Chaos at KPFA
Having left behind the insanity at WBAI, where they’re now raising money off the loopy conspiracy documentary Zeitgeist (featuring, among others, the LaRouchie 9/11 conspiracist Webster Tarpley), I’m now confronted with the continuing chaos and decay at KPFA.
The latest: newly installed station manager Amit Pendyal resigned because Pacifica executive director Arlene Engelhardt wouldn’t let him do his job. By all appearances, Engelhardt is in way over her head, and is acting like a tinpot dictator in the name of “grassroots” and “community”—which in practice means amateurish crap that no one wants to listen to.
My, my. Apparently diplomacy is not required to survive at KPFA. Good God, what would happen if the “left” took power and the leadership was made up of the usual suspects? I do not think that some of us (65 plus) have to worry about that.
Love your show.
Sad sad sad…All I can say is the contributions I’ve made to WBAI in recent years were made during Behind the News’ timeslot, when it was still being broadcast there, and, for everything it’s been through over the last 20 years alone, what a disaster our Pacifica outpost has become. It’s agonizing to think that Lew Hill’s vision of community radio is crashing and burning on “principle”, at a time when that vision is most desperately needed to counter the faux-community false promise of SEO-BS, Web 2.0 absolutism.
I’m not sure what’s going on moment to moment at KPFA, but here’s what a member of the KPFA Board just wrote to me when I inquired:
“It’s not true. He is still on the job, despite efforts by Doug’s allies to exasperate him enough to quit. …”
I then asked what is the truth to Doug’s statement about the goings on at KPFA. An unpaid staff member there wrote the following:
“None. There is no truth to it. Amit has not resigned although he’s discouraged by the hostility and lack of effort by some of the paid staff. They are, by the way, the same people who are mad at Arlene. It seems like Doug is spreading disinformation to muddy the waters.”
As to WBAI’s premium, the entire Local Board unanimously protested WBAI’s offer of the film “Zeitgeist” as a premium last night. There is 9/11 Truth (which I’m part of), and then there is barely couched anti-semitic, sexist, homophobic LaRouche/Tarpley garbage.
Those doing the screening of films at WBAI have zero experience in Left organizations, and so don’t understand the implications of some of their choices. But at least they correct them when the Board tells them to do so, which is much more than I can say for prior management at WBAI.
During the last fund drive the Board protested Kevin Trudeau’s “blame yourself for being poor” garbage and Cass Ingram’s self-serving Oreganol pitches (oreganol DOES work, but the premium came with Ingram’s (or Igram) book containing overt anti-gay statements). Management responded by removing those two best sellers, too. “Zeitgeist” is next.
I wish Doug would stick around to fight, instead of popping off from afar. Come to Board meetings where these things can be addressed and make your case! It turns out that Doug’s reporting is colored by his assumptions that are now turning out to be wrong.
“I wish Doug would stick around to fight”… yes, Doug, you could waste your time fighting a den of crazies, whose conspiracisms are merely a pseudoanalytical projection of their own agent-provocateur behavior, and add to the toxic babbling among a (small but loud) crowd of people who can’t distinguish between constructive debate and contrived, commodifiable controversy…
… or you could walk like an Egyptian and fight the powers that be. I think we know where our inspiration should come from. Millionaire marketers or the streets of Cairo? Tough one.
Harper’s Publisher Rejects $50K in Pledges, Says Union
Feb. 1 2011 – 9:21 am
By JEFF BERCOVICI
Tens of thousands of dollars in pledges raised by the staff of Harper’s magazine won’t save any jobs — or benefit the magazine in any way. That’s because publisher John “Rick” MacArthur has informed the magazine’s newly-formed union, which organized the pledge drive, that he will not accept the funds. Last night, the following message was posted on the “Save Harper’s Magazine” Facebook page:
This afternoon, your generous pledges of more than $50,000 were rejected by lawyers representing our publisher, John R. “Rick” MacArthur. Sadly, he will give no ground on the layoffs, which he intends to see happen before contract negotiations can proceed. Having offered — last week, and again today — numerous other ways to reduce costs and avoid cutting experienced staff, we are deeply disappointed in this outcome, but we are truly touched that so many of you (more than 800!) pledged so much in just a few short days.
