KPFA: Radio Programs for the Community

and for Social Change, or for SaveKPFA's Staff Allies and their Jobs?

by Richard Phelps
June 17, 2014

Recently KPFA/Pacifica management abruptly cancelled the Morning Mix (MIX), 8-9 a.m. M-F, and replaced it with Uprisings, a program produced in Los Angeles by a person who lives in Los Angeles. The MIX was five (5) separate programs, primarily focused on politics in local communities, workplaces, and unions. They were produced by several volunteer programmers who live, work and are politically active in the Bay Area.

This radical departure away from community based programming in the 8-9 a.m. prime time slot appears to be another consolidation of power by the SaveKPFA political faction. SaveKPFA with their long time ally, Justice and Unity at WBAI and allies at the other Pacifica stations, recently gained a narrow majority on the Pacifica National Board (PNB). For a historical look at their destructive alliance see
Pacifica Financial Crisis: Who is Responsible?

Tyranny of the majority has been a mainstay of SaveKPFA's MO. Abruptly taking away the 8-9 a.m. prime time from several community programmers, none of who are SaveKPFA allies, and replacing all of them with a program produced by one of their allies in LA is just the latest example. No poll was taken of the listeners desires. No public discussions of this major change were held and there was no discussion of this change at a full staff meeting. Another stark example of SaveKPFA's tyranny of the majority is discussed in
Without Due Process. This article exposes SaveKPFA's current PNB Chair, Margy Wilkinson's willingness to blatantly disregard the truth to push their unprincipled politics, denying due process to punish an opponent. She may become the new Interim Executive Director.

Since the mid-1990s there has been a constant attempt by a small group of paid staff and some unpaid staff allies to control the allocation of air time and paid jobs to the benefit of their political friends and allies, regardless of the cost to KPFA and often in derogation of the Pacifica Mission. When the Pacifica management moved the station toward an NPR sound in the mid-1990s this paid staff group and their allies sat quietly watching as over 100 community programmers were taken off the air.
Seven Long Years by Maria Gilardin is a history of these events covering 1992 to 1999.

In 1999 the struggle with Pacifica management went into the streets and then into the courts after a leaked document exposed the plans to sell a station. Out came new Bylaws with a democratic process for the governance of Pacifica and its stations. The SaveKPFA group, formerly Concerned Listeners and KPFAForward and often referred to as the "entrenched staff", prior to the Wellstone Democratic Club joining with them, have done their best to dismantle the democratic process when they can't control it. Everyone that fought against the "hijackers", Pacifica management in 1999, didn't do it for the same reason. Most listeners and community activists and some staff, paid and unpaid, fought for a democratic governance that allowed listener input. The entrenched staff fought the "hijackers" to be able to impose their own patronage and cronyism control at KPFA.
Ten years after the 1999 Hijack Attempt documents several of their moves to consolidate control for their group from 2003-2009.

SaveKPFA is willing to dismantle the democratic governance, not refine it, if they can't control it. An internal email from Brian Edwards-Tiekert to the strategy group for the entrenched staff was found at the station and it exposed their true feeling about the struggles at KPFA and Pacifica. You will find this email and a discussion about how their selfish politics have hurt KPFA/Pacifica in an article titled
Me First politics and Financial Responsibility.

The majority of the programming is done by unpaid staff, like the MIX producers. The small group of paid staff that works with SaveKPFA to maintain control takes advantage of all the volunteer labor to support their paid positions. An
article by Isis Feral reviews their practices from a labor perspective.

In 2003 after the US invaded Iraq there was no question that Democracy Now! (DN!) was the most popular/listened to program on the air. However, it was not given prime time status since prime time, 7-9 am, was reserved for the "entrenched" produced Morning Show. It is long established radio knowledge that you put your most popular program in prime time to increase your audience when the most people are listening. During 2003 KPFA had a Program Council. After continued attempts by the "entrenched" to stop a discussion of a DN! time change to prime time, it finally got on the agenda. The program council voted to move DN! to prime time. The issue was taken up by the newly elected Local Station Board (LSB). At a meeting in April 2004 the DN! time change to prime time was on the agenda and the "entrenched" and their allies on the LSB stalled the meeting until it ran out of time before getting to the DN! time change motion. Sarv Randhawa, an "entrenched" ally continually made amendments to the motion after each one was voted down. You could see Sarv writing down each new amendment as the previous one was being voted down. Many of us always wondered about Sarv's politics and our concerns were reinforced when he appeared on TV at Republican fundraisers for the 2012 election. At the May 2004 meeting of the LSB the motion to move DN! to prime time was thoroughly debated and passed. As in April the room was packed with listeners, the overwhelming majority in favor of the DN! move to prime time. The time change was not instituted since the Interim Station manager, an "entrenched" ally, refused to make the move.

With a slim majority the SaveKPFA/Concerned Listener folks selected Roy Campanella Jr. to be the new station manager. His tenure was going along so so until he announced that he was going move DN! to prime time in the spring of 2005. Roy had worked in media and understood how important it was to put your best/most listened to program in prime time. The preverbal shit hit the fan! All of a sudden there were flyers up around the station demonizing Roy. Claims that he was sexually harassing staff appeared. There were two investigations of these claims; one by an HR expert and one by the LSB who hired Dan Siegel to do the investigation. As an LSB member I suggested a woman professional investigator who had a PhD in criminology and who was not on any side in the dispute. I felt that the alleged women victims would be able to talk more openly to a woman investigator, but the SaveKPFA/Concerned Listener folks wanted their man, Dan Siegel, on the job. Both investigators found no evidence of sexual harassment. The LSB voted 15-5 against firing Roy. The entrenched staff message was clear: mess with "our program schedule" and you will regret it. After all the turmoil created by the unfounded accusations and the posting of demonizing flyers around the station Roy left as station manager and Lemlem Rijio was appointed interim station manager. She was one of the recipients of Brian Edwards-Tiekert's 2005 email discussed and linked to above.

