Pacifica Radio: Don’t Slay the Messenger

Written by Guest Contributor. Posted in Media, Opinion

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Published on April 02, 2014 with 4 Comments

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By Samsarah Morgan, KPFA Local Station Board member

April 2, 2014

Here’s the scene:Two children are fighting. They are fighting because the elder child has taken a toy from the younger one. The younger one protests and insists: “I want my toy. This isn’t fair!” And as this child yells, he is subject to the jeers and possible abuse of the elder child.

In this house there are parents, or maybe a stressed out single parent. They have heard this before many times. “Again?” groans the parent. “You two are at this again?” The Younger child attempts to explain that’

1 – This isn’t his fault.

2 – Something really wrong, something really unjust is happening…

This parent is maxed out and in their frustration and anger turns their back on BOTH children. Or, in a very sad turn of events – punishes BOTH. The absolute worst case scenario is when the parent punishes the younger child because, no matter the underlying cause, it is the younger child who was making the most noise.

That last scenario is the absolute worst, in my opinion. The younger child faces frustration and abuse and then is punished when attempting to seek justice. The older child is emboldened by this action, and it’s all a sad script for the future.

This story played itself over and over in my mind as I listened to the Pacific National Board meeting audio archive last night.

Repeatedly, I heard a minority of voices fighting for what is right; what is duly lawful under the foundation’s charter and mandate to our community.

I heard this minority struggle in the face of disrespect and dysfunction to stop the majority of the PNB (Pacifica National Board) from making decisions that could actually hold Pacifica open to legal action. Over and over they said it’s not legal to fire a director without due process even when she has a contract. She can and will probably sue. And this will not serve an organization which is overwhelmed with other soul sucking and money wasting legal actions.

The members of this minority also objected to how this decision was made in a hastily called meeting, that some refer to as a secret meeting.

These members also brought to attention during the public portion of this meeting that Pacifica’s own attorney has stepped down due to the majority’s refusal to consider his advice.

Their fight was mighty. They fought to be heard, and to speak without interruption. They fought to block the implementation of the improper practices – all to no avail.

Why? Two reasons.

One, the majority of the board members have decided that all that seems to really matter is what they have decided is the truth. And once they are decided, they do not allow any opening for an opportunity to reconsider. And this majority used as its tool the favorite weapon of patriarchy, Roberts Rules of Order. This top-down method of facilitation and decision making does not allow for the minority to block or call to question the rush of the majority.

Suck it up! Like it or lump it! Get over it!

That’s what’s left!

Well in the world of patriarchy, the minority ought to just shut up. They lost fair and square; they ought to just “grow a pair” and let everyone get back to business…but they won’t. And I, for one, am grateful that they don’t.

They won’t because what they are fighting for is a good deal more important than in-fighting children (although young ones also deserve fair play and justice). The minority board members of the Pacifica National Board are fighting for the life of OUR community radio stations.

There are five stations and over 150 affiliates that sit at the mercy of the decisions now being made by the board majority. These stations will suffer and are suffering the loss of money, membership, grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and prestige in the minds of the community, all due to chronic shenanigans such as this.

We, the community, are the burnt out parents. I have spoken with many outstanding activists and, for the most part, the response has been a weary rolling of the eyes and words to the effect, ‘Again? They are at it again?’

And the danger here is that we are tempted to shut down and turn away; and if we do this we risk losing a vital resource. We risk the possibility of some of these stations being sold off to the highest bidder. We risk them being adsorbed into the Borg collective of corporate media, à la an entity like Clear Channel or, at least when it comes to KPFA, becoming even more of a mouthpiece of the Democratic Party than they already are.

As it stands now, we the community at least have the right and opportunity to show up at a local station board meeting (next one on April 12 (see http://www.kpfa.org/lsb/events/lsb-meeting-notice-and-agenda-april-2014) and complain, no, demand, community and culturally competent programming. We do have an apprenticeship program at KPFA struggling mightily to nurture the next generation of radio voices and technicians.

