Top Menu

Riding the waves at Pacifica radio, by Andrew Leslie Phillips

Andrew Phillips

Andrew Phillips

Andrew Leslie Phillips has written a short history of the Pacifica radio network, published below. He is interim general manager of Pacifica station KPFA in Berkeley, California.

Phillips is a native of Australia. He spent seven years in Papua New Guinea as a government patrol officer, radio journalist and filmmaker before coming to New York in 1975. He produced award-winning investigative radio documentaries on a wide range of environmental and political issues for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and for Pacifica station WBAI in New York City. He taught journalism, radio and “sound image” as an adjunct professor at New York University for 10 years. 

Phillips tells me he is still on “administrative leave” at KPFA, pending the completion of some kind of investigation of him by his employer, the Pacifica Foundation. Thanks to Project Censored for permission to reprint this piece. -Matthew Lasar

The Pacifica foundation was founded in 1946 by poet and journalist Lewis Hill and a small group of pacifists, intellectuals and experienced radio people. They did not have the same political or economic philosophy but shared a vision which supported a peaceful world, social justice and creativity. At 3pm, April 15, 1949, Lew Hill sat behind the microphone and announced: “This is KPFA, listener sponsored radio in Berkeley, the first such radio station in the world”.

At the time, less than nine-percent of the Bay area radio audience owned the new FM receivers and Pacifica gave them a special KPFA radio with 94.1 on the FM dial, to get people tuned in. FM was a new, technology and Pacifica was backing the future, inventing an entirely new funding mechanism – the theory of listener sponsored radio.

It was daring, audacious and brilliant. And it caught on. Today there are Pacifica radio stations in five of the ten top radio markets[1]

The concept of listener sponsorship appealed to the politically savvy and zealously left-leaning progressive community in the Bay Area. They were happy to support a radical alternative to the commercial pabulum, incipient McCarthyism and the atomic bomb Cold War politics of the 1950’s. The social, political and cultural leadership eagerly sought the free access offered by KPFA as they do to this day. Today the audience is more diverse reflecting the milieu.

Equality of access to airtime has always been at the center of controversy at Pacifica and community radio everywhere. Most on-air people at Pacifica were not paid until the mid 1990’s. They volunteered and they made money to support the Foundation by pitching their programming on free-speech Pacifica radio. That was the deal. It was a tacit agreement – Pacifica provides opportunity and access whilst producers agreed to pitch and encourage on air pledges. By far the largest percentage of financial support for Pacifica still comes from listener donations.[2]

This model changed in the mid-nineties when the National Federation of Community Broadcasters under Lynn Chadwick and David Le Page, adopted the so-called Healthy Stations Project.  Lynn Chadwick later moved to Pacifica as Executive Director during the disastrous 1999 shutdown and police raid at KPFA.

The Healthy Station Project called for reducing the power of volunteers, professionalizing the on-air sound and adopting more paid on-air producers. It was a model more like National Pubic Radio than community radio. It was designed to increase listenership and revenue and increase the amount of money the CPB might potentially give stations. And it was a tacit control strategy designed to moderate Pacific’s radical message.

CPB has close connections with U.S. mechanisms of propaganda like Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, Radio and TV Marti. Personnel move through a revolving door between these agencies. After almost destroying Pacifica, Lynn Chadwick landed a job at CPB.

At the time the Healthy Station Projects was being foisted on community radio, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was headed by Bob Coonrod. Coonrod was deputy managing director of Voice of America. At the helm of National Public Radio was Kevin Klose, formerly director of the International Broadcasting Bureau, which oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, and Radio and Television Marti. The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was Michael Powell, son of then secretary of state Colin Powell.

The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 requires that the CPB operate with a “strict adherence to objectivity and balance” in all programs of a controversial nature and the CPB regularly reviews national programming for objectivity and balance. When Pacifica agreed to take money from the CPB, it was engaging in self-censorship for dollars.  Of course concern for objectivity and balance is extremely subjective and when it came to the Gulf Wars such sentiments counted for nothing at NPR and mainstream media. Community radio was one of the few places one might hear and opposing point-of-view – one that turned out to be prescient.

Programming was “professionalized” and moderated; less abrasive, music more homogeneous and consistent. It was an idea derived from NPR programming consultants. The mission was to smooth the rough radical edges. The same consultants would go on to advise Pacifica when in November 1996, Pacifica; lead by former KPFA manager and then Executive Director, Pat Scott rolled out Vision for Pacifica Radio Creating a Network for the 21st Century – A Strategic 5 Year Plan.

The Strategic Plan was impractical and showed little understanding of the realpolitiks of the five stations. It led to more expenses and more need to raise money to feed the beast and make the pay roll. And the more money stations garnered from listener support, the more it received from the CPB. It created a two-tiered system of paid and unpaid staff. It encouraged a-them-and-us culture where volunteers subsidized paid staff since the unpaid work, pitch and pay their own expenses while paid staff receive a salary and health benefits. It was and continues to be unfair. The old hippie paradigm of diverse programming and volunteer-based management disappeared. Today paid-staff call the shots and the community is less a part of community radio than it used to be.

