KPFA Is More Than a Radio Station

Written by Guest Contributor. Posted in Media, Opinion, Politics

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Published on November 22, 2012 with 17 Comments

By Andrea Prichett, guest contribution

Editor’s Note: Ms. Prichett is responding to a recent op-ed by Brian Edwards-Tiekert.

November 23, 2012

It is not clear to me that Mr. Edwards-Tiekert actually believes what he is saying. Hopefully, he is just moved in the heat of intense electioneering. His November 19th guest editorial to the Fog City Journal, “Why I’m Supporting SaveKPFA in KPFA’s Board Election” makes me think that he is not really able to see, let alone understand, the motives of those who are not exclusively driven by the need for funds and fundraising.

And no, the issue is not austerity for its own sake. Fundraising is important, but only is as much as it serves the mission of the station. The issue is about serving our community.

KPFA serves as the one point of contact for local organizing and provides exposure to others who might share a like mind. It is the life-blood of Bay Area movements for change. According to the mission statement of Pacifica, we would be wrong to base all of our programming decisions on who makes the most money during the morning drive time or which show raises the most money. We actually have a mission; to give voice to the voiceless.

Long before I was elected to the Local Station Board in 2009, and before the movement to democratize, I remember when Jerry Brown had the four o’clock slot on weekdays. He was an example of what KPFA should never be; condescending, dismissive, and exclusive. He used the airwaves to further his own ambitions and, maybe he was a good fundraiser. But is that what we want? Is that the only criteria? Fortunately, one by-product of the struggles of 1999 was that Hard Knock Radio took over that 4pm time slot. Although it may not be the biggest “money maker”, it provides news and culture, it appeals to diverse and younger audiences (people under 50) and it is connecting this station to cutting edge local struggles that will win the loyalty of various communities around the Bay Area. Deciding how to balance our need for funding with the urgent need to serve our community is a delicate task.

Our candidates with United for Community Radio advocate that there be a process for making these kinds decisions. We have supported re-establishment of the program council several times. Most recently, our delegates supported a vote in which a Program Council, including two listener representatives, would begin to evaluate programs based on a number of considerations. The “Save” KPFA people voted to limit the program council to just staff and management. In fact, some of the SaveKPFA folks were in power when the last Program Council was simply ignored and allowed to languish and die. They believe that only “professionals” should have a say in what programs are offered. We believe that KPFA is a unique experiment in community radio and in order to serve the community, we must take every opportunity to include the community.

Brian also refers to a “purge” that happened at the station. Perhaps he calls it a “purge” ,but the rest of us know a seniority list when we see one. The shrill protests about purges and diabolical motives is a bit of drama that only inflames the pain of KPFA’s internal divisions. Yet, Brian’s slate (he is campaigning to be a staff representative) has the mic and access to a site they call “KPFAWorker” even though it doesn’t officially represent staff, paid or unpaid. They will probably be able to disseminate their analysis far and wide. But Brian, I just want to remind you that you are the steward of a great resource and I wish you held it with a greater sense of responsibility to the truth,. You are a point of contact for so many. I wish you felt more of a sense of responsibility to them.

Your narrative account of the aftermath of the seniority list layoffs is contrary to what the record shows. As a currently serving board member, I am not allowed to provide details of personnel issues. However, I can mention as a matter of public record that the staff who sued all eventually lost their cases before the NLRB. To this day, I believe that the dramatic shift that occurred as a result of that round of lay-offs may have saved the station. It was horrible and shocking, but we did get the budget back into line. We stopped the financial hemorrhage.

The “balanced budget” that Brian claims that SaveKPFA proposed was a matter of fiction. Remember that an optimistic board can get rid of a deficit in no time flat- just INCREASE the PROJECTION for listener donations. Make it as big as you wish it to be. If you got a big donation this year, just go ahead and pretend that another one just has to come. If you have the majority, I guess you can pass your own budgets, make your own projections, but that doesn’t make them balanced or just. Really, that is no way to balance a budget when we are already skating so close to the edge.

The main demographic of the listening community is white males over 50. They also have the most money. What principles exist to make sure that we don’t simply put on programming that will appeal to one single community just because they are able to give money?

In fact, we should not become accustomed to expanding our level of staffing until we have expand the base of listener support. For all of the shifting in fundraising that SaveKPFA has done, they have done nothing to attract new listeners. We had 22,000 listener members in 2010. Now we hover around 19,000. If the all-we-need-is-more-staff crowd were right, then we never would have had a downturn. But we did because great programming is not all we need. We need involved communities who don’t just listen but who participate! We need to forge deep ties within our listener community.

