Aug
14
2001

Pacifica Refuses To Distribute Democracy Now!

This morning, the Pacifica Radio Network refused to distribute the regularly scheduled broadcast of Amy Goodman's award-winning news show, Democracy Now! Instead, most listeners heard an old show with no explanation for the irregularity.

For over a year, Goodman has faced continuing harassment-- including racist and sexist slurs and physical intimidation-- at WBAI, the New York station Democracy Now! usually broadcasts from. Goodman and the Democracy Now! team showed remarkable dedication in continuing to produce their high-quality show in such a hostile environment, but over the last few weeks the harassment intensified to the point where it became impossible for them to continue working in WBAI's studios.

Accordingly, Goodman arranged to do the show from the studios of Downtown Community Television in lower Manhattan until Pacifica management could provide her a safe working environment. Democracy Now! was available for broadcast as usual, but Pacifica chose not to distribute it, though a few individual stations-- including Pacifica's KPFA in Berkeley and Pacifica affiliate WMNF in Tampa-- did pick up the show on their own initiative.

The crisis at Pacifica is ongoing, but this most recent interference with Democracy Now! began on August 2 when Pacifica's director of national programming, Steve Yasko, ordered Goodman to stop ending the show with the sign-off she has used since last year's "Christmas Coup" firings at WBAI:"From the embattled studios of WBAI, from the studios of the banned and the fired, from the studios of our listeners, I'm Amy Goodman. Thanks for listening to another edition of Democracy Now!"

When Goodman asserted her journalistic integrity and continued to use the sign-off, Yasko accused her in writing of "deliberate insubordination." Shortly thereafter, WBAI Interim General Manager Utrice Leid ordered the Democracy Now! staff out of the station's main studio, forcing them to produce the technically complex, live program from a poorly equipped sub-studio.

On August 10, according to the listeners' group Pacifica Campaign, Leid's harassment of Goodman escalated and became physical. The group reports that "according to eyewitnesses, Amy came upon two WBAI staffers rifling through the personal possessions of fired WBAI Program Director Bernard White." Goodman asked them to stop, and when they refused, Goodman got her camera and began taking photos to document the incident.

Leid arrived at that point, reports Pacifica Campaign, and "ripped the camera out of Amy's hands and stalked into an adjacent office." When Goodman demanded her camera back, Leid reportedly "laughed in Amy's face" and told her she would have the film developed herself. Leid then "physically shoved Amy out of the way and marched down the hallway to her own office" and shut the door. Goodman remained outside Leid's office until Leid returned the camera.

Pacifica Campaign also reports that due to an expensive new security and surveillance system installed by Leid, "the work environment at WBAI today more resembles the Pentagon and the CIA than a radical, community radio station." Every employee now needs a card key to enter the building; at Leid's discretion, each key can be programmed to provide only for approved time periods, such as one hour before a show begins and one hour after it concludes.

Pacifica Radio is precious because for most of its 50-year history, it has been one of the progressive community's most vital and vibrant resources, a listener-sponsored free speech radio network. Recently, however, a self-selected board majority has put that tradition at risk by disempowering listeners and local station workers and watering down the network's tradition of critical, independent programming.

FAIR is appalled by Pacifica and WBAI's harassment of Goodman and the Democracy Now! team, and we support the efforts being made by listener groups, as well as staff at some stations, to make Pacifica into a democratic, accountable and diverse network. As we have stated before, FAIR calls for Pacifica's National Board to resign in order to make way for positive change.

ACTION: There are many ways to help.

1) Rallies in support of Democracy Now! are scheduled in several cities: Los Angeles: Wednesday, August 15, 7-10 AM at KPFK, 3729 Cahuenga Blvd., North Hollywood.

New York City: Wednesday, August 15, 7 - 10 AM, at WBAI, 120 Wall Street.

Washington D.C.: Wednesday, August 15, 9:00 AM, at WPFW, 2390 Champlain St. NW. (See www.wpfw.net for more information about WPFW organizing.)

2) Listeners across the country are supporting Democracy Now! by calling andwriting to Pacifica. If you listen to one of the five main Pacifica stations, you can contact your local station directly and urge them to air current broadcasts of Democracy Now! (Berkeley's KPFA: 510-848-6767; Houston's KPFT: 713-526-4000; Los Angeles' KPFK: 818-985-2711; New York City's WBAI: 212-209-2800; Washington, D.C.'s WPFW: 202-588-0999).

3) You can also contact Utrice Leid, along with members of Pacifica's National Board.