The Healthy Station Project didn’t go over well with community radio volunteers and in 1996 spawned the Grassroots Radio Coalition, a reaction against increasing commercialization of public radio and lack of support for volunteer-based stations. The Coalition is stronger than ever today and grass roots community radio presses on while Healthy Station Project stations like the Pacifica network are floundering.

Today the five Pacifica stations revolve in a loose orbit around the Pacifica mother ship. Sometimes the orbit gets wobbly. Pacifica owns the FCC license for all five stations and the non-profit 501(c)(3) status. The five stations are answerable to the Pacifica Foundation with ultimate authority held by a Board of Directors elected from local station boards.[3]

Perhaps more than ever, the current unwieldy and expensive governance structure that emerged in the new millennium following the removal Pacifica board chair Mary Francis Berry and Executive Director, Lynn Chadwick has created slates and factions within Pacifica. Pacifica Boards of Directors comprise truculent political diehards with little radio experience who have done little to improve programming, revenue or audience numbers.

Yet Pacifica has and continues to be an incubator for many important broadcasters and programs like Democracy Now, Counter Spin, Explorations with Michio Kaku and now The Project Censored Radio Show.

Probably the most valuable asset Pacifica has is its intellectual capital: past, present and future. It is the seed germ and should be protected. Today radio crosses over to the Internet to become a trans-media system with opportunities for international distribution, video streaming, interactivity and e-commerce. Creating and being part of trans media systems is the future.

I fear the more things chance the more they remain the same. The popular general manager of KPFA, whose controversial firing by Lynn Chadwick precipitated the crisis at KPFA in 1999, was subsequently twice selected as Executive Director of Pacifica in 2007 and 2008. In her September 24th, 2008 departure letter Nicole Sawaya, in the form of a letter to late Pacifica founder Lewis Hill, wrote:

“…Sadly, it (Pacifica) is no longer focused on service to the listeners but absorbed with itself and the inhabitants therein. I call it Planet Pacifica, a term I coined during my hiring process. There is an underlying culture of grievance coupled with entitlement and its governance structure is dysfunctional. The bylaws of the organization have opened it up to tremendous abuse, creating the opportunity for cronyism, factionalism and faux democracy, with the result of challenging all yet helping nothing. Pacifica has been made so flat, that it is concave — no leadership is possible without an enormous struggle through the inertia that committees and collectives.

“Pacifica calls itself a movement, yet currently it behaves like a jobs program, a cult, or a social service agency. And oftentimes the loudest and most obstreperous have the privilege of the microphone. There are endless meetings of committees and “task forces” — mostly on the phone — where people just like to hear themselves talk…”[4]

Can Pacifica change or is it too late? Has Lew Hill’s experiment been supplanted by the Internet and smart phones? At a time when the need for community radio and citizen journalism seems more important than ever, can Pacifica adapt and change? Unfortunately the prognosis is not good. Ironically, should Pacifica finally collapse, it will be in large part due to the Healthy Station Project, which ripped the heart out of community radio.


[1] KPFA circa 1949, Berkeley; KPFK circa 1959, Los Angeles; WBAI circa 1960, New York; KPFT circa 1970, Houston; WPFW circa 1977, Washington DC.  There are approximately 170 affiliates that take Pacifica programming which is distributed over an Internet portal.

[2] About 80 percent of support for Pacifica radio comes from listener support.

[3] There are almost two dozen members on the Pacifica National Board, representing local station boards.

[4] Current – A newspaper about public media in the United States, Sept. 25, 2008


Just one dollar a month makes you a patron of Radio Survivor. Help us through our Patreon Campaign!


30 Responses to Riding the waves at Pacifica radio, by Andrew Leslie Phillips

  1. Bernard White August 7, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    I don’t often agree with Phillips but I think this time he has come very close to the truth. However, as so often happens, in critiques of Pacifica past and present the issue of race is complete omitted from the discourse. Why is that?

  2. Matthew Lasar August 7, 2013 at 11:18 am #

    Questions for Andrew (Bernard, feel free to address these if you like):

    1. If you negatively associate “professionalizing” with the Healthy Station Project, why did you advocate re-professionalizing the KPFA morning schedule in your June 3 interview with me? To wit:

    “And so I opened it [KPFA mornings] up to the staff. They’re pretty professional people. We started a long discussion. A lot of to and fro. And out of which finally I made a decision to give the seven to eight o’clock hour to the News Department. Not to Brian Edwards-Tiekert per se, but to the news. Let them take responsibility. They’re pretty professional. The news some people consider conservative. So be it. There’s much more radical stuff on KPFA. Whatever. I wasn’t interested in that. I was interested in helping to create a program that would give the morning more weight.”