I emailed a spokeswoman for Harper’s to ask why MacArthur declined to take the money but haven’t heard back. MacArthur indicated he was leaning that way on Friday, when he told me, “Our readers know that our financial independence results in uncompromised, quality journalism and writing. I don’t want to take money from people of modest incomes, and I certainly don’t want to accept corporate or foundation money that, too often, comes with strings attached.”
According to a source close to the situation, MacArthur felt that the union’s expectation that the money it raised be used to pay the salary of an employee who would otherwise be laid off — literary editor Ben Metcalf — constituted a string. MacArthur’s refusal to open up the Harper’s Magazine Foundation to any donations other than his own is a point of contention between him and the union.
KPFA’s working majority gets screwed by CWA job trust
December 9, 2010
by Isis Feral
I was raised by several generations of labor organizers, and in every labor dispute my side is easily chosen. I don’t cross picket lines, and I always stand with the workers against their bosses. The current conflict inside KPFA is the first time I’ve ever seen my community divided on an issue concerning labor solidarity.
While labor struggles are usually strictly polarized, it is important to keep in mind that KPFA is a nonprofit community radio station, where the traditional class lines are much harder to draw. In theory, the community is in charge of the station, or at least it should be. It’s the community who pays the bills and who this station claims to serve.
Community radio is supposed to be by and for the community, more like a movement than a business. The majority of KPFA workers are community members, who donate their labor for free.
As some tasks require consistent, daily attention, a limited number of workers must be paid for their time, because volunteering the necessary hours would interfere with their ability to make a living. The line between workers and management is blurry, to say the least.
To complicate matters, several unionized workers recently held management positions or effectively behave like managers.
For some time now a group among the paid workers and their allies on the Local Station Board (LSB) have largely held control over the management of the station. With the capitalist economic crisis crippling our communities, the station’s income has understandably been less.
When budget cuts had to be made, they were agreed to by this group but were never implemented. This happened two years in a row. With each new budget, the cuts were deeper, because the previous cuts were never made.
Now the necessary cuts are deeper still, because KPFA funds were massively mismanaged: More money was spent than was coming in, including a million dollars the station had in reserve.
The height of incompetence was achieved when a six figure check intended to earn interest sat in their general manager’s desk for a year instead of being deposited, apparently unnoticed even by their treasurer.
Recent payroll funds had to be borrowed from another station. The station is broke and we’re at risk of losing it altogether.
On the LSB, this managing group was represented by the slate calling itself Concerned Listeners. Right before the last elections, this slate renamed itself Save KPFA, in what appeared to be an effort to confuse and solicit the support of voters who remember the original Save KPFA, which had the polar opposite intent of this group: The original organization officially formed in order to defend community control of the radio station in the 1990s.
This new group, on the other hand, has actively attempted to dismantle community oversight and to defer control to a small percentage of KPFA staff who call themselves KPFA Worker. The appropriation of another organization’s name and attempt to benefit from its history was just one of several unfair campaign practices this group has been involved in over the years. Among other things, they repeatedly used the airwaves to gain support for their slate, without giving the other candidates fair access to do the same.
The new Save KPFA is representing the issue as a labor dispute and is claiming that the union of the paid workers is getting busted. Let me be clear: There is currently NO union busting going on at KPFA.
Because of the deficit and a refusal to actually implement budgets these people had agreed to, the axe that is falling now is impacting some of their own people, not just the jobs of others that they themselves have threatened to eliminate, or eliminated already. These cuts are being represented as going by a “hit list” against progressive programmers, but actually they are being made by seniority and follow the guidelines of their own union contract, unlike the cuts they have advocated themselves. It’s terrible to see people losing their jobs, but this is not union busting by any stretch of the imagination.
Let me be clear: There is currently NO union busting going on at KPFA.
The real union busting that happened at KPFA was in the 1990s, when the Pacifica National Board, which was at the time undemocratically appointed, hired professional union busters, the American Consulting Group. They busted the independent, progressive United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), which represented all KPFA workers, both paid and unpaid.
Local 9415 of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) swooped in like a vulture and became an exclusive job trust for the paid staff. Many people now refer to the managing faction of the still unionized workers as the “entrenched staff,” and some call the CWA a “scab union.”
