic Amazon, Adrienne Lauby. In the last two weeks I’ve watched our radio station careen off the road and land where it is today, dangling off the side of a cliff, ready to take the Pacifica Network down with it, to smash on the rocks below.

It’s breathtaking. It’s frightening; it breaks my heart.

I bonded with KPFA in my very sickest days. I was poor and alone, far from my family and old friends. As I struggled to breathe, I listened to every single daytime program and then, I listened to every night time program as I struggled to sleep.

I was stronger in 1999 and, after the lockout, I spent two years helping to free Pacifica from a runaway self-selected board and jump starting our experiment in media democracy. I helped bring Pushing Limits to KPFA and taught myself how to produce & host a radio program.

It’s been a great ride, but I’ve paid heavily for my connection with the station in the last two weeks. I’m standing tall now, not for a cause I believe in, but against disappointment and despair.

People tell me they love some KPFA programs. They love a host or two or three.. But, they hate the wasteful infighting and the public posturing. They don’t understand how an institution which shares their goals of peace and justice can be so dysfunctional.

Do I have to go back to these people now, those I asked to give up their evenings to phone bank or stuff envelopes, and tell them we saved a radio network so KPFA could have a couple of celebrity hosts bragging about how much money they raise? Did we pass hats and cans and petitions so two workers get protests and petitions when they’re laid off and seven others are virtually ignored? The protests we held against armed guards and 24-7 piped in music are cheapened when the same sidewalks are used to champion this overblown cause.

I’m a KPFA worker and when people talk on air about KPFA workers, they are not talking about me. The majority of staff, paid and unpaid, at KPFA have no say in what is posted on the website you hear promoted so heavily. You can hear the story that has not gotten much airtime, by clicking on supportkpfa.org.

I believe that most of the staff want enough paid positions to keep the transmitter, reception desk, bookkeeping and other daily tasks in order. We want enough paid staff to produce regular programs that enhance KPFA’s reputation and keep casual listeners engaged. We want stable management policies. We do not want the same programs and hosts on air for decade after decade. We want training & integration so young people, people of color, and volunteers of all kinds can bring new ideas and produce world-changing radio. We want 90% less fighting & 90% more collaboration.

This is what I believe most of us want and believe could help keep listeners alive & singing as they face the years ahead. Can something positive happen? What creature of power and grace could rise from the ashes of this sad public spectacle? All I can say is “hold on.” The movie is not over.

We still have a chance. We can strengthen Pacifica and haul this station back on the road. Filming for the sequel has already begun.

November 19, 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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Updates, reports & essays about KPFA & Pacifica Foundation Radio at

KPFA 94.1 FM is one of five stations of the Pacifica radio network which are located in major cities across the country. The other stations are WBAI 99.5 in New York, WPFW 89.3 in Washington DC, KPFT 90.1 in Houston, and KPFK 90.7 in Los Angeles. There are also about 160 affiliate stations.