    Then I asked you what should be done since you reinstalled Edwards-Tiekert on mornings for an hour:

    “Well, Tiekert is way overbooked. He needs a full time producer and he needs another host. And it probably should be on for two hours. The Mix should really be moved. The reason that it is there now is essentially political. It’s not because it’s a good program. I mean some of the programs in the Mix are good programs, but as a five day a week program, it’s a mish mash. It’s a mix!”

    Bottom line: get rid of volunteers and replace them with paid staff (or do you really think you can find a five-day-a-week volunteer host?). Given your historical analysis, I think that a reasonable person could characterize your prescription for KPFA (which I support, by the way) as a “Healthy Station Project” solution for the station. What do you say to this?

    2. Critics of the Pat Scott era at Pacifica invariably associate it with the Healthy Station Project and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. But all of these negative reviews glide past one key fact: Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! was launched at the height of this period. Could it have been otherwise? I was told that the show was in large part financed by rolling over CPB grant payments to a national programming fund. The centralization of management at Pacifica during the 1990s made it possible to schedule DN! on all five Pacifica stations without too much trouble. Do you think that Pacifica could launch a show of DN!’s caliber now or back in the far less centralized mid-1970s?

    You say that “when Pacifica agreed to take money from the CPB, it was engaging in self-censorship for dollars.” But how do you explain Democracy Now!, which you praise in your essay?

    3. Given that you associate the CPB with entirely negative outcomes for Pacifica, do you think that Pacifica should stop taking CPB money? If so, when?

    Question for Bernard (Andrew, feel free to weigh in on this):

    1. Regarding the issue of race: Would an all or near-all volunteer Pacifica facilitate the productive presence of more people of color around the network, or would it gravitate towards more affluent (and whiter) programmers with sufficient disposable income to work at the network for free?

  3. Kevin White August 7, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

    Hi Andrew,

    First of all, thanks for this.

    Secondly, what’s so magic about democratizing the governance structure? What was that supposed to accomplish? And how democratic is it exactly?

    Listeners make no policy. The LSBs are gelded by the ridiculous by laws, and its members are largely clueless to how radio works. Many are just fans, and as fans, never want to see change. And quite to their shock and surprise have no power to do anything.

    The national board is dysfunctional and often makes things worse. During telephonic meetings people breathe deeply into their phones so no one can hear a thing. This is so universal that some think it’s outright sabotage.

    Year after year, literally hundreds of people participate in seemingly endless committees that vote on things that never get done, plan strategy that never gets implemented, and we leave our managers without oversight or the consequences of their actions.

    There was an eight year race war. Managers protected due to skin color. And Pacifica’s staff and employees expect to have oversight over manager decisions.

    I can only speak for Houston, but every election has had graft. Music programmers in Houston would recommend listeners go to their websites so they can be directed whom to vote for. These newly elected people rabidly protect Duane Bradley and the music programmers who’ve kept their shows for 10 to 20 years without change.

    However, as to Mr. Phillips suggestion that the Healthy Station Project was making our stations less radical, my answer is we have broadcast a lot of unsubstantiated crap over the years. Pacifica famously does not fact check and often sites urban legend as fact. If that’s what being “radical” is, then you can keep it. Garbage in/garbage out. Every station has had it’s own version of “Magic Water” and little herbal pills that “cure cancer.”

    It’s all unworkable. We need to go into receivership before we lose WBAI.

    Kevin White

  4. Ann Garrison August 7, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    A little recent history:

    Andrew came to the Unpaid Staff Organization UPSO quarterly meeting before last, where we had a discussion of his essay on the agenda. He said that he regretted writing it, and didn’t really believe everything he said there.

    Tim Lynch, one of the elected UPSO Councilors, and a Save KPFA stalwart, said that he didn’t want to talk about the the essay because he thought it was “foul.”

    I notified the UPSO list that we’d be discussing the essay, before the meeting, since it was on the agenda for discussion, and Richard Wolinsky immediately intervened, telling me to “stop being partisan.” Ultimately, however, he shared a pdf copy that someone had apparently xeroxed it from the book for circulation to a select list. I appreciated that.

    I also appreciated Andrew writing the essay. I thought it was an excellent history and was sorry he felt compelled to distance himself from it.

  5. Kali August 7, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    Not surprised to hear that Andrew Phillips express regrets about this article. It uncritically replicates many false assumptions about the “two-tier” system of paid and volunteer workers at KPFA, probably because he was towing the pro-Pacifica management line at the time he wrote the article. And it was to be published in an anthology edited by the very people who benefited from that argument, the Project Censored crew, who were given airtime when the Morning Show staff were laid off, and are seen by many – whether they like it or not – as scabs.

