Feb 6 2001

Support Grows for Dissenting Pacifica Board Members

Amid a crisis that threatens the future of the Pacifica Radio Network, more than 80 prominent progressives have rallied in support of the six dissidents on the Pacifica Foundation’s board. These board members want Pacifica‘s national leadership to reverse course on its takeover of WBAI, and to “build democratic decision-making structures throughout Pacifica.”

A statement supporting the dissenting board members (below) was signed by the Local Advisory Board chairs of four of Pacifica‘s five stations and by former Pacifica staffers and board members, as well as by political figures, community leaders, journalists, artists and academics. These include Dennis Brutus, Noam Chomsky, Martín Espada, Frances Farenthold, June Jordan, Tom Morello, Tim Robbins, Edward Said, Studs Terkel, Urvashi Vaid and many more.


In an action reminiscent of its closing of Berkeley’s KPFA in 1999, the Pacifica Foundation‘s national leadership is now moving against New York’s WBAI. The station’s managers have been fired, door locks changed in the middle of the night, staffers banned from the station and protesters arrested. Security guards have been brought in to enforce the changes imposed without warning or explanation by Pacifica‘s Washington, D.C.-based executive director, backed by its board leadership.

Another target of the action, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman, hangs on to her job amid harassment on air and off by Pacifica‘s national leaders and recently installed station management in New York. Meanwhile, WBAI‘s newly appointed morning show host has spoken on-air in support of the Pacifica board selling off WBAI.

For most of its 50-year history, Pacifica has been a public resource for the progressive community. Recently, a self-selected, unaccountable and secretive board majority has acted as if it owns Pacifica and has ruled by fiat. In the wake of this latest crisis, six courageous members of Pacifica‘s national board issued the following public dissent on January 18 in hopes of getting the Pacifica network back on path.

“We are deeply troubled by the recent developments at WBAI radio in New York City, one of the five stations of the Pacifica Foundation. It is not too late to remedy the situation, and we are working toward that end….

“—The National Board must take steps to ensure the immediate reinstatement of the three people fired at WBAI: Station Manager Valerie Van Isler, Program Director Bernard White and Producer Sharan Louise Harper. According to the information we have, the Pacifica Foundation‘s internal procedures were not followed, there was not compliance with union contracts, and none were informed of the cause of their firings. All three of these people should be reinstated as full time employees without further delay. Existing internal processes which address job performance, or any other concerns, must be followed.

” —The continuing ‘banning’ of long time volunteers and freelance reporters, the decision to not allow the Local Advisory Board to meet at the station, and the use of security personnel are all having a chilling effect at the station. Action must be taken now to lift the bans, to ensure that the LAB can meet at the station and to remove security people from the station….

” —As members of the National Board, we believe it is critically important to review the internal processes within the Pacifica Foundation. We must build democratic decision making structures throughout Pacifica and re-commit ourselves to work for the principles of free-speech, community-based, corporate-free radio, as first articulated by Pacifica Foundation‘s founder, Lewis Hill.

Pete Bramson [S.F. Bay area]

Leslie Cagan [New York]

Rabbi Aaron Kriegel [Los Angeles]

Beth Lyons [New York]

Tomas Moran [S.F. Bay area]

Rob Robinson [Washington D.C]”

We support the efforts of the dissenting Pacifica board members, especially their call to “build democratic decision making structures throughout Pacifica and re-commit ourselves to work for the principles of free-speech, community-based, corporate-free radio, as first articulated by Pacifica Foundation’s founder, Lewis Hill.”

(Affiliations for ID only)

Joanne Bobb, WBAI Local Advisory Board chair

Sherry Gendelman, KPFA LAB chair

David Adelson, KPFK LAB chair

Sam Husseini, WPFW LAB chair

Michael Albert, Z Magazine

Salaam Al-Marayati, Muslim Public Affairs Council

Aris Anagnos, human rights activist

Glenn Austin, Americans for Radio Diversity

Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Ben H. Bagdikian, Media Monopoly

David Barsamian, Alternative Radio

Frances M. Beal, Black Radical Congress

Joel Beinin, Middle East history, Stanford

Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies

Larry Bensky, former Pacifica national correspondent

Elaine Bernard, Harvard Trade Union Program

Patrick Bond, former Pacifica reporter

Lydia Brazon, Humanitarian Law Project

Gray Brechin, author

Michael Bronski, gay activist/scholar

Dennis Brutus, Africana Studies professor

Andrea Buffa, Media Alliance

Linda Burnham, Women of Color Resource Center

Jeff Cohen, FAIR

Noam Chomsky, MIT

Jose B. Cuellar, La Raza Studies professor

Mike Davis, author

Hari Dillon, Vanguard Foundation

Brian Dominick, community organizer

Doug Dowd, economist

Martin Espada, poet

Frances “Sissy” Farenthold, attorney/professor

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, City Lights Books

Laura Flanders, radioforchange.com

Sheryl Flowers, former KPFA host

Ted Glick, Independent Progressive Politics Network

Tami Gold, filmmaker

Dorothy Guellec, health commentator

Robin Hahnel, economics professor

Betsy Hartmann, population and development professor

Don Hazen, AlterNet.org

Edward S. Herman, author

Jim Hightower, commentator

Janine Jackson, FAIR

Diana Johnstone, journalist

Van Jones, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights

June Jordan, poet

Robin D.G. Kelley, history/Africana studies professor

Margaret Ratner Kunstler, William Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice

Matthew Lasar, Pacifica: The Rise of an Alternative Network

Aurora Levins Morales, historian, Oakland Museum

David T. Lopez, civil rights attorney

Barbara Lubin, Middle East Children’s Alliance

Robert McChesney, communications professor

Eric Mann, Labor/Community Strategy Center

Elizabeth Martinez, Institute for Multiracial Justice

Mark Crispin Miller, Project On Media Ownership

Gwendolyn Mink, politics professor

Russell Mokhiber, Corporate Crime Reporter

Tom Morello, Rage Against the Machine

Carlos Munoz, Jr., Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley

Robert Naiman, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Gus Newport, former Berkeley mayor

Kwazi Nkrumah, National Green Justice Council

Michael Parenti, author

Cynthia Peters, East Timor Action Network

Peter Phillips, Project Censored

Katha Pollitt, columnist, the Nation

Margaret Randall, author/poet

Tim Robbins, actor/director

Marta Russell, author

Edward Said, Columbia University

Angela Sanbrano, CARECEN

Luis Sanchez, Innercity Struggle

Lydia Sargent, Z Magazine

Carol Sobel, civil liberties attorney

Stephen R. Shalom, professor

Norman Solomon, columnist/media critic

Southern California Americans for Democratic Action

Makani Themba-Nixon, community organizer

Studs Terkel, journalist

Deborah Toler, Africa trade specialist

Urvashi Vaid, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Alice Walker, author

Mark Weisbrot, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Robert Weissman, Essential Action

Tim Wise, AWARE

Howard Zinn, historian