Posted by: Doug Henwood | March 7, 2011

Meanwhile at KPFA…

Two updates on the KPFA situation (and apologies to those of you who find Pacifica news sleep-inducing):

• A few weeks ago, I reposted the news, which I originally got from KPFA Worker, that “Amit Pendyal resigned because Pacifica executive director Arlene Engelhardt wouldn’t let him do his job.” Official circles denied this. An example of such: WBAI board chair Mitch Cohen commented, “[H]ere’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….’” Now comes this oddly worded news from Engelhardt, in an email to the KPFA staff: “I received word from Amit last week that he will not be able to return as General Manager at KPFA.” Sure looks like the original report was right.

• A few months ago, Engelhardt fired the old paid Morning Show staff and replaced them with volunteers, including 9/11 Truther Peter Phillips. That saved the station about $80,000 a year. But in the recent fund drive, pledges during the morning drive time—for which the Morning Show was the anchor—were down by $139,000. Details here.

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Responses

  1. Doug wrote:
    “Sure looks like the original report was right.”

    It sounded that way to me too, so I wrote to Arlene Engelhardt to inquire. She wrote to me today that it was not until this past week that Amit, the KPFA General Manager, decided to resign. He was replaced by former WBAI Program Director Andrew Phillips.

    Doug wrote:
    “A few months ago, Engelhardt fired the old paid Morning Show staff and replaced them with volunteers, including 9/11 Truther Peter Phillips.”

    That’s a pretty polemical way to introduce Peter Phillips, who happens to be much better known as the president of the Media Freedom Foundation, the parent group of the very well-thought-of “Project Censored,” whose show on KPFA Phillips co-hosts. Peter Phillips is a Sociology Professor at Sonoma State College.

    Furthermore, if those figures cited by Doug are true, I’m extremely pleased, that the KPFA Morning Show actually took in as much as it has in this fund drive, given the campaign by those Doug Henwood is perhaps unwittingly aligned with at KPFA to de-fund the Morning show until the layoffs are reversed. Since the claim is that funding for the Morning Show is down by $139,000, but that funding for the station as a whole was down by only $45,000 despite all the crazyness, boycott, on-air confusion, etc., one could argue that except for the Morning Show funding for the station as a whole has actually increased by some $94,000.

    Mitchel Cohen

  2. From a longtime KPFA person whose name I am not disclosing here. The person may not mind but I have not asked permission to post the name. Blame me for posting it anonymously. It’s still the facts.

    Dear KPFA Listeners,

    I am writing to give clarity and to correct the misinformation, that you
    have been hearing for the past three months on KPFA, up to and during the current fund drive, from some of KPFA’s paid staff including Aileen
    Alfandary, Marc Mericle, Mitch Jeserich and Brian Edwards Tiekert. This
    includes the heralding of Brian’s “triumphant return to KPFA” on Monday,
    February 28th , after being “laid off” for the past three months, due to
    the financial crisis at KFPA and Pacifica. In truth, Brian never left!

    Those of you who listen to KPFA regularly have continued to hear Brian on the air, during the past three months, reporting on the KPFA News and sitting in for various KPFA hosts including CS Soong and Mitch Jeserich.

    The truth of the matter is that Brian did not have to be “laid off” three
    months ago. He could have used his CWA union contractual “bumping rights” to replace John Hamilton, as soon as he was notified that
    he was being “laid off”, because John had less seniority on staff at KPFA
    than Brian.

    Brian chose to “leave” KPFA three months ago, because he was hoping that the subsequent on-air and email campaign mounted by the above-referenced paid KPFA staff and their “concerned listener/savekpfa” allies, would pressure Pacifica management into reinstating the former Morning Show with him and Aimee Allison as co-hosts. (I sincerely believe that Brian was one of, if not THE key orchestrator of this campaign.)