    As for the history, KPFA has always had both paid and unpaid staff, as do almost all nonprofit radio stations. Low budget radio stations are all “unfair” in this regard, relying on volunteers to operate. Whether there was a slightly greater emphasis at KPFA on paid hosts during the Healthy Station period can be debated, but if you look at lists recently published of paid staff at KPFA and WBAI in the late 60s, they are about the same size as those staffs today:
    http://wbai-nowthen.blogspot.com/2013/08/payrolls-beyond-recall.html

    This is just from a glance at the lists. Maybe Matthew can give some factual numbers on paid v. unpaid staff over time?

    Paid staff have been scheduled at popular drive time hours and often (but not always) raise more money than volunteers – for a variety of reasons, including providing consistent voice and program and dependable coverage. Any station hiring paid people will want to leverage their labor where it means the most, and that’s usually during drive-time and other high listening hours. Having strong drive-time programming by paid hosts helps create the room and support for more eclectic, less polished programming that is also important to KPFA.

    The heart of the matter, however, is less about finances and more about politics. The vast majority of KPFA staff, both paid and unpaid, work in relative harmony and respect each other’s contributions. The claims of unfairness are brought into service when someone wants to attack the paid staff or their union, usually for purposes of getting airtime. Interestingly, it doesn’t ever come up in re programmers like Dennis Bernstein, who is by any measure one of the most “entrenched” KPFA paid hosts.

  6. Ann Garrison August 7, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

    @Kali: Pacifica is not capital exploiting labor. The term “scabs” doesn’t make sense in this context.

  7. Kali August 8, 2013 at 1:13 am #

    Labor people use “scab” in a variety contexts, from narrow and economic, to broad and philosophic, Ann. If you do some research, you’ll see the Dept of Labor does too – there are federal labor regulations about volunteer labor among other things. So before people at KPFA go off the deep end demanding what unpaid and paid workers “should” have, do some research and see what is possible under current labor law. In addition, what is possible to build – with mutual respect between workers? If people focused on that, instead of just bashing the other faction, they might even come up with some pretty good answers that would satisfy both sides.

    • Kevin White August 8, 2013 at 5:48 am #

      Kali,

      You are definitely a major part of Pacifica’s problems. You are putting your selfish needs ahead of the health of the foundation. You are not a steel worker. And your “labor” is not being exploited.

      You have instead one of the easiest jobs on earth.

      I suggest you go and get a real job. You and your ilk are dragging the foundation into insolvency.

      Please leave. You’re not needed or wanted.

      Please go and destroy from within some other not-for-profit. You’ve done way too much of that here.

      Kevin White

  8. Matthew Lasar August 8, 2013 at 7:26 am #

    Ok: let’s get back to the non-name calling, non-accusatory phase of this discussion (sorry; I forgot to add my usual plea for civility at the end of Andrew’s article). Please stick to issues . . . questions. Be boring. Act like policy wonks. Otherwise I will close comments.

    • Kevin White August 8, 2013 at 7:46 am #

      Sorry Matthew, but the constant labor disputes that led to the adoption of these unworkable by laws are in fact the crux of the problem.

      Only Pacifica can come up with something as absurd as a a union for non-paid volunteers. Only Pacifica puts up with employees and unpaid staff demanding things like being included in all programming decisions. This needs to stop.

      Radio needs growth and change to be able to work. Entrenched radio shows are why we have no listeners.

      And for the record, the name calling began with the word “scab.” My comments were civil. They are, however, a bitter medicine that, if taken as directed, will save Pacifica from its deadly disease.

      • Ann Garrison August 8, 2013 at 8:52 am #

        The name calling did begin with the word “scab.” The person who used it then called for “mutual respect among workers,” and for “people” to “stop bashing the other faction.”

  9. Matthew Lasar August 8, 2013 at 10:00 am #

    Thanks to Kevin and Ann for their diligence in identifying when the name-calling commenced. Indeed it appears to have begun with “scab,” then continued with “you and your ilk.” I’m sorry that I cannot be here 24/7 to discourage this when it begins, but I can at least try to encourage it to end. Thank you and thanks to all future comment writers for your cooperation.

  10. Virginia August 8, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    Thoughtful & thoughtless — twined Andrew characteristics in my experience. Amazingly outspoken thoughtful “healthy stations” critique. However, after many hours, days, weeks, & months of browbeating by remnants of the same clique he “outs,” still using the air and all else to control all at KPFA, he back-tracked on any of his wonderful initial vision of network & station as a hub that he arrived with. He made the symbolic joke that wasn’t really a joke about suffering from “Stockholm syndrome” and indicated he couldn’t change it so why try. Hence, his slapdash comments about “democracy” which he knows is much more complex than he says here, & which those of us who do support it want to improve, and which has yet to be supported by one single GM in a meaningful way. Also his digs at “non-professionals. Apex Express members (unpaid), Project Censored hosts, many others have vast radio experience – & community radio’s promise is access and help, not mockery and door-slamming.

