Free speech radio under attack from Clintonite appointee

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Oct 13 08:50:54 MDT 1999

There's something about Mary

Management problems and divisive racial politics have followed Mary Frances
Berry from the U.S. Civil Rights Commission to the Pacifica Radio Network

- - - - - - - - - - - -

By Judith Coburn

Berry's divisive management style is well-documented in the Pacifica
debacle. She played the race card early and often, insisting the changes
she proposed were necessary to diversify KPFA's staff and listener base.
But she refused to meet with people of color from the station's staff and
leadership, who mostly opposed her high-handed attempts at reform.

"KPFA has been doing everything it could for years and was on the right
track," says Pat Scott, who was once called "the black manager of a white
station." Concludes Scott: "This whole issue is crazy."

Maybe the most bizarre episode yet is Berry's appearance at Pacifica
station WBAI in New York in late August, where she dropped by unannounced
and asked to meet with staff. She lectured the staffers about "diversity,"
apparently not noticing that most people in the room were black, Latino or

"We were amazed how little she knows about radio or what programming we
do," reported Mimi Rosenberg, a labor reporter and local advisory board
member at WBAI, who ended up in the unannounced meeting with Berry because
she happened to be dropping off a tape at the station when the chairwoman
swept through.

Berry then flabbergasted her listeners by suggesting the network sell WBAI
and/or KPFA and buy a string of small, black radio stations in the South.
"A kind of black NPR," one staffer described it. "Laudable, but to
cannibalize Pacifica with its own 50-year history and listeners? She should
go out and build that network on her own and see how hard it is!"

But Berry has always seemed determined to use Pacifica for her own ends.
Her detractors point to a statement she made when she took over as chair,
in which she said nothing about her vision for the future of the
progressive network. Instead, she vowed not to let anything that happens at
KPFA destroy her reputation.

And Berry has used her federal connections to further her Pacifica agenda.
She used contacts at the Justice Department to get a department official to
call Berkeley Police Chief D.E. Butler and ask why KPFA supporters who were
peacefully demonstrating outside the station hadn't been arrested. The
Berkeley cops got tough for a day, arresting scores, until outraged
citizens and the City Council reversed the get-tough policy.

"Many labor disputes have taken place in Berkeley over 25 years," Butler
wrote in a letter to the East Bay Express. "But the Pacifica Foundation's
decision to turn a labor dispute into a mass arrest situation was a first."
Chadwick then demanded the City of Berkeley pay for the security Pacifica
had hired because the police had failed to protect the station. The City
Council fired back a bill for $200,000 to Pacifica for police overtime at
the round-the-clock demos.

(Full story at

Louis Proyect

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