    When Brian, and his allies, finally realized that Pacifica’s management was not going to capitulate to this on air/email campaign, they created the ruse of Brian’s “return” to KPFA, on Monday, February 28th, and the subsequent “lay off” of John Hamilton. None of the above named people who “reported” on these events on KPFA, linked the two of them together, nor mentioned that John Hamilton was laid off because Brian finally decided to use his CWA union contractual bumping rights due to having more KPFA staff seniority than John.

    You can read other factual information about KPFA and Pacifica by going to: http://supportkpfa.wordpress.com/

    I believe that the negative on air and email campaign, conducted by the
    “concerned listeners/savekpfa” folks”, has been extremely destructive and detrimental to the future survival of KPFA and the entire Pacifica Network!

  3. Hi Kim,

    I’m not sure why Chandra thinks she knows more about my situation than I do. Clearly, she’s not a fan of the Morning Show, and doesn’t want it back. While I’m happy to be contributing to KPFA in whatever way I can, I do want The Morning Show restored, and rejoining the station’s payroll as a news reporter does not mean I’m “giving up” on efforts to bring back Aimee Allison and what was KPFA’s most listened-to local program.

    Remember: When Aimee and I were laid off, Pacifica’s official spin was that it didn’t want to get rid of the Morning Show–it just, they claimed, had to lay off Aimee and I first because of Pacifica’s rigorous adherence to our union contract.

    Which was, we maintained, bullsh*t. And the fact that Pacifica’s had to put me back on payroll–with back pay–proves we were right.

    What Pacifica made was an editorial decision. An editorial decision to get rid of the station’s biggest fundraiser. An cause morning drive-time pledges to drop by $140,000 in the fund drive we just concluded. An editorial decision that should call into question Pacifica ED Arlene Engelhardt’s motives, or her competency.

    Which, you know–our union contract can’t keep Pacifica from making terrible editorial decisions. Our contract does, however, protect us from arbitrary and retaliatory termination, which is why I’m back on payroll now–and which is why Pacifica no longer has financial necessity as an excuse for keeping the Morning Show off the air.

    If you want facts:

    1) Pacifica management broke off talks over my seniority rights in December, when it started stonewalling basic information requests from our union.

    2) Our union proceeded to take my grievance toward binding arbitration.

    3) My union rep says Pacifica management then approached her in February with an offer of an “unconditional return to work” and a “make whole” offer to give me back-pay and reimbursement for my out-of pocket COBRA payments. (If Pacifica management’s position is that they had given me the power to “bump” someone at any time, I doubt they’d be going out of their way pay me all that money for time when I purportedly was choosing not to exercise my right to work at the station.)

    In fact, our union has not agreed to John’s layoff, and will be fighting it. The job title Pacifica gave me for my return to work is different from John Hamilton’s–I’m a reporter, he’s an anchor. The duties are radically different: he puts 59-minute newscasts together from the studio, I put 4-minute feature segments together from the field. They’re also paying me more hours per week than they pay John Hamilton.

    As several of us made clear to KPFA’s Interim Program Director shortly before John’s layoff: KPFA has adequate resources to continue operating without further layoffs for the time being. First-quarter financial results show it outperformed its budget by $290,000. In fact, KPFA has enough money to bring back Aimee Allison and put the Morning Show back on the air.

    Instead, management is trying to lay John off and, by some contorted logic, blame me for it. Which is a pretty transparent attempt to defame and divide our union, and something that an purportedly progressive institution like Pacifica should be above.

  4. I was in the Union meeting several weeks BEFORE the “official” announcement by Arlene of Amit resignation. Just before the meeting started, Carrie Core, interim Program Manager, entered the room and announced that “Amit has just resigned” and left the room. The next day Arlene announced that instead Amit was on ‘an extended family leave’. Amit has never been heard from since and I never saw him in the building again. (I am there full time). Carrie moved into what was to be his office so he couldn’t really pop in and out. (with the arrival of Andrew Phillips, she has moved out of that office to another one.). Amit’s resignation was in effect long before the official announcement. Pacifica National simply took a rather Rovian way of handling it, which it seems is becoming more and more their style.


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