  11. Jack Radey August 8, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

    I am curious, when exactly did Andrew write this particular article? It seems consistent with the positions and analysis of those who brought him on board, and who he aligned with when he first came to the station. His saying he regretted writing this, and his statement that some of the stuff he wrote wasn’t true, is more consistent with the position he came around to after he had been at the station for some time, and seen more clearly the dynamics around questions of volunteerism vs professionalism, “democracy” vs democracy, and questions as to whether KPFA was trying to reach out to a broad audience with well put-together serious programming vs being a bullhorn for so-called radical rhetoric and fringe science and politics. If this article dates from years ago, it should be so stated, likewise if he wrote it quite recently. Andrew got educated, the hard way, and such lessons are valuable if painful ones. I’m just wondering if this article was written before or after he got a taste of what it was all about?

  12. Kali August 8, 2013 at 2:00 pm #

    @Kevin: I don’t work at KPFA, so your hostile comments have no meaning for me, other than showing how agitated you are when labor issues are discussed.

    @Matthew: no, the “name-calling” started before the use of the word scab, by Ms. Garrison and her attacks on two unpaid KPFA staffers. As for the word scab, it’s is a perfectly good term and is quite on the issue, especially in the context of an article that tries to blame the staff for most of what’s wrong at Pacifica. Several AFL-CIO labor councils have said as much re: KPFA. Maybe people can cover their ears if they don’t like it.

    The seeming inability of the Pacifica community to discuss real issues – like Pacifica management consciously using its volunteers to undercut its paid workforce, AND the incredibly wastefulness and insanity of the Pacifica governance system (which was the second part of Phillips’ essay) – is a big reason for why the venerable 60-year-old radio network is crashing and burning.

    Honest discussions of the questions you pose about “professionalizing” (for lack of a better term), the launch of national shows like Democracy Now!, CPB and other funding, race, and I would add gender, are all key to Pacifica’s ability to survive.

  13. Terry Goodman August 8, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

    With respect to Andrew Leslie Phillips’ description of Pacifica’s founders as
    not having the same political or economic philosophy, the characterization is perhaps just as untrue as it is true. More significantly, I think, the founders clearly intended that Pacifica not be merely a reflection of their politics. They agreed, and expected contributors to agree, that Pacifica would be “organized and operated exclusively for educational purposes,” would (in broadcast operations) “engage in any activity that shall contribute to a lasting understanding between nations and between the individuals of all nations, races, creeds and colors,” and would “promote the study of political and economic problems and of the causes of religious, philosophical and racial antagonisms.” There were additional expressed goals in the arts and in news, but the primary purpose of the Pacifica Foundation, unambiguously declared, was educational.

    Phillips asserts that “The concept of listener sponsorship appealed to the politically savvy and zealously left-leaning progressive community in the Bay Area,” which may be true — but KPFA’s original appeal was, in fact, far broader.

    Phillips claims that “Today the audience is more diverse reflecting the milieu,” but this is arguable and depends upon how one decides to measure diversity. Audience diversity was not an articulated goal of the founders.

    It gets worse. Phillips wrote “Equality of access to airtime has always been at the center of controversy at Pacifica and community radio everywhere. Most on-air people at Pacifica were not paid until the mid 1990’s. They volunteered and they made money to support the Foundation by pitching their programming on free-speech Pacifica radio. That was the deal. It was a tacit agreement — Pacifica provides opportunity and access whilst producers agreed to pitch and encourage on air pledges.”

    This paragraph includes a number of misperceptions and inaccuracies. First of all, Pacifica radio is not community radio. Community radio is a distinct movement with particular values and approaches that arose well after Pacifica radio was established. Secondly, while access to airtime has certainly been at the center of many Pacifica controversies, “equality of access” is a fairly recent meme that dissolves into nonsense under critical examination. Under the Pacifica model, broadcasting without educational value and broadcasters not contributing to a lasting understanding should never have access “equal” to that of broadcasting with educational value and contributing to a lasting understanding.

    Most on-air people at Pacifica are not paid, and most on-air people at Pacifica were not paid in the mid 1990’s or before. Prior to the Healthy Stations Project, most on-air people at Pacifica who were paid by Pacifica were not paid for doing radio programming but for doing other work at their stations. At some Pacifica stations in the 1970s, no on-air hosts or disc jockeys were paid, no regular programmers were paid (other than in the News Department), and no board operators were paid.

    The “tacit agreement” that producers pitch is station-specific and sometimes producer-specific. Several Pacifica General Managers and Program Directors would never pressure someone to pitch who didn’t willingly offer to do so. When regular programming is suspended for a fund drive, regular programmers must either join in the fundraising or temporarily surrender their timeslots, but most station managers would prefer that poor fundraisers just surrender the time, if its a good slot. It’s a real headache when certain regular programmers with less than stellar fundraising skills demand the “right” to pitch to “their” audience.