We need to have some balance. Yes, we need money, but we need a lot of things. Our main objective is simple and clear; to make our diverse programming available to those who want to hear it.

The UCR ticket believes in the network. By maintaining five centers of journalistic training, sound production and information management, we strengthen our movement. The SaveKPFA people have been so hostile to the very idea of a network that maybe now, after witnessing the outpouring of love and support for New York station WBAI that was badly damaged by hurricane Sandy, they will realize that together we are stronger. It is not good enough to just worry about KPFA. We must be good stewards of all that is owned by the people, through Pacifica.

The Pacifica Network makes it possible to balance a rich local programming grid with news that we all, as Californians or as Americans, need to know. That is the beauty of a well-run network. It can make lots of content available for re-broadcast on other stations and individual stations can choose whether to broadcast it. And although the network is not perfect, it is amazing that the Pacifica stations are part of a republic of stations that all have an empowered voice in how the network is run. We have the democratic process that allows each LSB to send delegates to the Pacifica National Board. What system would the opposition propose?

KPFA is not just a radio station. It is the hub of a large movement of resistance and nobody can lay claim to it. Let us build a better democracy within the station or else we risk being taken over from either outside or within. We are United for Community Radio at


Comments for KPFA Is More Than a Radio Station are now closed.

  1. “I didn’t try to explain how one’s single transferable vote is
    distributed on the air, because it’s no more readily understood than
    Ranked Choice Voting in San Francisco and Oakland elections,”

    Anne, you are ill-informed. RCV is understood by most voters who have used it the past few years.

  2. It IS more than a radio station.  It’s a collection of self-obsessed BORES. 

  3. There’ll be last minute ballot collection at KPFA, 1979 Martin Luther King Way in Berkeley, tonight, Sunday night, 12.09.2012, for anyone who hasn’t been able to find their ballot till now, received a ballot late, or just didn’t have time to fill their ballot out until this week.  Ballots will then be overnight mailed to make sure they get to NYC in time to be counted.  See

  4. United for Community Radio-Support KPFA’s website is:

    United for Community Radio-Support KPFA endorsers:

    The Morning Show lay-offs took place according to seniority rules because the station had spent down its reserves while refusing to make cuts.   The NLRB ruled that the union’s seniority rules were not violated.

  5. For a rebuttal, please see What SaveKPFA Stands For:

    SaveKPFA endorsers:

    Morning Show financial facts:

    “Why is KPFA broke?” vote for the 9 SaveKPFA candidates to return KPFA to health!

  6. I’m obviously partisan, for Andrea and the rest of the United fo Community Radio slate, but yesterday I produced a short non-partisan KPFA News report on the multi-seat variant of Ranked Choice Voting, Single Transferable Voting, which is supposed to create proportional representation on this Board:  

    I didn’t try to explain how one’s single transferable vote is distributed on the air, because it’s no more readily understood than Ranked Choice Voting in San Francisco and Oakland elections, but the goal is proportional representation of the KPFA community who care enough to subscribe and vote.  

  7. Andrea was dynamite, as was Laurence Shoup, in the Monday night on-air candidates’ forum:  It starts at about 36 minutes in because, if I understand this correctly, a few Save KPFA candidates were unable to get there.  

    Laurence Shoup, is the author of Rulers and Rebels: A People’s History of Early California, 1769-1901, and other books and articles, including “Richard C. Blum and Dianne Feinstein: The Power Couple of California,”, which might be of particular interest to FCJ readers.

  8. With all of the nastiness there, it is a wonder that anyone supports KPFA anymore.  This is as bad as a D5 debate as to “who’s progressive”?

    • No one makes demands on any other local media outlets like those made of KPFA.  It should do this, cover that, give voice to this and that community, this and that urgency – crimes of empire, financial crime, environmental doom.  

      One of the most aggravating things about this is how many of these people who make all sorts of demands on KPFA don’t even bother to give $25 or three hours of time to qualify to vote in the Local Station Board elections and then do it.  Most of those who do subscribe ignore their ballots.  Twenty thousand receive them and only about 2000 vote.

      I haven’t looked into this for awhile, but the last time I did, the only group putting any pressure on NPR was AIPAC.

  9. John tango Iversen here. Leftist activist for 45 years with i would say more credibility to speak on this issue as I have nothing to gain or lose.  BET has seniority and a union job. AP is grinding her own axe and self-projecting.  the UCR peeps constantly change their narrative as they go along , Mitt Romney style.  Tracy Rosenberg and Eric Brooks used the term “YOU PEOPLE” on the KPFA Listeners FB site about 3 weeks ago totally unaware of the current cultural implications, Ann Romney-style.  The on air debate this summer was owned lock stock and barrel by Tracy UCR and Matt Ward, Pacifica management.  KPFA calls were screened for content for the first time since its inception in 1949.  And when Sasha Futran got on, Ward summarily cut her off.