From the start, the CWA played the divisive role of an elitist private club, rather than that of a union. To this date, unpaid workers, who currently make up about 80 percent of KPFA’s workforce, are barred from membership. Many of them have been donating their labor to KPFA for many years. Without them, the station and community radio cannot exist.
Unpaid staff represented by the UE were entitled to such benefits as travel expenses and childcare. The latter is particularly relevant in considering what happened to Nadra Foster in 2008, when she was accused of misappropriating KPFA resources, after printing out a few sheets of math homework to keep her children engaged while she was working.
This accusation led to her getting banned from the station, charged with trespassing and beaten and injured by the cops, who were called by management without any interference from the entrenched staff. Even in the aftermath, their names are conspicuously absent among those of 74 of their fellow workers who condemned management’s use of police force and expressed solidarity with Nadra.
The year prior, right before the 2007 LSB elections, the Unpaid Staff Organization (UPSO), which is the closest thing to a union for volunteering workers at KPFA, was decertified – a friendly name for union busting – by station management supported by these Concerned Listeners. This move eliminated the rights of many of the unpaid staff to participate in the elections.
In 2005 a leaked email among members of the entrenched staff and their supporters, the suggestion was made that perhaps the LSB should be dismantled altogether. Under their management, the Program Council, previously in charge of deciding programming, has also been effectively stripped of its power. Does this sound like community control?
As a child of the labor movement, I am appalled to see people who are behaving as management at the station opportunistically exploiting their on-paper union membership to solicit the support of the labor movement and the left, while they are refusing to comply with the very union contract that was negotiated on the backs of their sacrificed fellow workers.
I believe that the fake Save KPFA – on Indybay someone refers to them as “Slave KPFA” – and the KPFA Worker group are misrepresenting this as a labor dispute in an attempt to politically legitimize their turf war. What they are teaching listeners about community building and organizing labor are disastrous lessons to be aired on a supposedly progressive radio station and represents a grave disservice to the community at large and the labor movement in particular.
The recent “informational picket” was another example of this group merely posturing as organized labor. Using the word “picket” to describe a protest, which does not have the explicit intent to blockade, teaches people that real picket lines are negotiable, that it’s okay to cross them.
Historically picket lines are not merely gatherings where we exercise free speech. They are a very specific form of direct action. Picket lines mean don’t cross! It’s not a matter of semantics. Picket lines are THE militant direct action tradition of the labor movement. Of course, this point is likely lost on KPFA’s current union staff, since their right to strike was bargained away for higher pay by the CWA, as they betrayed their fellow workers of the UE.
The Pacifica management of the 1990s recognized that the UE represented not just workers, but that the workers in turn represent our communities. Replacing the UE with the CWA created a deep division within KPFA and paved the way for what we are witnessing today.
The current crisis is part of a long history of attempts to undermine community control at the station and to turn it into just another mainstream professional media outlet. But one doesn’t have to be a professional to understand what generations of working class people have taken for granted as basic common decency: Any labor organization that does not represent all workers has no business calling itself a union.
Union corruption has become a stereotype used by conservatives to rally working people against unionizing. What they conveniently leave out is that unions belong to workers, not to paid union bureaucrats who corrupt the union’s integrity, as well as their own, as they negotiate compromises with the boss. When there is such corruption, it’s the responsibility of the rank and file to reclaim the union as the tool for which it was intended.
A union’s primary purpose is to unite workers. The CWA must be held accountable, not be rewarded with community solidarity, for its divisive role at KPFA.
If the union continues to refuse membership and the right to collective bargaining to the majority of KPFA workers, unpaid workers owe it to themselves and their communities to organize union representation for themselves elsewhere. I urge the KPFA community at large, including those paid workers who still remember what solidarity really means, to encourage and actively aid such efforts.
Author’s note: The author is an autonomous activist, who is not affiliated with, nor endorses, any of the Local Station Board election slates, nor any other organization, but writes strictly from her own conscience. The embedded links in this text are not exhaustive evidence to support my views, but merely a small selection of additional information I found personally helpful in illustrating my position. I encourage all to do your own research and fact-checking and reach your own conclusions.