    Further on in his history, Phillips asserts that the Healthy Stations Project was “a tacit control strategy designed to moderate Pacific’s radical message.” There may be a germ of accuracy in this framing, but it is confused and confusing. Within the sphere of domestic public broadcasting, the Healthy Stations approach was simply a design to prioritize revenue. By its nature, revenue prioritization would make station managers’ jobs easier and volunteer-initiated experimentation more difficult, and fringe programmers were certainly justified in seeing the “mainstreaming” reforms as a threat. There was good research behind the HSP, but prioritizing revenue could easily sway Pacifica off-Mission, a circumstance that the Pacifica National Board, some say, did not adequately appreciate at the time.

    The mention of “Pacifica’s radical message” presumes that Pacifica had or has a radical message, and the mention of a “control strategy” presumes some agent or agency attempting to implement the strategy. Until the “radical message” of Pacifica and the agency attempting to strategically control it are identified, however, the meaning of Phillips assertion is unclear. If we knew that the “radical message” being referred to was promoting the study of conflict and that the agency attempting control was U.S. Army Intelligence, we’d likely have a different response than if the “radical message” being referred to was the communist party platform and the agency allegedly attempting control was the Pacifica National Board.

    Phillips claimed that “CPB has close connections with U.S. mechanisms of propaganda like Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, Radio and TV Marti. Personnel move through a revolving door between these agencies.” Like Pacifica’s identification with progressive politics, this has been a corruption of implementation rather than a feature of original design. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting was established by Congress as a private, not-for-profit as a shield against political influence, but CPB board members serve six year terms by presidential appointment. When the Senate fails to block partisan appointments, the taint trickles down.

    Phillips claimed that “The Strategic Plan… created a two-tiered system of paid and unpaid staff.” There were paid and unpaid staff long before the Healthy Stations Project or the Strategic Plan, but a transition to strip programming by paid air talent was a transition that would tend to reward personality and popularity over substance, and the HSP encouraged program decision-making based upon revenue rather than upon Mission.

    Phillips says “… grass roots community radio presses on while Healthy Station Project stations like the Pacifica network are floundering.” Pacifica is indeed floundering — it is foundering in part because it is infected with a community radio model that it helped to parent which is fundamentally ill-suited to the major radio markets that Pacifica’s primary broadcast stations seek to serve, it is foundering in part because it has rejected the Healthy Stations Project philosophy but retains some HSP programming approaches, and it is foundering in part because it has drifted off-Mission in allegiance to a separate internal political consensus. Pacifica is also foundering, among other reasons, because the fractured understandings of what Pacifica was intended to be, and of what Pacifica has been, and of what Pacifica has become — all conspire to obscure any coherent and practical vision of what Pacifica should transition into.

    Phillips is closer to the mark where he writes, “Perhaps more than ever, the current unwieldy and expensive governance structure… has created slates and factions within Pacifica. Pacifica Boards of Directors comprise truculent political diehards with little radio experience who have done little to improve programming, revenue or audience numbers.” By way of correction, I’ll point out that it is the process of membership elections and not the structure of Pacifica’s governance that is expensive, that factions have always existed within Pacifica but that slates legitimize them, and that many among the political diehards on Pacifica’s boards arrive there with a long history of broadcast experience. There is some evidence that providing monthly board meetings for the public airing of charges and countercharges among Pacifica stakeholders has pulled open conflict away from stations and allowed greater freedom for managers to manage, but there is little evidence of productive governance at Pacifica.

    Despite the many flaws in his article, Phillips redeems it by including near the end substantial quotes from former Pacifica Executive Director Nicole Sawaya’s 2008 departure letter. The view there was personal and rather one-sided, but I think Nicole Sawaya, like Greg Guma before her, captured the contemporary Pacifica management/governance flavor with a minimum of inaccuracy.

    • Nalini Lasiewicz August 13, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

      Another ironic point: The photo of Phillips on this blog posting was taken as he attended a National Federation of Community Broadcasters conference, the same organization that he blames for having contaminated Lynn Chedwicks mind!!! Just look at the namebadge. Go to the NFCB website today and you’ll see many of the same HSP components which they train and advise; best practices such as:

      Strategic Planning
      Project Planning
      Roles of Staff/Board Involvement
      Stakeholder Involvement
      Business Intelligence/Communication

      So which is it, Andrew? Which of the above are you so convinced was the downfall of Pacifica?

  14. Ann Garrison August 8, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

    @Kali: I idid not attack either of the unpaid staffers I mentioned. I did not call anyone names. I recounted the interactions we had on the unpaid staff list and at the unpaid staff organization (UPSO) meeting when we discussed Andrew’s article. The unpaid staff is divided with regard to the viewpoint expressed in Andrew’s article. Richard Wolinsky and Tim Lynch both share a viewpoint closer to your own.

