Which Way KPFK?

by Michael Novick, KPFK Local Station Board chair

Listener-sponsored, free-speech community radio for southern California, Pacifica Foundation’s KPFK 90.7 FM is currently in the midst of another fund drive. Even more critically, the station and the rest of the Foundation’s stations face a fundamental choice, as a Bylaws revision comes up for a membership vote beginning on June 7. (You must have become a member during the year ending April 7 in order to qualify to vote.) The replacement Bylaws would strip any local oversight powers of the elected delegates of listeners and staff, to review management, programming or the station budget. It would institute a centralized and top-down system of governance and management over all 5 Pacifica stations (KPFA in Berkeley, KPFT in Houston, WBAI in NY and WPFW in DC in addition to KPFK locally).

The new Bylaws, if adopted by majorities of both listeners and staff from all the stations nationally, would create a new, third class of membership, permanently separating, in a discriminatory fashion, the (larger) unpaid, volunteer staff and programmers from the paid staff. A single representative would be picked by the paid staff members of all five stations (so that a single, well-staffed station like Berkeley would probably dominate over stations that operate with a leaner paid staff). And the much larger total of unpaid and volunteer programmers and producers, who have historically produced most of Pacifica’s and KPFK’s unique mission-driven content would also be combined together into a pool from all five stations that would also elect only a single representative. This guarantees less diversity and representation in the governance and policy making, and a bias towards so called “professionalism,” that seems designed to limit and circumscribe the range of political opinion and self-determined cultural and creative expression that is allowed onto the airwaves.

What will the consequences be? The adoption of these replacement Bylaws would simultaneously appoint four named officers (without any contest or opposition) who would immediately and for three years ongoing, dominate a new, smaller national board. It effectively disenfranchises or marginalizes the east coast stations, with much larger Black communities, as the new officers come exclusively from CA and TX (where the station, somewhat unbelievably, currently broadcasts mostly country and western music in the largest, youngest and most diverse big city in the US, Houston, and the staff and board are unrepresentative of the city).

The replacement bylaws are being backed by a slick, well-financed propaganda campaign by New Day Pacifica, many of whose members and associates have backed previous efforts to carve up the Foundation and the several stations, such as by declaring bankruptcy or seeking a court order to turn the Foundation’s assets over to a private receiver on spurious grounds. Like the corporate Democratic Party interests in its ranks, NDP is adept at making campaign promises and progressive-sounding commitments to all five stations, but their record indicates otherwise. Apart from a vague assurance that there is big money available — but only of they win and take over — NDP has offered no financial plan for overcoming any of the funding and budget issues that they use to stigmatize and discredit elected governance and local oversight as the source of Pacifica’s financial problems. Parallel with that, proponents of the Bylaws substitution have engaged in open red-baiting and anti-communism, totally at odds with Pacifica’s historic commitments to free speech, peace and a fearless examination of the causes of conflict.

At stake is whether the Pacifica stations and their network of over 200 affiliates will fulfill their potential in a new era, responding to a new generation of diverse communities in struggle for human rights, justice, liberation and peace, or tailor their content to the prevailing winds of the Democratic Party in power in the White House, both chambers of the Congress, and the State Dept. and national security state apparatus. The latter choice would be a sad finale to Pacifica’s relevance or potential, at a moment when we need the kind of committed journalism and creative cultural expression that fueled Pacifica in the 60s and 70s, and revived its fortunes with a commitment to internal democracy and diversity, to peace and justice in the early 2000s. The trend towards centralization and professionalization has already damaged Pacifica and KPFK significantly, losing most of their older listeners and not winning significant new ones or seizing the opportunities provided by social media and podcasting to reach new audiences or tap into new sources of content in tune with the spirit of resistance, eco-socialism, or intersectional struggle. Rejecting the NDP Bylaws replacement will give the stations a chance to rebuild their audiences and membership by better serving the real needs of today’s communities of resistance and struggle, today’s advocates for peace and justice, against militarism and intervention, for uncensored news, enlightened commentary and stimulating cultural expression.

The Pacifica National Board voted overwhelmingly to oppose the NDP Bylaws replacement, even by directors from KPFA who had long been associated with the New Day position or its antecedent efforts. The KPFK elected listener and staff delegates will be discussing and voting on the proposed Bylaws revision on Sunday, May 2, at 10:30 AM. Public comment from KPFK listeners and staff is welcome (the current Bylaws mandate at least a half-hour of free public comment at every meeting of the LSB delegates). There will also be a regular Local Station Board meeting on Sunday, May 16, 10:30 AM. Here’s the recurring zoom log in or phone in info: Join Zoom Meeting https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84464153641 Meeting ID: 844 6415 3641; One tap mobile: +16699006833,,84464153641# US (San Jose)

For more information: https://pacificafightback.org

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