Driving a Wedge

In the following letter, originally written to the Berkeley Labor Commission, Sally Sommer tells what's happening behind the scenes, and that contrary to the myth being promoted by some of the staff, the current situation is not at all like that of 1999.

by Sally Sommer
December 6, 2010

For the past three weeks KPFA on-air programmers have been using their control of the air and the good will of the majority of listeners, who know little of the goings-on behind the scenes, to drive a wedge between KPFA and Pacifica Foundation. What has been ignored is any discussion on the air of the indivisible relationship of Pacifica to KPFA or the financial crisis which could lead very shortly to bankruptcy. They are choosing to drag this campaign against Pacifica on instead of trying to raise the resources needed to save the programming we have all become accustomed to.

So the question is why have these programmers run this extensive, time consuming campaign, against Pacifica to the listener community, to city and county officials, agencies, and commissions, to every one of influence that they have access to instead of asking these same people to increase their contributions to KPFA to stop the hemorrhaging and save the station? Why are they wanting the money raised to go only to KPFA when they know the starving and destruction of Pacifica means the end of the whole network, including KPFA?

You may have heard that the controversy today mirrors that of 1999 when the community took to the streets to keep the self selecting Pacifica Board from selling KPFA or WBAI, which is what they were discussing doing at the time. The situation today is just the opposite, the Pacifica Foundation and Pacifica Board are acting to maintain the integrity of the network, the only independent, progressive, media network in the country, by not allowing KPFA to stay on a course leading to its financial destruction, and the destruction of the whole network. Pacifica has had to do that because there is no General Manager at KPFA who will take control of the finances and stop the downward spiral. Pacifica is stepping in to perform an emergency rescue of KPFA before it brings the whole network down as it continues paying out more that it is taking in. Arlene Engelhardt is the first Executive Director to take any action in three years. You should also be aware that the Pacifica office has cut its staff to bare bones, I know because I have been volunteering there doing routine clerical work that is not being done due to under staffing. The bloated Pacifica budget is a red herring. I'm sure you have already heard from others what it is that Pacifica is responsible for and must pay, insurance, audits, legal fees, utilities, license fees, providing programming to 160 affiliates and more.


After being given layoff notices, the programmers of the Morning Show stopped their regular programming and started a campaign against Pacifica, on the air. Would this be considered a job action, prohibited in the contract? That is the reason they were taken off the air and not allowed to stay on the air for the time they had remaining. Again, I ask why weren't they trying to gather resources in order to reduce the cutbacks at KPFA?

I hope you will at least consider the possibility that the people who are trying to influence you to support them in maintaining their jobs that were reduced according to seniority and special skill sets, have been reckless and irresponsible in putting this precious network in jeopardy by using precious airtime and the good will of the community to campaign against Pacifica. Other union members at the station, with more seniority, have refused, in writing, to accept a transfer to work on the Morning Show in order to get it back on the air. This in spite of job actions being prohibited in the contract. I ask myself, What could they be thinking?? They are all aware that this institution is on the brink and all they concentrate on are two programmers who were laid off according to seniority. And NOT ONE of the on air programmers is calling for immediate contributions from the listeners in order to keep their favorite programmers on the air!!!!! That is what needs to be done TODAY! Fortunately, a group of the station staff has recently agreed that the need is to concentrate on fundraising and not continue the on air attacks on Pacifica.

Most sincerely counting on your good judgment,
Sally Sommer

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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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