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Back in January 2020, before we were quarantined, I was at a social event where I overheard two men talking about progressive media. Being within earshot and being the publisher of the LA Progressive, my ears perked up. I heard one man tell the other, “It’s dying. I’d donate to Pacifica but they haven’t filed tax returns in years. They might lose their building in Berkeley, could be auctioned off.”

I knew the Pacifica Network was struggling but it wasn't till I'd heard that conversation that I began to realize the depths of its struggle. I’ll get back to that story in a bit but let me briefly talk about the decline of progressive talk radio in general.

The battle over the airwaves dates back over 50 years, since the Powell Memo and the birth of the Neoliberal movement in the early 70’s. Neoliberals had a plan. Instead of engaging in internal conflicts and circular firing squads, they united and successfully got FCC policies changed during the Reagan Administration.

POWELL CONFIDENTIAL MEMORANDUMDownload

One of their biggest coups was the eradication of the Fairness Doctrine. The doctrine or rule had been federal policy since 1949. It mandated that broadcast license holders

  • present controversial issues of public importance; and
  • do it in way that was honest, equitable, and balanced.

As soon as the rule was abolished, conservative talk, backed by right-wing power brokers, began their plan to dominate the American talk radio format. Today, progressive talk radio barely registers in the Nielsen ratings.

Many consider the demise of this FCC policy to be a contributing factor to party polarization in the United States and the rise of the radical right.

Many consider the demise of this FCC policy to be a contributing factor to party polarization in the United States and the rise of the radical right.

The outcome of the 2016 presidential election was, in large part, a product of right-wing media. Of course, their media takeover was not exclusively in the radio realm, but it began there. Many believe Rush Limbaugh’s success after President Reagan got rid of the Fairness Doctrine paved the way for Fox News’ 1996 launch.

Heads up, guys — Rush Limbaugh's replacements will be going on air in a few days. The radical right has plans and there's no letting up.

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In 2016, the Bernie Sanders campaign could have succeeded if we had a strong progressive media machine educating its listeners about the issues instead of just reporting on the horse race. Although the Pacifica Network is a nonprofit and cannot endorse candidates, one of its core purposes is to educate the listeners on the issues. Many of its programs are great at this but barely anyone is listening. People have been turned off by the nonstop fund drives.

There’s a reason the press is the only industry mentioned in the U.S. Constitution — and in the First Amendment no less. Like Noam Chomsky said, "He who controls the media, controls the mind of the public". And the right has had far too much control.

So back to the conversation I overheard in January 2020. Before overhearing it, I’d known that the Pacifica Network was struggling. Truth is, as far back as I can remember, its struggled financially. I just didn’t know things were as bad as they were. But how could I? Everytime I tuned in, there was a fund drive. I admit, I began to tune out after awhile.

Several years ago, I went to a few local station board meetings but walked away because the meetings were poorly run, spent far too much time on nasty exchanges, and didn’t seem to accomplish much. More recently, I attended a local meeting that took 45 minutes to start once people had shown up!

Fast forward 15 years. It’s July 2020. Trump is president, Bernie has lost twice, Presidential Medal of Freedom awardee Rush Limbaugh with his enormous Dittohead following reigns supreme, and progressive talk radio is all but dead on the vine.

I get a call from a former Pacifica National Board member asking me to join a team known as “New Day Pacifica”.

Remembering the conversation I overheard, the caller helped me to see that Pacifica is on its last legs. I agreed to join New Day Pacifica. Last week, two people supporting the YES side — Beth Kean and I — agreed to a debate with two people who want to maintain the status quo. You can hear an excerpt below. The people speaking are current Pacifica National Board President, Alex Steinberg, WBAI Producer Mimi Rosenberg and me, Sharon Kyle. The audio is about 7 minutes long but the entire debate lasted 2 hours. The full length is posted here as well but the 7 minutes gives you a sense of how the rest of the debate goes.

Alex Steinberg, Mimi Rosenberg and Sharon Kyle

So here is where we stand — the final day to vote YES for the New Day Pacifica bylaws is July 7th. Ballots were emailed to Pacifica members on June 5th. If you did not receive your ballot, follow these instructions to have one sent to you. But you must do this before the deadline.

Sharon-2019a

Those who oppose the New Day Pacifica referendum have demonstrated that "living a hand-to-mouth existence" is an acceptable outcome. We at New Day Pacifica aren't interested in barely surviving. We want what the people want, media that educates, informs and reaches the masses.

The radical right is implementing a strategy that is impacting us all. There isn't an effective counter. Let's begin to build one. Vote YES for New Day Pacifica

Sharon Kyle

Alex Steinberg, Beth Kean, Mimi Rosenberg, Grace Aaron, and Sharon Kyle - WBAI June 5, 2021