    I told you what Andrew said, what Tim said, and what Richard said. I also said that I appreciated Richard’s offer to send his pdf of Andrew’s article to anyone on the list who wanted it, because we didn’t imagine that everyone who might have wanted to read it before the meeting would have been able to get hold a copy of Project Censored 2013.

  15. Ann Garrison August 8, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

    @Jack Radey: Andrew wrote that essay for the Project Censored 2013 Yearbook, so he must have written it in 2012. I’m not sure when.

  16. Stan August 8, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

    To use ”scab ”in a situation where only very limited layoffs occurred is both grossly in accurate and slanderous . Now if you want to take the position that if any manager of any non profit layoffs any unionized staff no matter how dire the orgs economic situation is that they are ‘union busters” , Go ahead ! But then you must also condemm the leadership of EVERY union in the US as ”union busters’ because they have all at one time or another laid off staffers . And i might add not just out of economic neccesity . More than one union orgainzer has lost their position due to pissing off the wrong bureaucrat .

    So please cut the [exp. deleted] ! Terms like ”scab ”. ”union buster”etc in the Pacifica context are terms intentionally used to demonize political oppondents . A small scale version of what Stalinists did in the 30’s to attack Anachrists and Socialists who challenged Stalins’s dictatorship ,
    No strike, No Lockouts, No scabbing .

  17. Ann Garrison August 8, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

    I just re-read this and came across this delightful sentence: “Of course concern for objectivity and balance is extremely subjective . . . ”

    Indeed.

    • Kevin White August 9, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

      Where I often lose my patience and start using hard language happens when Pacifica employees place their own needs above the health of the organization.

      It’s further aggravated, in the Pacifica mindset, when the station schedule is involved, where staff and employees demand to be a part of the scheduling process. This is not the programmer’s job.

      Granted it can indeed be frustrating when a talentless general manager makes bone headed decision after bone headed decision. But the idea of a committee like a program council made up of non-objective, egotistical programmers is a pretty silly idea.

      Worse yet, in the present structure there is no practical way to remove a bad manager, short of lawsuit, embezzlement and fraud, such as the alleged crimes of Eva Georgia and Bernard White. Merely being unqualified, visionless, colorless, invisible, or in one case familiar to me, completely craven, goes unpunished. Failure at Pacifica is always an option.

      In Houston we have an average Arbitron rating of .004 with the average listener changing the channel after only 15 minutes. We’ve gone from 11 thousand listener members at the beginning of our current manager to 7 thousand and some change.

      Our manager, Duane Bradley, stratedy to increase revenue and raise listenership is to never ever change anything at all: particularly speaking, the 20 to 30 year old music programming.

      What Pacifica has forgotten, and what the entrenched staff fails to remind us of, is that radio scheduling is an art form that must flow and change with the fleeting tastes of each new generation. Our stations are long passed the need for generational change.

      Pacifica is very long in the tooth. The average KPFT listener is a white male in his early 60s. We do radio for old people. And the local manager is more concerned with his popularity among the programmers than he is running a successful radio station.

      We need new talent in management. We need to assign shows for only a year or two by contract, and then re-evaluate and move them on if they are under reporting.

      Programmers need to be made to understand that this isn’t life long employment. They don’t have a “human right” to do radio, instead radio is a privilege.

      And when their work gets stale, repetitious, and begins to lose its audience, the time has come to move on to something new and exciting.

      Keeping a program on for 30 years is not good radio.

      It’s time to stop worrying about ourselves and try to put the network bad into successful production.

      • Kevin White August 9, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

        I wish you could edit these things after the fact. This sentence should have read “strategy” instead of “stratedy.”

        “Our manager’s strategy to increase revenue and raise listenership is to never ever change anything at all: particularly speaking, the 20 to 30 year old music programming.”

  18. Nalini Lasiewicz August 13, 2013 at 1:43 pm #

    There was no “police raid.” Police were called because rabid protestors closed public streets, blocked a workplace and someone even shot bullets at the building. You can see the Police Reports online in the Files section at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PacificaRadiowaves

    Like much of the above article, his claim of a “police raid” is sheer disinformation.

  19. Nalini Lasiewicz August 13, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

    My last comment. I’m not surprised that Matthew posted this without challenging any of the assertions. Matthew wrote two books on Pacifica and never did find the courage to pull back the curtain and expose the lies told by his buddies at KFPA. Those lies resulted in the New Pacifica governance structure and the massive give away of Pacifica Foundation assets. Instead, he keeps offering a platform for the lies to be retold, endlessly. It’s often said that history is written by the victors, but Matther is a scholar and he should know better.