    I spoke to Ward that evening and he apologized for the call-screening but said of Sasha, “I saw where she was going and cut her off at 45 seconds.  She had the nerve to call from the pay phone in the station hallway”  So he timed it?  I replied, “Well, maybe she can’t afford a cell phone.”  Sasha who used to be with UCR and when she saw what they were up to (no good)  switched to Savekpfa.  Anyone who cares to take the time to view who endorses who and what the values are would eventually come around to Savekpfa.  I’ve convinced about 6 UCR peeps to go neutral and drop their endorsement of Tracy Rosenberg’s Titanic plans for Pacifica.  Sasha later informed me there is no pay phone in the KPFA hall way.

    The UCR peeps are a sorry lot, holding petty grudges or felling they’ve been dissed by someone at KPFA.  And Tracy has skillfully united them as she’s driving Media Alliance bankrupt and now wants to do the same at KPFA.  Their “other voices” argument is really an anti-union, anti-seniority argument.  No one is about to take Davey D or Dennis Bernstein off the air and the rest of the KPFA staff does not want the station to fail as they would be working to end their own jobs.

    I certainly have not gotten on kpfa everytime i’ve asked but I don’t cry over spilt milk or hold grudges.  The grudges only end up hurting the ones who hold them.  I have learned that.  And i really don’t want to be the voice of AIDS on KPFA anymore and I recommend younger peeps who are paid next to nothing to know the facts for shows on lgbtq and AIDS issues.

    UCR supporter Lisa Dettmer said KPFA shut out radical voices on the gay marriage and don’t ask don’t tell issues.  I don’t think she listens to the station.  Tommi Mecca and lesbians he has suggested have been on the Morning Show countless times with Philip Malderi as I have,  I have twice won debates with high paid lawyers from Natl Center for Lesbian Rights (ie Gay Inc) on the issue saying we should have gone for all-inclusive broadly defined civil unions for all. The laywers did not know they were talking with a poor boy whop went to Chicago and Columbia on full schlaorships and had been armed before the shows by about six of the lgbtq left intellectuals–some of whom are Terry Allen, Liz Highleyman, Tommi Mecca and Bob Ostertag.

    UCR fully suupports management of KPFA, WBAI and Pacifica.  Management is bleeding WBAI into the ground. WBAI has a debt of $3.3 million and I think owes KPFA $1 million.  Pacifica owes Amy Goodman and Democracy Now $500,000 and is behind on payments to Free Speech Radio News.  Tracy Rosenberg holds up WBAI as an example of an all volunteer radio station.  They have space at unbelievable cost and refuse to move to a space with lower rents.  WBAI management did a hatchet job at BAI in 2010.  They summarily cancelled or moved 35 shows–Rosenberg UCR would do this.  The cut there best programmer in half–Doug Henwood.  The crowning blow was putting AIDS Denialist and vitamin guru (snake venom actually) Gary Null on the air at a peak time, noonhour (and not pickled herring) Monday thru Friday.  This is due to his monied backers.  Peeps may want to check out  UCR endorser Carol Spooner is openly speaking of selling WBAI.  Mark Hernandez who deserves everyone’s #`1 vote has put foward a sound proposal to save WBAI and maintain Pacifica.  Jack Radey and I are floating the idea that no management staff should be paid more that the highest paid union workers.  Arlene Eglehart (sp?) and LaVern Williams both proved to be incompetent while receiving 2-3 tiomes the salaries of Kris Welch and Philip Malderi who do it for love not money.  Let love not money rule the day Vote the entire slate:  Some UCR endorsers are friends who are misinformed and some Savekpfa endorsers are people who have gone behind my back, reported my post as spam, and have treated me disrepectfully (but the disrespect comes mainly from Eric Brooks and Tracy).

     I am old, with AIDS and have movement cred and connections up my you know what.  What I do know is the TRUTH is at Save KPFA, despite the venom from a few of the endorsers, nit the great group of candidates.  If I may say my top 3:  Mark Hernandez from KFCF Fresno, Kate Gowen, the truthteller and since she’s running I don’t have to; and long time Oakland activist Dan Siegel who Rosenberg hates the most,  Dan Siegel has a great artilce in CounterPunch about the KPFA station, thus giving us a tip as to where Alex Cockburn stands.  The same tips have been signaled by Jill Stein, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales.  Jill by appearing with BET and Democracy Now going public with the Pacifica debt and public plea for Free Speech Radio News.  As an enrolled member of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, FSRN is very important.  FSRN has covered major stories regarding indigenous issues and were the only one or two press outlets in Northamerica to do so.  Save FSRN, Democracy Now, Pacifica Network and Save KPFA!  Please!  Miigwech yall.

