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Radio Survivor Podcast #13: Why the Battle over the Pacifica Network Remains Relevant

Radio Survivor co-founder Matthew Lasar joins us this week to examine recent events at Pacifica Network’s Los Angeles station KPFK, where it’s been reported that all staff have been cut to half-time across the board. Matthew helps to put this action into perspective–especially as it regards the Pacifica Foundation’s unwieldy governance structure–and explains why Pacifica, as the nation’s largest community radio network, is still relevant for all of community radio in the US.

In College Radio Watch Jennifer Waits tells us about a former college station in Houston that is up for sale again five years after Rice University sold it off the first time. She also remembers the impassioned college media advocate and scholar Dan Reimold who recently passed away. Finally, Matthew returns for his weekly Letter on Radio segment to unpack the secret radio history of the Looney Tunes character Foghorn Leghorn.

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4 Responses to Radio Survivor Podcast #13: Why the Battle over the Pacifica Network Remains Relevant

  1. Chris Albertson September 1, 2015 at 10:20 pm #

    I just discovered your podcast and listened to the Matthew Lasar interview re Pacifica. I confess to not having much faith in Lasar’s research, based on some of his earlier writing (where he relied on the late Steve Post, then a notoriously unreliable source). Your interview, however, came off very well—Lasar was informative and, as I know it, accurate in his description of Pacifica’s ills. The currently employed system of governance is a disaster, and—as he points out—a costly one, but that alone is not what is killing Pacifica. There has in recent years been a takeover by thoroughly incompetent people who see the stations as an opportunity to carry out a variety of agendas, ranging from the dissemination of obsessive, racist political propaganda to out and out commercial ventures. None of this appears to bother local “management” or the Pacifica National Board. Pacifica’s extraordinary mission—the vision Lew Hill and his associates pursued when KPFA went on the air, has been discarded by a succession of general managers and their cronies. Personally, I see no hope at this point for the organization to recover, but the vandals within should be exposed. That is why I maintain a blog where people can vent their feelings regarding this ongoing situation. Most of WBAI’s listeners are no longer tuned in, but there is apparently still interest in the station and speculation as to its future.

  2. Ann Garrison September 2, 2015 at 4:32 pm #

    You said here that it is “not acceptable’ that anyone should accuse Democracy Now of accepting CIA funding because of its refusal to question the prevailing 09.11 narrative. I would myself be very much surprised if Democracy Now accepted any direct CIA funding, but I do think it should be understood that CIA funding for arts and culture through the Congress for Cultural Freedom closed down shortly after it was exposed in the 1960s. See Joel Whitney’s “Exclusive: The Paris Review, the Cold War and the CIA,” http://www.salon.com/2012/05/27/exclusive_the_paris_review_the_cold_war_and_the_cia/

    I wrote to Whitney to ask why he ended his story in the early 70s, and he responded that he chose to end it when the CCF closed down, and that “It became the International Association for Cultural Freedom shortly after exposure, and the funder switched from the CIA to the Ford Foundation, as the story goes.” He said that some of the consequences of this change would be covered in his upcoming [January] book.

    I certainly don’t think we can dismiss the idea that the Pentagon, CIA, and other government organizations spend taxpayers’ money trying to shape public opinion in the media or that they at times succeed in doing so, even in Pacifica Radio and at Democracy Now.

    Yesterday, while following up on Syracuse University African American Studies Professor Horace Campbell remarks about the international NGOs who have been so involved in creating the disaster in South Sudan, I studied the LinkedIn Profile of Zack Baddorf, who served as Free Speech Radio News (FSRN) Board President from 2008 to 2011. I learned that Baddorf was, at the same time, from October 2010 to August 2011, employed as “Social Media/Web Content Manager” for CENTCOM, the Pentagon’s Central Command, which covers all of the Middle East + Egypt. I had been following Baddorf’s career since 2010, after being disturbed by his reporting for FSRN from South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo.

    You can see the record of this concomitant employment right here on Baddorf’s LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/zackbaddorf.