    • Matthew Lasar August 13, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

      If Nalini Lasiewicz had bothered to read the comments on Andrew’s piece, she’d know that I *have* challenged his assertions with three pointed questions (http://tinyurl.com/n26oy97). As everybody knows, I have my own ideas about Pacifica radio, but Radio Survivor is open to a wide variety of other perspectives on the subject. Andrew sent me this commentary, and once I was assured that I had Project Censored’s permission to publish it, I did so. Although I disagree with Andrew’s perspective, I don’t insult individuals gracious enough to send Radio Survivor their prose by inserting editorial comments directly into their words. If Nalani or anyone else has a coherent (and civil) commentary on Pacifica that they want to contribute to Radio Survivor, send it to me at matthew@radiosurvivor.com and I’ll post it.

      • Kevin White August 14, 2013 at 11:11 am #

        Hi Mathew, during the new Pacifica revolution I remember hear Hep Ingham saying that he was frustrated that you didn’t join in with the cause. He said that you said that it would not be right for a Pacifica historian to join a side.

        If you’re planning a third book or not, in your opinion, how would you characterize the disposal of the old by laws, the democratizing of the governance structure, and the disposal of foundation assets like for example, Democracy Now?

      • Nalini Lasiewicz August 14, 2013 at 11:39 am #

        You are right about one thing….I hadn’t read your three questions before I sent in my post. I did see them later and wished I had before. However, now that I’ve read it, I still think you didn’t actually challenge the content of Andrew’s claims. For my taste, you’re holding back and maybe it’s because of the same pressure than anyone feels when they dare to suggest that the Amy Goodman/Carol Spooner/Lyn Gerry et al attacks on Pacifica were exaggerated or misguided in any way. In your three questions, you basically asked him to admit to some hypocricy, but you didn’t actually set the record straight, ie, challenge his assertions. I have read both your books, and subsequent essays, and I still believe that you have been hesitant to challenge many of the actions taken the so-called listener revolt. You said as much in your second book on Pacifica, shying away from a follow up on how the new organization was functioning so far. My perspective on the malicious campaigns that put Pacifica into a decade long tailspin ARE coherent, and based on evidence. Since there has been no effort to unravel the myths, or have some sort of Truth and Reconciliation process to put that WAR to rest, I feel that every person who cares about Pacifica has an opportunity to heal the divides. Instead, in his article, Andrew perpetuates the myths. If you can steer me to any of your writings that have exposed those myths, really laid out the mistakes and the disinformation, please let me know. Your voice in these matters is important. Thanks….and I do apologize that I didn’t notice your follow up post until later. Had I seen that I would have used a different tone, for sure.

  20. Matthew Lasar August 14, 2013 at 5:37 pm #

    Nalini: thanks for response. BTW: Carol Spooner is one of my biggest fans (#lol).

    Kevin: With all due respect for Hep, I’ve forgotten which cause I was supposed to get behind. There have been so many. I supported the electoral democratization of Pacifica, and dutifully backed various slates (for which I will never be forgiven by some). Then I realized these elections and resultant unwieldy elected boards were doing far more harm than good and stopped supporting them (for which I will never be forgiven by others).

    As for Amy Goodman, I’m not sure what you mean by her “disposal.” At this point I just hope that Pacifica ends these races as soon as possible. I’ve tentatively concluded that the organization is no longer viable, and that Pacifica should transfer its licenses to the five LSBs and focus instead on program distribution. But first the Pacifica has to adopt a much smaller and streamlined decision making structure. Even if the new regime makes questionable or bad choices, at least they’ll be choices, hopefully arrived with comparative pro-active haste.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Article Pacifica’s Andrew Leslie Phillips, veteran Program Dir. and iGM of WBAI and KPFA | PacificaKPFK2014History.com - September 24, 2015

    […] Andrew Leslie Phillips has written a short history of the Pacifica radio network, published below. He is interim general manager of Pacifica station KPFA in Berkeley, California. Phillips is a native of Australia. He spent seven years in Papua New Guinea as a government patrol officer, radio journalist and filmmaker before coming to New York in 1975. He produced award-winning investigative radio documentaries on a wide range of environmental and political issues for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and for Pacifica station WBAI in New York City. He taught journalism, radio and “sound image” as an adjunct professor at New York University for 10 years. The Pacifica foundation was founded in 1946 by poet and journalist Lewis Hill and a small group of pacifists, intellectuals and experienced radio people. They did not have the same political or economic philosophy but shared a vision which supported a peaceful world, social justice and creativity. …. FM was a new, technology and Pacifica was backing the future, inventing an entirely new funding mechanism – the theory of listener sponsored radio. . . . Equality of access to airtime has always been at the center of controversy at Pacifica and community radio everywhere. Most on-air people at Pacifica were not paid until the mid 1990’s. They volunteered and they made money to support the Foundation by pitching their programming on free-speech Pacifica radio. That was the deal. It was a tacit agreement – Pacifica provides opportunity and access whilst producers agreed to pitch and encourage on air pledges. By far the largest percentage of financial support for Pacifica still comes from listener donations.[2]. . . ” http://www.radiosurvivor.com/2013/08/06/riding-the-waves-at-pacifica-radio-by-andrew-leslie-phillips… […]

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes