Report from Juan Gonzalez

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Jun 10 15:15:26 MDT 2001


Pacifica Campaign Release
June 10, 2001
Contact: (646) 230-9588
E-mail: pacificacampaign at yahoo.com
Web site: http://www.pacificacampaign.org

Listener Boycott Rocks Pacifica Radio Thousands Vote No on Network's
Rightwing Corporate Drift

NEW YORK (June 10) -- In an unprecedented action for U.S. radio, thousands
of listeners to the Pacifica Radio network joined a national boycott of
Pacifica's spring fundraising drive this past month, prompting a
precipitous 20 percent decline in overall financial pledges to the network,
say organizers of the campaign.

The most stunning drop in contributions occurred at the network's largest
station, WBAI 99.5 FM in New York City, where donations plummeted more than
50 percent. Last year, WBAI received $850,000 in pledges during its
two-week spring drive. But this year, even though station management
extended its drive to 20 days, listener pledges totaled no more than
$400,000, according to Bernard White, the station's former program director.

"WBAI and Pacifica management have promoted the fund drives as listener
referendums," said White. "The listeners have now spoken and they¹ve
resoundingly rejected the policies of the present executive leadership.
It¹s time now for the hardliners on the Pacifica board to resign and for
the rebuilding process to begin."

White was fired last December along with several other veteran staffers in
what has come to be known as the Christmas Coup. He has since become one of
the organizers of the Campaign to Stop the Corporate Takeover of Pacifica
(Pacifica Campaign), which was launched in February to protest a takeover
of the network by what Pacifica reformers call a "corporate clique."

Campaign organizers were able to learn the astonishing results of their
boycott from WBAI staffers who still work at the station but support the
reform movement. Station's management, which has already admitted close to
$200,000 in lost revenues -- and a $130,000 budget shortfall -- from its
February fund drive, tried to keep the disastrous results of the spring
fund drive secret.

Two other stations, KPFK in Los Angeles, and KPFA in Berkeley, experienced
more modest drops in listener pledges -- totaling about $50,000. The
boycott had little impact at the two smallest stations, WPFW in Washington
and KPFT in Houston. But boycott organizers say they never targeted
Washington and Houston for much public outreach.

"They are the two smallest stations in the network and they don¹t raise
much more than $500,000 combined during the spring fund drive," said Juan
Gonzalez, coordinator of the Pacifica Campaign. "We concentrated our
efforts on WBAI because that is Pacifica's main revenue generator." 

The Pacifica Campaign estimates that the spring fund drive at Pacifica¹s
five stations raised some $1.8 million, down from a projected goal of
approximately $2.3 million.

AT both KPFK and WBAI, management infuriated listeners and crippled their
own fundraising efforts by knocking the network's most popular news show,
Democracy Now!, off the air and by launching public attacks against the
show's host, Amy Goodman. The pre-emptions of Democracy Now!, the first
such pre-emptions in the show's five-year history, prompted thousands of
listeners to flood the two stations with protest calls. So many calls came
in that station lines were paralyzed at times. 

In Los Angeles, station manager Mark Schubb finally relented and brought
the show back on the air the last two days of fundraising. That concession
saved Schubb and KPFK from a disaster similar to New York's. In those final
two days, KPFK recouped many of the donations it lost at the beginning of
the drive.

But at WBAI, interim station manager Utrice Leid, refused to allow Goodman
to return. She and other personnel repeatedly accused Goodman of refusing
to fundraise -- a lie that was unmasked by Goodman's fundraising efforts at
two other Pacifica stations. The removal of Democracy Now! and flagrant
attacks on Goodman are the continuation of nearly a year of harassment by
network management.

The financial boycott is part of an overall movement to restore democratic
decision-making, listener accountability and free speech at Pacifica. For
decades the network has represented the best in radical, avant garde public
radio programming in the country. But during the past few years control of
the Pacifica board has been usurped by a group of individuals with
corporate backgrounds who have begun steering the network away from
Pacifica's historic mission. Hundreds of staff and volunteer producers have
been fired for objecting to the network's rapid rightward drift and its
curtailment of free speech.

During the recent fund drive at WBAI, for example, one of the main premiums
offered to listeners was by Jim Mars, a neo-fascist and anti-Semitic
ideologue. At the same time, and in a frantic attempt to counter widespread
listener rejection, station manager Utrice Leid repeatedly talked on the
air during the drive of the station being in a "race war" against white
supremacists who she claimed were resisting "black leadership," presumably
like hers. (Leid is a native of Trinidad.)

But Leid¹s false accusations have been exposed by the many progressive and
radical black leaders and organizations that have publicly condemned the
policies of both WBAI management and the Pacifica board. Among those
critics have been: writer Alice Walker, activist Angela Davis, the December
12th movement, the Black Radical Congress, actor Danny Glover, death row
prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, Roger Toussaint, president of Transport Workers
Union Local 100, veteran WBAI producer Elombe Brath, and U.S. Rep. Major
Owens (D-NY).

Through the boycott and through public pressure and non-violent, creative
direct action directed at the individual directors of the Pacifica
Foundation, the Pacifica Campaign hopes to convince those who continue to
pursue the current bankrupt policies that they have to resign and allow
democratic accountability.

Those policies have met with such widespread opposition that many Pacifica
affiliates, disgusted with the diluted, neo-liberal bias of Pacifica's
nightly news broadcast, have dropped the Pacifica Network News (PNN). They
are now broadcasting in its place the daily Free Speech Radio News, which
the Pacifica Campaign is helping to finance. In just one month, 33
community radio stations have begun broadcasting Free Speech Radio News,
and more than two dozen of them have dropped PNN.

As for the campaign against the board of directors of Pacifica, two of the
renegade members on the board, Micheal Palmer of Houston and Frank
Millspaugh of New York City have resigned in recent months. 

Listener groups around the country are renewing plans to increase protests
against the remaining board members. On Friday, June 8, and Saturday, June
9, nationwide protests were held against board members in the five Pacifica
signal areas.

In short, the movement to reclaim reform and revitalize Pacifica is growing
with each passing day.

"Pacifica's corporate clique may temporarily control the network's
airwaves," Gonzalez said this week. "But no one can control the hearts and
minds of Pacifica's listeners. Like all regimes who rule by fear, they're
hurtling toward the garbage can of history and still don't know it."

Louis Proyect
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