What Will It Take to Save KPFK?
Op-Ed by Michael Novick, Grassroots Community Radio Coalition
June 30 is the deadline to become a listener-sponsor of KPFK 90.7 FM, Pacifica radio for southern California, and qualify to run or vote in the upcoming elections for the local station board. You may not know this, even if you are a listener, because the station has been in yet another fund drive. Over the last decade or so, as the station has lost touch with a new generation engaged in the struggles — against gentrification & displacement, racist police murders with impunity, and climate catastrophe; for Native sovereignty, the human right to housing, health care & education — listenership has declined, and fund drives increasingly devoted to pitching products have lengthened and faltered. If not for a major bequest from the estate of long-time programmer Don Bustany, the station would be unable to meet its payroll, and at the rate the May fund-drive was proceeding as this was being written, that prospect is not far off.
KPFK must find and serve an audience different from the NPR stations in this area. KPCC has a budget eight to 10 times that of KPFK, funded by corporate underwriting, foundation grants, well-to-do listeners and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. KPFK must look elsewhere, and tap into the broad range of community organizations, creative cultural centers and campus activists who are shaping the future of L.A. with a sense of urgency akin to that of the abolitionists of old. To do so, KPFK, and the Pacifica Foundation, must rely on and welcome unpaid independent community-based journalists, artists and organizers who can help rebuild the base for “radio powered by the people”. The natural base of KPFK is among the Dreamers, the labor rank and file, organized and unorganized, the eco-socialists, prison abolitionists, tenants’ rights and unhoused activists, youthful climate strikers and those opposing gun violence and US militarism. But to win their hearts and hard-earned dollars, the station must be airing their voices, not just in an occasional interview, but hosting their own shows, reporting their own news, digging beneath the surface with their own investigations and resistance.
To help bring that about, it’s vitally important for people engaged in those survival struggles of resistance, solidarity and liberation to become members NOW and vote (and/or run) in the upcoming election. You can become a listener by donating $25 or volunteering for three hours (most likely in the phone room during the fund drive). As you read this, there is less than a month remaining to qualify. Check out the website of the Grassroots Community Radio Coalition (GCRC) at http://www.gcrc-socal.org or call me at 323-636-7388 to see how you can get involved, make a difference, and keep alive this potentially invaluable resource for the peoples’ movements.