Hard Knock Radio host Davey D speaks at a positive, harmonious rally outside KPFA on Nov. 11. Organized by JR Valrey (Block Report Radio) of the unpaid staff and Anita Johnson (Hard Knock Radio) of the paid staff, the rally was called to save Hard Knock Radio, Flashpoints and Full Circle, produced by the apprenticeship program, three popular shows that leaders of the unionized staff had proposed to eliminate altogether. The large crowd at this rally is dedicated to grassroots community radio that’s true to Pacifica’s founding mission “to encourage and provide outlets for the creative skills and energies of the community; Š to engage in any activity that shall contribute to a lasting understanding between nations and between the individuals of all nations, races, creeds and colors; to gather and disseminate information on the causes of conflict between any and all of such groups; and Š to promote the study of political and economic problems and of the causes of religious, philosophical and racial antagonisms.” – Photo: Lisa Dettmer
Isis Feral can be reached at email@example.com.
Here’s the story from KPFA Worker. Seems more like chaotic scuffle than an actual effective resignation.
“New KPFA Manager Resigns; Pacifica Un-resigns Him”
Regardless of the specifics, it’s pretty obvious that no one (sane) wants to participate in an organization where titled leadership is threatened and changes constantly. I should have figured that out from the beginning with the conveyor belt of disposable GMs at WBAI, themselves either talentless factionoids or hapless victims of lunatic control freaks…
… I’m so glad my money and time is going to worthy causes now.
May WBAI die, so that the rest of us can live… (including the 500,000 HIV+ babies who will be born this year, whom Pacifica wants to murder for cash) Here’s a reasonable run-down on Oreganol:
“. . . amateurish crap that no one wants to listen to.” I assume that includes me, since I’m an unpaid KPFA Weekend News Reporter, sometimes expert guest re U.S. involvements in East/Central Africa, most of all Uganda Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Sudan.
This week the President of Rwanda started following me on Twitter, and his government newspaper wrote: “The venomous Ann Garrison builds her fame (notoriety) on her ability to outdo the cobra in all aspects.”
Another of Kagame’s agents included my name on his list of the Friends of Evil, a.k.a., genocide deniers, those of us who don’t accept his brutally enforced version of the Rwanda Genocide story: Pierre Péan, Keith Harmon Snow, Peter Erlinder, Serge Desouter, David Barouski, Chris Black, Juan Carrero, Colonel Luc Marchal, Jordi Palous, Tiphaine Dickson, Filip Reyntjens, Remigius Kintu, Helmut Strizek, John Philpot, Robert Philpot, Cynthia McKinney, Charles Onana, Allan Stam, Christian Davenport, Wayne Madsen, George Monbiot, Mick Collins, Barrie Collins alias Barry Crawford, Annie Garrison, Luc de Temmerman, Uwe Friesecke, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, Fernando Andreu Merelles.
Those are the most flattering recommendations of my work yet, and I couldn’t hope to keep better journalistic, legal, or academic company, so I’ll try not to take offense at the label “amateurish crap,” but paid staff’s endless stream of insults, to unpaid staff, sadly, just keeps widening and deepening the divide.
Which millionaire marketers are you insulting? Doug Henwood or one you don’t favor?
Doug Henwood’s show is often informative, and love the music! But like others here, he’s set on winning political points within Pacifica at any cost, even if it means bringing down the network.
You can find the details not given by his cronies if you look – I’ll link two sites. They’re not run by slick PR groups like his friends’ are. If you want really unusual Egyptian inspiration that stands out amidst much other good Pacifica coverage, try something that desperately went “community radio” from last Wednesday. When the Henwood-approved former KPFA local management/”stewards” prevented their senior professional buddies from taking over after Brian Edwards-Tiekert spun out and replaced any cogent analysis and interviewing with non-stop on-air whining about himself, and lying about the cause of his layoff, Pacifica’s ED was forced to come up with something. A local mix of volunteers has been somewhat less wowing than optimal, partly thanks to non-support from senior professionals at the station. HOWEVER, they’re improving with time, which may partly explain the Fox-like lies Henwood parrots getting more blatant. Hosts who have sometimes made me cringe and still in my opinion need some improvement, did interviews Wednesday, February 9th on the “Morning Mix” with Egyptians rubbing elbows unlike we had heard before. Listen starting about 43+ minutes in: http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/67435
Pacifica is a precious resource, not (only) a rusty old can to be resentfully kicked around by hurt children who don’t always get their way. Sorry it takes work to make dialog, possibly understanding, maybe even change in this world. Here are a couple of places to start to try to understand something about working towards safeguarding a network such as this from absolute rule by a few, no matter how benign currently those few may seem:
This last marathon had to have been a total failure: there was absolutely NOTHING to listen to on ‘BAI (and I have a high tolerance for anything “alternative”). They would be much better off just letting people do their shows and pitch on the half hour. My guess is that the Arbitron ratings must have rounded down to 0. To paraphrase, Mike Feder: a sad and tragic radio station.