SaveKPFA and their allies have used their power over the program schedule to punish those at the station that don't go along with their desires to maintain control. At an LSB meeting discussing the hiring process for a new station manager in 2007 a couple of women who work on the Women's Magazine program, the only program specifically for women's issues, suggested during public comment that qualified women candidates should be given consideration and at the same time they stated that they didn't think the current interim station manager, Lemlem Rijio, a SaveKPFA/Concerned Listener ally, should be promoted to permanent manager. Not too long after that meeting a new pilot program produced by a SaveKPFA ally was put on the air for a test run. It was given the Women's Magazine time slot for several weeks before it was given a Monday - Friday one hour time and the Women's Magazine was allowed back on the air. It should be noted that when this was done there were 30+ music programs on the air and only ONE program covering women's issues. The message was again quite clear; don't speak out against any of the control group's plans for control or you will pay. But for the numerous complaints that came in when their program was abruptly replaced, it is quite possible the Women's Magazine would have been kept off the air. So much for KPFA being a "Free Speech" radio station, at least internally.

Based on the generous donations during 2003 after Iraq was invaded based on WMD lies, the "entrenched" increased the paid staff by 50%., mostly with their friends and allies. The payroll went from 28 to 42 full time equivalents. Many of us in the minority on the LSB constantly suggested that we needed to cut down the payroll. KPFA's payroll was the largest in Pacifica. Our pleas were ignored despite reduced revenue and lower membership numbers each year until the crisis got very serious and layoff were necessary. The SaveKPFA folks and their staff allies consistently accused us of being anti-union for wanting to have layoffs if necessary for fiscal responsibility and a balanced budget. During an LSB meeting discussing the budget in the Fall of 2010, Shahram Aghamir made a motion to have the budget coordinated with the union contract if any layoffs were required. This would mean that layoffs would be done by seniority, unless there were exceptional circumstances. The SaveKPFA response was a major surprise given their constant anti-union charges against all their political opponents for almost any criticism. The SaveKPFA LSB members ALL voted NO! They obviously didn't want to follow the union contract seniority rules. They wanted to control any necessary layoffs in the same patronage and cronyism manner that they have ran the station for years. More information on their duplicitous pro-union rhetoric can be found in the article
Playing the Union Card. Prior to getting involved in KPFA and Pacifica I worked in commercial radio, AM and FM, doing music programs, public affairs and some news casts. One of the many things about radio that I learned in those 5+ years was that cross promoting helps build your audience. When I became involved with KPFA I encouraged consistent cross promoting to build our audience and create more loyalty. What the SaveKPFA folks have done at the station I would call "sectarian cross referring." During the entire time of the MIX I never heard Brian Edwards-Tiekert or any of their allies mention the MIX other than to say when his program ended the MIX is next. Always when he was pitching during DN! from 6-7 he would promote his upcoming 7 am show and never mention the MIX at 8 am.

SaveKPFA's sectarian practices take other forms such as how the Evening News, SaveKPFA allies, report on LSB elections. They only interview folks from their slate. When I was Chair of the LSB and brought back to life the monthly LSB Report to Listeners I would always invite people from their side to be on the program and give them equal time to state their positions on any issues before the LSB or station. When they took over the majority and producing the LSB Report program they didn't always do a monthly LSB Report and generally when they did it was tightly controlled as to who would be on and who got to speak, almost exclusively their allies. Their practices don't square with the KPFA Mission which is to allow the expression of minority opinions in our society to be aired, especially the ones that those in power don't want the people to hear. From all my experiences at KPFA, I must conclude that the SaveKPFA folks have run and want to run KPFA and Pacifica with the same anti-democratic methods that our ruling class uses: Win power by controlling the information the masses receive; preach democratic principles and practice tyranny of the majority and deny due process to your opponents whenever possible.

KPFA and Pacifica are in deep financial trouble, primarily due to sectarian practices by SaveKPFA and their allies at other stations, always putting their power, control, jobs and airtime, over and above the health and survival of KPFA and Pacifica. During these tenuous times please ignore their rhetoric and judge them by their consistent unprincipled actions, detailed above, that are always designed for their benefit and most often to the detriment of the Pacifica Mission and progressive movements. These neo-progressives, folks that espouse progressive politics but practice like Karl Rove, winning power is Rove's only principle, must not be allowed to destroy KPFA and Pacifica. Taking off the Morning Mix and replacing it with a program by one of SaveKPFA/Concerned Listeners' Los Angeles allies is just their latest attack on the Pacifica Mission and the need for progressive community radio that is responsive to the day to day struggles of people in the Bay Area who are fighting for social and economic justice every day.

Demand that the Morning Mix be put back on the air and if there is a LSB election; please do not vote for any SaveKPFA candidates.

RICHARD PHELPS, KPFA LSB Chair 2005-2006. The history I present herein from 2003 on is based on my own direct involvement.

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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.

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