Decline of KPFK

Marta Russell ap888 at
Tue Jun 12 10:02:13 MDT 2001

More on Pacifica, specifically the decline of KPFK in Los Angeles
which has turned into a station barely worth turning the the dial to.
I used to listen to the KPFK news regularly -- no more though it is so
awful, insulting compared to the previous incarnation.  Mark Schubb
and Marc Cooper dominate KPFK now and it has badly deteriorated.  We
now have ooga booga shows about spiritual healing, etc., little to no
original news reporting (Frank Stoltz left a couple of years ago and
the department died), and far too many NPR type hosts who the station
claims are more "professional" but are boring to the bone.
Marta Russell

>From: Krpomer at
>Date: Mon, 11 Jun 2001 22:23:09 EDT
>To: imc-la at
>MIME-Version: 1.0
>Subject: [imc-la] Ex-KPFK'ers respond to "Letter to Amy Goodman"
>Sender: imc-la-admin at
>The letter below was presented to "Democracy Now!" Amy Goodman by Blase
>Bonpane of the  Office  of the Americas. last night in Los Angeles at a
>National Lawyers Guild dinner when Amy received an award and standing ovation
>from the Guild.
>Just prior to the recently concluded KPFK fund drive, a list of
>current KPFK staff sent a letter to Amy Goodman regarding her
>references to the banned and fired at WBAI. (see the bottom of the
>Some ex-KPFK'ers have recently sent letter to Amy in response to
>the one from the present staff.
>Below is a letter signed by a group of people, as well some
>individual responses.
>An open letter to Amy Goodman from KPFK's FIRED,  BANNED,
>Dear Amy,
>We have seen the recent letter sent to you by the programmers of
>KPFK, i.e., those who have benefited from the removal, firing and
>banning of, by Mark Schubb's own estimate, over 150 programmers
>and staff from KPFK since 1995.
>There are a few things you should be aware of when considering
>their appeal to you.
>First, KPFK is what you describe WBAI as, the studios of the fired
>and the banned.  However, it is not the studios of its listeners.
>Over the past several years KPFK has seen it's fundraising
>revenues nearly double. But total subscribership still remains in the
>range of 14,000 subscribers, well below its peak of approximately
>16,000 in the eighties, when KPFK made a genuine effort to be a
>voice of diverse communities.  But money is what matters now.  It
>is the main measure of success.
>This increase in funding has coincided with:
>* Elimination of the station folio
>* The decimation of the community calendar (from twice daily to
>once weekly now)
> * The destruction of the internship program *  The loss of a
>functioning local news department, with local news replaced by a
>third daily airing of the ever more tepid Pacifica Network News
> * The removal of all programmers of color from drive-time public
>affairs programming, and the  reduction of all local public affairs
>programming by people of color to fewer than four hours a week
>total, in a city in which a majority of people are people of color
>In addition, the station no longer has a program director, a news
>director, a development director, or an on-site engineer.
>Where is all the money going?
>Current programmers have been silent about purges that have
>taken place at KPFK since the mid-nineties -- purges of Native-
>Americans, African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans and
>white programmers who didn't appeal to their desired target market.
>They do not like your raising the specter of those purges to their
>target market.  They comfort themselves with the illusion that they
>are somehow more professional in their conduct than those who
>were displaced to make room for them, and they want the money
>to keep flowing in, even though with every additional dollar that
>comes in the community seems to get less and less service, and
>the audience becomes more and more a commodity.
>Now the public affairs programmers during "peak drive times"  -- are
>all white with one exception: Earl Ofari Hutchinson, who stepped
>happily into the 7 PM Tuesday spot vacated when Ron Wilkins was
>banned for attempting to notify the listeners of the purging of
>African-American and Latino programmers at Pacifica in 1996.
>Nearly all the 'diversity' of KPFK's broadcasters comes through
>music programming. But more importantly, the range of political
>perspective represented by the public affairs programmers signing
>this letter is so narrow that only they themselves are likely to
>imagine it represents a broad swath of political thought.  And of
>course, there are no signatures from news broadcasters at KPFK
>because there is essentially no functioning local news department
>at KPFK.
>So yes, they are disturbed that your message to the listeners
>about what is being done with their money may be heard.  They
>don't want the listeners to ask questions about what is being done
>to community radio.  They want the listeners to buy the product.
>The money tells these programmers they are right, and you telling
>the truth threatens that money.
>We - those programmers and staffers fired, banned, removed, or
>driven out of KPFK - thank you for your courage, and urge you to
>stand by your principles and speak the truth without fear.
> In solidarity,
>Blase Bonpane, Ph.D.,
>Former Senior KPFK Programmer
>Focus on the Americas
>Fired for no reason 1995.
>(Message of termination received on his answering machine).
>Resurrected by News Director, Frank Stoltz to be News
>Commentator. 1996-1998. Went on strike after constant
>annoyance by management -1998.
>Ken 'Dedon" Carr
>1983-1994 programmer and executive producer, "Freedom Now".
>Held positions as chair and vice-chair to the Local Advisory Board
>and served on the National Board.  Purged so Pacifica could make
>way for the more affluent westside European-American listener at
>the expense of the Africian Self Determination Community
>Wanda Coleman and Austin Straus
>Poetry Connexxion 1982 on the air 15-16 years
>Bill Davila Approx 15 years from 1981 - 1996 at KPFK, "Journey
>Through the Realms of Music" Fired by the General Manager for
>being a white-male producer - who was brought back on-air by the
>support of listeners and staff who circulated a petition and wrote
>Bill Gallegos
>Volunteer programmer approx. 8 years, " Read All About It"
>At the time the only early morning Chicano programmer.
>His program was put on "hold" without discussion or notice.
>Lyn Gerry
>Former production engineer, union steward
>and independent producer from 1988 -
>Sept 1995 (fired and banned)
>Lee Siu Hin
>Former KPFK Los Angeles, WBAI New York Reporter/Programmer
>Walked away from KPFK in solidarity with John Martinez in
>October, 1999
>Vince Ivory
>Tuesday Community Calendar'
>14 year volunteer purged for exercising free speech outside KPFK
>December, 1999
>Miya Iwataki
>"East Wind"
>13 year volunteer
>KPFK Producer/Programmer/Staff
>Purged for, among other reasons, not confining program to Asians-
>only (Management insisted on sitting in studio for my last program
>so I wouldn't blast KPFK)
>Roz & Howard Larman
>After almost 31 years at KPFK, we were
>cancelled for only the greed of Mark Schubb.
>If there was a format change, we
>could live with the cancellation.
>Arturo Lemus
>Volunteer programer for the Colectivo Latinoamericano from
>1981 to 1985 and a coordinator for a program called "Flor Y Canto".
>The Colectivo Latinoamericano spanish programming was
>dismantled by the then KPFK station manager, Susan Anderson,
>in 1985
>John Martinez
>'Radio Chicana'
>7 Year Volunteer KPFK Producer/Programmer/Staff
>Purged for Airing a Half-Hour Documentary on the Pacifica Crisis
>Loraine Mirza
>Islamic Perspectives
>and newsroom reporter for KPFK for 5 years
>January 1995
>Oly Mogollan
>Long  Time Volunteer
>1986 - 1994 "Producciones Pajaro Latino"
>1994 -1999 "Enfoque Latino"
>Cut in the middle of on air interview and censored for political
>Shel Plotkin
>Southern California Federation of Science
>15 years at KPFK, "The Wizard Show"
>Was given a time-slot they could not accept - 8am Sunday
>morning. This was a science show and they gave him the gospel
>Raymundo Reynoso
>Alternative Media Agency Trade Editions (AMATE)
>and a former producer at KPFK
>Robin Urevich
>KPFK News volunteer between 1992 and 1999
>and, a contributor to Pacifica Network News from 1993 til 1999.
>barred from the station after publishing an article critical of KPFK
>and Pacifica. The offending article was published in the "Random
>Fernando Velasquez
>20 years KPFK
>Spanish-English News/Public Affairs
>Purged in 1999 after participating in a protest in front of KPFK in
>solidarity with the KPFA Free Pacifica Community".
>Ron Wilkins
>Continent to Continent: An African-Issues Magazine
>1983- February 26, 1996
>Banned for Speaking on Air about African-Americans
>and Latinos being purged from the Station
>In memory of MIchael Taylor From hIs frIends
>News Room Intern
>FIred 1995
>Individual Letter from Al Huebnerm former host of "The Health
>An Open Letter to Amy Goodman.
>Dear Amy,
>You are to be congratulated for the excellent job you do on
>Democracy Now!, a program that is must-listening for me. I'm
>aware that you are working under difficult conditions, to say the
>least. I hope my words will assure you that your efforts are deeply
>I saw a copy of the letter that some current KPFK broadcasters
>sent you before the recent fundraising. It was nauseatingly
>sanctimonious, self-serving, and worst of all, lacking in concern for
>a comrade under attack.
>Let me describe my background at KPFK. In 1995, after more than
>21 years of doing a program on the politics of science and health,
>my program was terminated. I had closed my one-hour broadcast
>with a four-minute commentary on the sudden disappearance of the
>Station Manager and the Program Director. The LA Times reported
>in a brief, easily missed piece that they had been fired, the acting
>Station Manager wrote in the program guide's "report to the
>listener" that they had resigned. Workers at the most anti-labor
>corporation are treated no worse. In my commentary I went on to
>deplore the fact that it was chiefly, but not exclusively, the listener-
>sponsors who were deceived by the new management.
>Remarkably, management didn't seem to see any contradiction
>between this deplorable behavior and the concepts of free speech
>and progressive politics that the station purports to serve.
>As for the other Pacifica stations, I would have no idea of what's
>going on at KPFA and WBAI except for reports and commentary in
>The Nation, Extra!, Toward Freedom, Censored Alert (Project
>Censored), and The Humanist, two of which I write for. Even your
>remarks about the banned and the fired, and comments by Michael
>Moore and a few other guests, would remain obscure to me had I
>not read material from non-Pacifica sources -- that apparently
>means sources that can't be censored by Pacifica.
>I admire your courage and I hope you win both your near-term and
>long-term struggles.
>Al Huebner
>Below is the letter that the responses above are in answer to:
>To: Amy Goodman
>From: The On-Air Programmers of KPFK
>Re: Up-Coming Summer Fund Drive
>Dear Amy,
>We're writing to ask for your full, unequivocal support during our up-
>coming fund drive. We are concerned that the past four months you
>have signed off your show, "Democracy Now," by declaring that
>your broadcast had come "from the embattled studios of WBAI --
>the studios of the banned and the fired."
>We are convinced that for you to continue signing off in this manner
>during our up-coming fund drive, would not only be antithetical to
>our money raising efforts, but put you squarely in the camp of
>those seeking to sabotage those efforts. We ask therefore, that
>you stop discussing Pacifica' problems on-air, and do nothing
>detrimental to our fund drive.
>As a Pacifica veteran, you know that this rule has existed for
>decades -- and for good reason.  Our listeners support us because
>we are a bastion of truth and alternative politics and culture, one of
>the few left in a broadcast medium in which almost else operates
>under the thumb of a homogenized, monopolistic corporate media.
>In this age of George W. Bush, we are, as you yourself regularly
>put it, the one "exception to the rulers."
>As you are also aware, only the dollars of our listener-sponsors,
>the hard work of our tiny, low-paid staff and the goodwill of our
>hundreds of unpaid volunteers, enables KPFK -- and we, its
>programmers -- to remain on the air. Unlike yourself, many of us
>are also unpaid; and devote uncountable hours to KPFK because
>we passionately believe in Lou Hill's anti-war vision of social-
>justice, and of a radio station answerable to no one other than its
>own listener-sponsors.
>As we're sure you're also aware, your one-hour show, "Democracy
>Now," airs twice daily in and around prime drive-time on our station,
>and a substantial amount of the money we raise at KPFK goes to
>support your show and pay your salary.
>That is one big reason why we're convinced it would be exceedingly
>harmful for you to do anything less next week than give our fund-
>drive your whole-hearted support on-air, and to mention supporting
>KPFK by name as our fund-drive unfolds. A full commitment is
>needed from all of us, of course, because of our proud refusal to
>accept any corporate underwriting; and -- with the exception of a
>small grant from the federally funded CPB -- to exist solely on the
>funds we receive directly from our listeners.
>But there's another reason we expect your full cooperation. For the
>past several years now, a small group of dissident picketers have
>appeared outside our studio on the first day of our fund drive;
>determined to undo our hard work, and our struggle to make KPFK
>a relevant force in Southern California. This time, however, this
>group is also calling for our listeners to engage in an economic
>boycott of our station.
>In a letter dated just four days ago, for example, your former
>colleague, Juan Gonzalez, sent a letter to many of us literally
>urging that we sabotage KPFK's summer fund drive. "Do not work
>overtime to find attractive premiums," wrote Gonzalez, "shave off
>minutes from your actual time pitching funds[and] privately
>encourage listeners who are friends of yours to withhold their
>Such calls are new, but not the rumors, lies and distortions that
>have already been denounced in a letter signed by 90% of KPFK's
>staff about 18 months ago. The biggest of those lies is that we --
>the station's programmers -- are being censored by the
>management of KPFK.
>Although you occupy 10 hours a week on our airways, you're 3,000
>miles away in New York, and therefore have no direct knowledge of
>what takes place at KPFK. So we'd like to take this opportunity to
>set the record straight and ease any doubts you might have on this
>issue. Other than the very few occasions of out-right, on-air, racism
>and anti-Semitism, and violations of the dirty laundry rule,
>management has never once interfered with the content of our
>shows. Nor would we tolerate such interference.
>Those of us at KPFK fortunate enough to speak for millions of
>voiceless people living here in Southern California take our
>responsibility very seriously. We feel that to let internecine politics
>and power plays interfere with our mission at a time when all that
>Pacifica stands for is under great threat, is myopic and
>That is why we are taking our up-coming fund drive so seriously,
>and are urging you to do the same.
>Sincerely, *
>Joe Domanick -- "Beneath the Surface"
>Beto Arcos  --  "Global Village"
>Jon  Wiener -- "Beneath the Surface"
>Robert Mora -- "The Root"
>Yatrika Shah-Rais
>Marc Cooper -- "The Marc Cooper Show"
>Sergio Mielniczenko -- "Global Village"
> Susan Weissman, Beneath the Surface
>John Retsk, "Car Show"
>Jay Kagelman -- "Sound Exchange
>Art Gould -- "Car Show"
>Barbara Osborn  -- "Deadline LA"
>John Beaupre -- "Up for Air"
>Barry Smolin -- "The Music Never Stops"
>Hector Resendez -- "Canto Tropical"
>Earl Ofari Hutchinson -- "Tuesday Live"
>Simeon Pillich -- "Global Village"
Marta Russell
author, Los Angeles, CA
Beyond Ramps: Disability at the End of the Social Contract

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