    John Iversen, internationally recognized AIDS and left wing activist, Berkeley, CA

  10. Andrea,

    Thank you for articulating why I do the work I do as an unpaid staff member at KPFA.  “KPFA serves as the one point of contact for local organizing and
    provides exposure to others who might share a like mind. It is the
    life-blood of Bay Area movements for change.” 

    How can we serve our communities best?  That is the key issue of this board election.  To my mind, we need to be financially sustainable and do a unified and strong campaign to find new listeners. These are concepts the United for Community Radio (UCR) candidates understand and support.  It is why I support this team.  

    Host/Producer/Collective member, Pushing Limits, KPFA’s Disability Program

  11. Campers,

        I’m backing Eric and Annie’s endorsements for UCR.   The opposing slate and their arguments remind me in an unsettling way of the America’s Cup PR campaign.    They claimed that because of their amazing connections to the 1% that they’d be able to raise tens of millions and that these bequests should be considered as real money.    Harvey Rose tore them a new anal egress but the Board of Supes ignored him and chose to trust the 1%.   

    Surprise, surprise, they didn’t come through.

    But, the SF General Fund was already on the legal hook to cover the deficit.

    Am I right that the present Board of KPFA has already given a half million or so in high end salaries to a half dozen or so people?

    Just eliminate those positions.

    Give em a stipend of ten grand apiece if they want to continue.

    Had a very similar case in San Francisco over our cable Public Access on Channel #29.    Still got a big button hanging in my collection that is condemning someone named ‘Blane’ somethingorother for taking all of the City money and paying it out to his friends in hundred grand a year in high level jobs.

    Of course, as in the KPFA case, he bankrupted the station.

    What part of ‘non-profit’ don’t these folks understand?

    UCR slate!

    UCR slate!

    UCR  slate!

    Go Niners!



    • h.:  The salaries at KPFA aren’t high.  The Director of the Pacifica Foundation, who has to deal with five stations in five metropolitan areas, and all the demanding listeners and programmers in each one makes something close to $100,000/yr., but KPFA was supporting more staff – even at modest salaries – than pledge drives and minimal CPB funding could support, and the Board was refusing to make cuts until Pacifica Foundation management stepped in.  KPFA went through a million dollars in reserves while refusing to make cuts.

      About 70% of the staff, who produce about 80% of the programming, don’t get paid at all, despite putting tremendous amounts of time and energy in.  It would be great if the station could expand its audience and base of support and pay everyone but unless and until it does, it can’t spend beyond its means.  

    • Here’s what Michael Parenti, one of our United for Community Radio-Support KPFA slate endorsers wrote:  

      “I am supporting the United for Community Radio slate because I don’t want a KPFA that is ruled by an elite peerage of paid staff. 

      These self-appointed elites consume almost the entire budget while producing only 20 percent of the programs. I also would like the dedicated volunteer staff to be able to have an organized union voice of its own. And it would be grand if we could get more diversity in programming and personnel from time to time, bringing progressive ideas to the fore instead of the same old NPR imitations. 

      And I wish the elite paid staff would show some regard for KPFA’s (listener-supported) budget and not act as if they are pitted against a rich corporate giant.”

  12. I don’t think you guys know who Andrea Prichett is. She’s the co-founder of Berkeley Cop Watch, a founding member of the seminal women’s folk group Rebecca Riots and a much-loved teacher at Berkeley’s in Unified School District. What makes Save KPFA so entitled to tar and feather anyone who tells the truth ? It’s like the gulag. You want to argue with the factual substance of the article, go ahead. And in your own words, please. Don’t just cut and paste another Edwards-Tiekert email. 

  13. So opposing SaveKPFA’s large community of rational and caring people is anti-free speech Andrea Pritchet? The board member who has called for censorship, over and over? Talk about taking stuff with a grain of salt…

    • How is this or anything else Andrea has ever said calling for censorship?  Editorial advocacy is not censorship.  

      Andrea is not opposing rationality and care.  She is running for the Board of a non-profit corporation, KPFA.  The United for Community Radio slate has a different viewpoint than the Save KPFA slate.  That’s why there are elections, including this one: to mediate difference without warfare and, ideally, select the most representative leadership.  KPFA’s single transferable voting system, to elect multiple candidates, is designed to create proportional representation that reflects the support for competing viewpoints.
      Of course Andrea is opposing Save KPFA.  She’s running on the other slate, United for Community Radio.  Save KPFA is opposing United for Community Radio.  it’s an election.