The Pacifica Mission makes this mandate very clear.  Sadly, the majority of the Pacifica Board has a very perplexing view of this mandate and their obligation within it.

We must not turn our backs.  We must not allow the other side’s noise to cause us to turn away from the injustices taking place in our back yard and across our country. These are our stations and we ought to feel secure to enter into membership and receive the benefits of community/public radio. This is not only a benefit to us, this gift of hearing what ought to be a multitude of opinions; it is a gift to those not yet born.. A gift as entrusted to us as to the Pacifica Board. One that we ought not allow our Children and their children to lose.

I understand this KPFA/Pacifica battle has been a long and disgusting one. This isn’t the first time that we , the community are being treated to tales of mysteriously padlocked office spaces. Many are not connected with the value or relevance of these stations in our daily lives. We don’t hear our journey, our life experience reflected in the programming. We perhaps have volunteered at KPFA and feel that they have suffered abuse or have a degree or two from a brother or sister who has.

And so, like that stressed out parent, we walk away, we turn up the television set and scream, “SHUT UP!”

Pacifica’s own state the obligation of the board to the community. This board is charged with being the guardians of this mission.

As I write this, Pacifica’s Executive Director, Summer Reese, has been hunkered down for over a week. She is not doing this to promote herself. She is there out of a strong sense of integrity and devotion to her job, to those stations, and to the people they serve.

The self-serving move would have been for her to walk, sue, and prevail. She has a contract and that contract has been violated. You don’t just up and fire a contracted employee with neither notice nor due process. You do not fire her when she can demonstrate point-by-point how she has acted with the needs of the station in the absolute forefront of her thinking. She could have walked, but what she is doing, she and her supporters are staying put. She is standing up for what is right and every day she is continuing to the best of her ability to execute the day-to-day running of the stations.

I am challenging my beloved community to shake off the irritation and complacency of this on-going drama. Please stop by the Pacifica office,1925 Martin Luther King Jr. Way at Berkeley Way in Berkeley, CA 94612, and offer support to Summer and your brother and sister members there. They need food and drink. They need others to sit in and join those who have been there for hours sitting in support of Ms. Reese to prevent her from being expelled from the station and her job.

It would be helpful for you to call or write pnb@pacifica.org and protest what is going on. Demand that there be a full and public accounting of the situation and insist on fairness and due process. These stations belong to us. Let’s work together to not only hold on to them, but to make them better.

And yes, there is a great deal of noise coming from Pacifica, don’t punish the messengers. If we don’t make the noise, it’s we, the community at large, who will ultimately be punished.

This is not a case of two factions who need to “learn how to get along.” This is a call for community action.

See you at the Pacifica National Office, 1925 Martin Luther King Way.

Samsarah Morgan

Samsarah Morgan

Samsarah Morgan is a mother, grandmother, counselor, doula, midwife, Oakland resident and KPFA Local Station Board Member.

  • Jim Freund

    Brava! Well said.

  • AnnGarrison

    Pacifica Directors for Good Governance filed their legal complaint in Alameda County Superior Court today.

  • AnnGarrison

    Press release from he KPFA Community Advisory Board”

    KPFA Town Hall, April 6, 4 to 6

    The KPFA Community Advisory Board wants to hear about your concerns, needs, community actions, and
    proposals for KPFA at a Town Hall meeting, Sunday, April 6, from 4 to 6 PM

    We invite listeners and community members, to share about how KPFA can best address our current cultural, political and economic challenges and interests through listener sponsored free speech radio.

    The meeting will be held at the South Berkeley Senior Center, (wheelchair accessible). At 2939 Ellis St. Berkeley, CA 94703, (near Ashby BART)

    The KPFA Community Advisory Board is a non-partisan group of KPFA listeners.

  • Chris Albertson

    Mistakes were made on both sides, but I believe that Summer Reese—of whom I have been quite critical—has nobler intentions. The more the other side expresses itself, the more I become convinced that they have but their own interest in mind. This whole, messy clash may well be dealing Pacifica a fatal blow. WBAI is certainly done for,