It was in the year of the Pig, 1971, that I first discovered KPFK. I was twisting the knob on our ancient Columbia console radio/record player to the left one day, just looking for something new—and that is when I heard it. A station like no other. There were no commercials and it had news, conversation, music and programming that was different from anything else. What I was hearing spoke directly to me. As a high school student, I was just becoming politically aware. On KPFK I discovered a radio station that was providing me an education and entertainment I could not find anywhere else.
As I listened over the weeks, I found out why there were no commercials and how they were able to provide information and programming that spoke to my budding leftist tendencies. Information and programing absent from what passed for news on the Big Three; CBS, NBC and ABC—and all the other radio I listened to at that time. They asked me for money! Long before pledge drives littered our airways like so much confetti, here was a station that told me if I valued what I heard I should pay. Not a demand but a simple request. Join us and support us. Because if you do not, no one else will. I called in and made my $10.00 pledge and then waited eagerly for the Folio my membership promised. The reason I remember it was The Year of The Pig is because that was the title of that very first paper guide to the programing on the station I received. The Vietnam War was in full swing and here was a picture of a soldier on the Folio cover with the words “Make war not love” written on his helmet.
News, music, poetry, spoken word, and the voices of the likes of Alan Watts, Alan Ginsberg, Ralph Nadar and many others came to me through KPFK. I drank them up. Because of that I have been a member ever since. I believe in Lou Hills' simple idea that if a station provides you value and truth you should be willing to pay for it to ensure that it is not bought and paid for by interests that do not want you know anything other than what allows you to be a compliant consumer.
Unfortunately, last week I did something I never thought I would do. I canceled my monthly donation to the station that has meant more to me than all other radio and television I have ever listened to combined. Why you may ask after 50 years of support have I done this? Especially since the station is in such trouble financially and otherwise. The simple truth is that I made this painful decision because I came to see it as the only avenue for me to voice my grave concerns regarding the current governance of the station I love and believe in like no other.
I discovered that the current Pacifica governance is acting in a grossly undemocratic fashion, which shook me to me core. There was a vote for reform that took place last year and listeners like me spoke out overwhelming for change. However, in a deft bureaucratic move, the current Pacifica governance decided to annul the voices of listeners and denied any opportunity for change. Even worse, I found out that my donations were being used to hire lawyers to fight against the change I had just voted for.
Their were debates leading up to this vote and I approached them with an open mind. I have friends who have shows that I listen to religiously who were concerned that a cabal of individuals calling themselves New Day Pacifica wished to take over and then cannibalize all of the Pacifica Network for their own private gain. Sell off the strongest signal in the country and the buildings and run off with the cash.
Those debates made it clear to me that the true cabal were individuals who were fighting against any necessary change for the better. During the debates, it became clear that through their own hubris they were making the same mistakes over and over again and believing that Pacifica could survive by doing exactly the same things that had put the Pacifica Network in its current near-death state.
Believing that doing things as you have done them before will allow you to achieve different results is a clear definition of insanity. What I heard during all the debates (and I listened intently to all of them) was exactly that. No plan to stop the hemorrhaging of cash and listenership from the network. Ad hominin attacks against anyone who pointed out the obvious flaws to the current governance and it breaks my heart to say it but lies of a Trumpian nature.
Peter Coyote speaks on Pacifica Radio Mismanagement
The current governance had warned that New Day Pacifica was intent on selling off Pacifica. Then to my surprise I found out that in the dead of night current governance had done exactly what they had accused New Day of planning. They sold off the Houston Building in a ham-fisted attempt to raise much needed cash without having anywhere for the station to go once they did. This was not a solution of any kind but the kind of insanity that had led Pacifica to its current state. They had just done what they accused New Day Pacifica of planning. Their attempt to silence any dissent may have led to them to fire a vital station engineer, Mansoor Sabbah. His absence left a void in how the station functions, leading to a complete shutdown of the KPFK signal and therefore any broadcast for a significant period of time—against FCC regulations.
New Day Pacifica, which I had previously seen as that cabal I mentioned above, was in fact the voice of reason. Once I had listened to all the debates and heard all sides, I clearly understood that New Day Pacifica had a plan where the opposition had nothing but more of the same. Non-stop fund raising, shows that appeared to me that should have been on the Home Shopping Network for New Age hucksters and not on the voice of reason and progressivism.
I remembered looking forward to the once or twice a year fundraisers in the past because it offered some of the very best nuggets form the Pacifica vault—Malcom X, Michael Parenti, Noam Chomsky, Martin Luther King and much more all of interest. However, the fundraising today had devolved into a constant and never-ending barrage of products and cures that made me want to put my fist though the radio. I called in to express my concern. When I reached operators at the station, I was told that these were the only kinds of offers that were bringing in the money needed. However, these kind of New Age scams and nonsense were also driving me and thousands like me away in disgust. Please do not take my word alone simply look at the Nielsen ratings. Listenership was plummeting at an alarming rate and debt was accumulating to the point where it appeared insurmountable.
One thing that turned me from fearful to supporting of New Day Pacifica was Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding . I found out during the debates that there were millions of dollars that had been lost from Public Funding simply because the stations were failing to do the necessary auditing to ensure that the funding they had received for decades could continue. The was not maleficence but rather ineptness of a degree that was simply mind boggling.
New Day Pacifica had not wished to destroy Pacifica; they wished to save it from itself by bringing a measure of much needed professionalism and reason to running the station. During the debates, Sharon Kyle and Jan Goodman—two of the key figures of New Day Pacifica—presented their case to us all. I could see that they had a plan and method that could protect the station and Network I see as belonging to me and all of the other listeners like me. Plans not to cannibalize but to strengthen and save.
If, like me, you see KPFK and all the other Pacifica stations as important, you must speak out now because tomorrow will be too late. Let the station and the network know that you will no longer allow a cabal of ineptitude to reign supreme. You will no longer allow the insane to manage us into oblivion. You will let them know that the only way forward is to allow the overwhelming vote of listeners to stand for New Day Pacifica to save this resource for all of us before it is too late.
To hear Sharon Kyle, publisher of the LA Progressive, interviewed about the state of Pacifica, click here