In determining what may or may not be happening at KPFA, linking to kpfaworker is sort of like going to pre-uprising State TV to find out what’s happening in Egypt.
I’m partisan. I know and like the people around KPFA Worker. I want them to prevail, and not the current Pacifica management.
But man, one has to put up with a lot of grief being around this dying network. Most of it of the ankle-biting sort, but the self-righteousness makes it extra annoying.
Fox-like lies? God, why do I put up with this shit?
Did I mention the Berkeley City Council passing a resolution that urged “all parties” to negotiate in good-will? They EMPHASIZED neutrality.
The “news” report, simply reported their partisan comments, de-emphasizing the intent of the resolution. How is this NOT Fox-like?
They do a “story” on one of the bigget-story days of the year on a worker they’re trying to force off the air about a fine she was levied for a relatively minor (in the scheme, not to defend it, nor would I defend running a red light) offense from 2006.
Doug Henwood seriously calling others self-righteous? That appears to be an unintended hilarious bit of… self-righteousness.
Well, the current WBAI fundraiser appears to be doing VERY well — finally! Saying that doesn’t mean that there are not serious problems with the premiums being offered, but if we don’t raise the funds we couldn’t pay for Democracy Now or Free Speech Radio News, or WBAI’s own excellent (and decimated by budget cuts) News team.
The new management has taken important steps (and missteps) in rooting out the corruption, theft and narrow identity politics that were killing the station, and instituting good business practices. But the key to saving the station is to expand listenership and membership by at least 30 percent within the next year. And for that, we need Doug’s help.
Chair, WBAI Local Station Board
mr. cohen, i contributed to the last fund drive at mr. henwood’s request. haven’t been contacted; won’t do it again.
Why won’t you contribute to WBAI?
I believe the station is hoping to begin broadcasting Doug’s show again (pre-recorded) after the current fund drive.
That Tarpley guy is pretty funny. The Laugh Factory beckons.
Zeitgeist? Really? That’s just sad.
There are a couple of problems with Doug’s statement about Zeitgeist.
First is the question of where one draws the line between freedom of speech and what gets promoted over the airwaves. The Pacifica mission is pretty expansive in that regard.
The second is, all right, a film contains interviews with folks you don’t like, among many others. At what point do you say, “No”?
The third is, who gets to make that ultimate decision, and were they put in that position through a proper process.
All of those are in play here. The questions may be simple for you as an individual making up your own mind, and it might be simple in a Marxist-Leninist political party or U.S. corporation, but it’s not simple at all in running a community-based free-speech radio station with 168 hours of weekly broadcast time, reflecting a wide diversity of views.
And these questions don’t get resolved by dancing away from engaging in struggle over them …. if you think they (and the station itself) is worth it.
Don’t blame my criticism of Zeitgeist on Doug. My statements are my own.
Pushing Zeitgeist, Gary Null quackery, assorted 9/11 conspiracies, etc. destroys Pacifica’s credibility. Period. Call it freedom of speech, call it the Pacifica mission, it’s still fucked up. Serving the public does not mean letting hosts lie to them to sell magic health powders and non-documentaries.
When do you say “no”? How about when false health claims are being made repeatedly on the air? At some point, this may end up in a lawsuit for the station.
Whether fixing any of this is simple or not is not my problem. I’m the listener. My problem is deciding whether or not to support the station. As long as irrationality prevails, I can’t see the point.
As far as the 168 hours you have to fill, you should never have pushed Behind The News off the air by moving it Saturdays. That’s another hour of quality programming you would’ve had in the can.
