A letter to the Berkeley City Council

Dear City Councilmembers

I am writing to respond to a circulating letter that protests "the cancellation" of the Morning Show. I have included excerpts from the letter (indicated by >>>) followed by my italicized responses.

>>>The Morning Show was the Bay Area's only locally-produced progressive morning news and information program, an important civic and intellectual forum. Dismissing the Morning Show's staff and replacing them with piped in programming from Los Angeles or other hosts does not serve the listenership.<<<

The Morning Show staff were laid off according to seniority, following the CWA contract as negotiated this year by the same union stewards now attacking Pacifica. The programming out of LA is temporary; the Morning Show is not being replaced. The CWA, however, is currently refusing to allow unionized staff to step into the host slots, which accounts for the delay in getting the Morning Show back on the air.

>>>The Morning Show was also the most popular local program at KPFA, the station's single largest fund raiser, and its most profitable program. This contradicts your argument that cutting the program was a matter of financial necessity. It also raises fears that your move may send KPFA into a downward spiral.<<<

The financial shortfalls at KPFA, ignored over a period of years, now require layoffs in order to keep the station solvent. This step is unfortunate but, at this point, necessary for the station's survival. Laid off Morning Show staff were the program hosts with least seniority (with the exception of Mitch Jeserich, who was deemed to have special irreplaceable skills and knowledge). Again, these layoffs followed the requirements of the CWA contract. As for the Morning Show's popularity and fundraising ability, this is largely the result of its morning drive-time position in the schedule. Previous Morning Show hosts were able to raise comparable amounts of money and, with station support, so could new hosts.

>>>The Morning Show has always been popular, but Aimee and Brian were part of a young, energetic, highly skilled and diverse team. What is the evidence to support your argument that any program in that time slot will raise equal funds?<<<

If station management is serious about raising funds and keeping the station strong, they will provide training and station resources and support for whomever replaces Brian and Amy, just as they did for Brian and Amy, and the fundraising ability of the Morning Show will remain roughly the same as it was. If they withhold such support and continue to launch attacks against Pacifica in order to score political points, it may be true that the new Morning Show might not perform as well. The success of the show will be largely decided by station management.

>>>We understand that you have hired an expensive management-side employment law firm, Folger & Levin, to deal with grievances from KPFAâ€(tm)s union. We believe this is a misuse of KPFA listener's dollars and something KPFA cannot afford during these hard economic times.<<<

An NLRB action has been filed against Pacifica by CWA, and Pacifica, as "management" in this situation (and, it seems necessary to remind people, the only remaining progressive national media network), needs to protect itself and its resources. It would be license-endangering neglect of its fiduciary responsibilities to do otherwise.

>>>We are deeply concerned that Pacifica's actions around The Morning Show are indicative of a national board that is hostile to local governance and locally-controlled programming, and that is unwilling to work collaboratively with local listeners, staff and board members.<<<

This crisis is not about local control and programming; it is about stepping in to save a station on the brink of insolvency.

>>>Therefore, in this time of national economic downturn and the ascendancy of the right - a time when progressive radio is most needed - we ask that you:
1. Reinstate the Morning Show with Brian and Aimee as co-hosts
2. Return local control of programming to KPFA
3. Enter mediation with KPFA's union over the process by which you are making cuts, and over the sensible, sustainable budget alternatives proposed by KPFA's union and supported by the station's local board and management.<<<

It would be financially irresponsible to rescind the layoffs, painful though they are. KPFA already has local control of programming, but the station has been unwilling to make the difficult but necessary cuts on its own. KPFA management's proposed "sustainable budget" was duly considered by Pacifica and judged not nearly sufficient to meet the financial realities facing the station. It represents "a band-aid over a bullet wound."

Please do not sign on to a letter that, because of politicization and the accompanying clouds of misinformation currently circulating, severely distorts what is taking place.


Steve Gilmartin
long-time KPFA listener/subscriber
November 29, 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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