Jul 1 1999

Crisis at KPFA Underscores Need for Reconciliation

In April, FAIR called on Pacifica Radio to adopt more open and accountable management processes, in the wake of intense protests over the dismissals of KPFA general manager Nicole Sawaya and veteran journalist Larry Bensky.

Recent events at KPFA, Pacifica‘s flagship station in Berkeley, CA, have served to underscore the need for mediation and dialogue between Pacifica management and its listeners, staff and the communities they intend to serve. The fact that a large majority of contributions to KPFA during its recent fund drive were designated as being made under protest should have led management to rethink its policies and approach.

Unfortunately, Pacifica management seems to have taken a very different course. The arrest of protesters at the station, the installation of armed guards at the station and the imposition of strict regulations on guests at the station have done nothing to ease the tension or cool tempers in this dispute. In fact, the actions take by Pacifica have produced just the opposite, inciting further protest from listeners as well as KPFA staff. A network founded 50 years ago by renowned pacifist Lew Hill is certainly no place for such tactics.

It is imperative that this sad turn of events end immediately. Pacifica‘s status as a forum for progressive news and opinion with the capacity to reach millions of listeners make it a rarity in the world of hyper-commercialized corporate media. FAIR calls on Pacifica management to make the first step in this process, by opening up a constructive dialogue with all parties, and putting an end to the siege mentality currently on display in Berkeley.

Overreaction and polarization have not been demonstrated by Pacifica management alone. But as trustees of one of the progressive movement’s most valuable resources, Pacifica‘s directors bear the primary responsibility and should take the lead in bridging the widening rift.