Here are the “mission points” for Pacifica Foundation. Of course, (e) can be interpreted so as to include HIV-AIDS denialism, Webster Tarply, Gary Null Inc., and Nazi Holocaust denialism. On the other hand, “to obtain access to sources of news not commonly brought together in the same medium” would seem to suggest favoring people who don’t already have radio shows and marketing operations elsewhere (such as Null, Chuck D, or – a recent fantasy included recruiting Keith Olbermann). Additionally, “public presentation of accurate, objective” information has never been an editorial concern at WBAI… anyone care for JEWelry?… just clowning around the microphone is enough, maybe some provocations and insinuations. If wealthier people are hearing what they want to hear now, some money will roll in – plus certain business interests may be ponying up cash too: but there’s nothing to celebrate unless the preservation of a radio station trumps every other consideration. And what kind of pathological whackjob would argue that? An American corporation, of course, would argue that: self-preservation and cash rolling in are the only considerations. And Pacifica is a US corporation, and it’s something worse than, say, many companies that produce things of actual use value. Pacifica is a US corporation run by talentless control freaks and substandard marketers, whose wares don’t even have to pass the threadbare regulatory regime of the FDA or a state department of consumer affairs.
The bigger issue, of course, is that this mission statement sounds self-important and nonsensical in a world with hundreds of cable channels and billions of websites. Doesn’t the line “to promote the full distribution of public information” make you chuckle, at least a little? Personally, after foolishly giving money, I boycott them, and I would suggest Doug not permit his voice to be carried on its airwaves… he lends credibility to toxic garbage. It is the home of people who do not speak in good faith, people who talk manipulatively and conjure sick fantasies. Like Glenn Beck, they stage controversies and call it “debate”, they issue provocations and call them “questions”. It’s way beyond insipid babble now. The crap is now an evil timesink. There’s no time for this. There’s serious work to be done. None of it will be done by Pacifica and WBAI. Boycott them now.
(c) In radio broadcasting operations to encourage and provide outlets for the creative skills and energies of the community; to conduct classes and workshops in the writing and producing of drama; to establish awards and scholarships for creative writing; to offer performance facilities to amateur instrumentalists, choral groups, orchestral groups and music students; and to promote and aid other creative activities which will serve the cultural welfare of the community.
(d) In radio broadcasting operations to engage in any activity that shall contribute to a lasting understanding between nations and between the individuals of all nations, races, creeds and colors; to gather and disseminate information on the causes of conflict between any and all of such groups; and through any and all means compatible with the purposes of this corporation to promote the study of political and economic problems and of the causes of religious, philosophical and racial antagonisms.
(e) In radio broadcasting operations to promote the full distribution of public information; to obtain access to sources of news not commonly brought together in the same medium; and to employ such varied sources in the public presentation of accurate, objective, comprehensive news on all matters vitally affecting the community.
“When do you say “no”? How about when false health claims are being made repeatedly on the air? At some point, this may end up in a lawsuit for the station.”
The very first time I heard Null on the air, thinking it was going to be all fun and laughs, I’m pretty sure he gave medical advice without being an MD or DO, but I’m not a lawyer and for WBAI’s sake not with the FDA, though I wish I was. Between that and his laughable suggestion that while coffee was toxic, taking what were in effect stimulant “supplement” capsules derived from industrially-harvested bacterial wastes wasn’t, it boggled the mind. I washed my amphetamine tablet down with some extra-non-organic socially-unconscious instant coffee (only two African children died carrying the beans through minefields Ronald Reagan worked hard to remind America were too pessimistic), a grin and some LaRouchite fascism masquerading as ‘underreported’ news.
Did I just call LaRouche a cryptofascist? I must be brainwashed by Doug, and that whole thing about anti-leftist violence during “Operation Mop-Up” must be CIA disinfo to discredit a brave freedom fighter like Tarpley’s message of Truth.
I have it on Very Special (so special it has extra chromosomes) Authority that WBAI will fill the Behind the News slot with an hour of a synthesized Gary Null voice selling Panaceaex, the Amazing Oriental herb from the mysterious East that undoes decades of stagnant wages and intensified global economic and ecological exploitation. If you call within the next hour…
In case any of you Pacifica politicos made it through that, between driving your best and most profitable programming off the air and selling snake oil, do you really need to wonder why you’re broke?