    This is not conspiracy theory; Baddorf’s employment as a messaging and information provider for CENTCOM is no secret now and I can’t imagine it was then. My best guess is that no one at FSRN bothered to ask Zack Baddorf what his day job was.

    Some may say, “So what, this is all in the past and FSRN is struggling to survive.” But, I think all those of us who felt we had any stake in FSRN, as listeners, supporters, or producers, must ask ourselves how this could have happened and how it may have affected FSRN reporting and our own consciousness. .

  3. Greg Miller September 3, 2015 at 8:38 pm #

    Mathew Lasar is one of the most respected analysts of Pacifica politics, and I agree with much of what he says — the governance structure is ridiculously out of proportion and way too expensive. But there are two big things that Lasar seems to miss.

    First, he posits a false equality between the two opposing camps at Pacifica, when in reality, there is one camp, more or less spearheaded by Tracy Rosenberg (whose followers include the two commenters above, Albertson and Garrison) that advocates for running the stations mostly with volunteers — mostly their friends brought in to do programs that aren’t very good. It’s always been the anti-staff group, and has used the network as a vehicle for its ideological campaigns. At KPFA, the station I listen to, the other side, called SaveKPFA, supports the more professionally-produced programming (whether done by paid or volunteer staff), as well as local control and choice of managers, etc. It is widely supported by the staff and listeners, having swept elections for several years running.

    Second, to say, as Lasar does, that listeners should just “sit it out” and not vote is a recipe for disaster. Those who would be left determining the elections are the ideological drones and nutcases who would drive the network into completely collapse.

    What makes more sense is Lasar’s piece in the Nation a year or so ago calling for the left to get involved in Pacifica. Stepping back is not the solution. Taking a stand is.

    • Ann Garrison September 4, 2015 at 9:06 pm #

      Greg Miller:

      Let me share one of your “professionally” produced news reports. Actually, it was produced by Feature Story News (FSN), which the Weekday News heavily relies on. I edited this out of the newscast and posted it to my SoundCloud page because I’m planning to write something about the wholesale English language media collusion with Rwandan invaders in DR Congo and their backers regarding Bosco Ntaganda’s trial at the International Criminal Court. https://soundcloud.com/ann-garrison/kpfa-fsn-ntaganda.

      What’s wrong with this KPFA/FSN story? For nearly two decades, international press talked about “Congolese rebels” who were in fact Rwandan invaders, while millions of people died in DR Congo. And now the ICC is putting one “Congolese rebel” on trial – in the Hague – to demonstrate Europe’s moral, judicial, and white supremacy, and to deflect attention from longstanding Euro/US support for the Rwandan invaders. Bosco Ntaganda spent his entire military career under Rwandan Tutsi command. See “Gen. Bosco Ntaganda’s ‘surprise surrender’?” http://sfbayview.com/2013/03/gen-bosco-ntagandas-surprise-surrender-in-the-most-heavily-guarded-area-of-rwanda/

      Here’s another “professional” piece, from the old Morning Show, an interview with security state professional John Prendergast posing as a human rights activist. https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2011/01/05/18668391.php?show_comments=1#18669606

      Prendergast is a warmonger who specializes in advocating for the use of U.S. Special Forces in Africa. I wrote this piece about him, “Saving Africans from African Savagery,” for Counterpunch: http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/11/29/saving-africans-from-african-savagery/.

      When the old Morning Show broadcast that propaganda, I wrote to Aimee Allison, explained why it disturbed me, and proposed that she do a segment with critics of the Enough Project’s interventions in Africa. She responded and we were going to do that but then the Morning Show was canceled because of budget deficits, the Morning Show hosts and their advocates felt compelled to heap insult on KPFA’s entire unpaid staff and I felt compelled to respond by posting that segment to Indybay, as an example of just how bad, and how very unprofessional the Morning Show could get – IF media professionalism is understood to include conscientious research.

      Hence, sadly, intended collaboration became bitter contention.

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