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[Nettime-bold] FAIR on Pacifica
jon lebkowsky on 12 Apr 2001 19:20:39 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] FAIR on Pacifica

Last February I posted a message to nettime re. Ronda Hauben's concerns
about WBAI's failure to air Democracy Now! one day.  I noted that the
program was back on the air the next day, and there seemed to be no evidence
that WBAI or Pacifica was ditching the program.  In fact, as many of you
know by now, there's quite a mess evolving at WBAI and Pacifica. There's a
good summary (as of March 28) at the FAIR site. I apologize if this has
already been posted and I missed it.


Pacifica Silences Discussion; Listeners Lose Out

Stations censor or fail to air scheduled shows about Pacifica crisis

March 28, 2001

The Pacifica radio network has been known for decades as the home of
"listener-sponsored free speech radio." But recent incidents in which
Pacifica stations have failed to air regularly scheduled shows featuring
discussions of Pacifica have left the network's listener/sponsors in the
dark about the growing Pacifica debate, even as mainstream media outlets are
reporting on the story.

While instances of Pacifica stations censoring or failing to air discussions
about the network have been reported over the past several years, since
December's "Christmas coup"-- when workers at Pacifica's New York City
station, WBAI, were fired and banned from the station-- incidents of
Pacifica management silencing news about the network have increased

Recent instances in which Pacifica stations censored, silenced, or failed to
air discussions about the controversy include:

* March 26: Three days after a Los Angeles forum about Pacifica attracted
more than 1,200, Pacifica executive director Bessie Wash interrupted the
national broadcast of the show Democracy Now! to accuse critics of Pacifica
management of participating in or encouraging violence. In the emotional
four-and-a-half minute address, Wash served up inaccuracies and highly
disputed allegations as facts, recounting two recent incidents in which she
says critics physically assaulted Pacifica employees. Wash's actions suggest
that Pacifica's "dirty laundry rule"-- which threatens broadcasters with
disciplinary action if they discuss the Pacifica crisis on-air-- only
applies to those with whom Wash and Pacifica management disagree. (Several
broadcasters have lost their jobs for violating this rule.)

* March 16: Washington, D.C.'s WPFW censored an edition of Democracy Now!
featuring a debate between Pacifica board member John Murdock and former
Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez, who has called for the removal of some
Pacifica National Board members and a boycott of station fundraisers.

* Week of March 12: FAIR's radio show CounterSpin featured a discussion with
three Pacifica critics. (Pacifica management did not return several phone
calls asking them to participate.) Only one of Pacifica's five stations--
Berkeley's KPFA-- aired CounterSpin as scheduled. Los Angeles' KPFK aired a
documentary about Lady Bird Johnson instead, while New York's WBAI aired an
old edition of the show. Houston's KPFT did not air CounterSpin's Pacifica
program until two weeks after it was scheduled. WPFW canceled CounterSpin in
1999, following an earlier edition of the show that focused on Pacifica
issues. CounterSpin has been censored or altered numerous other times by
Pacifica stations when it has addressed the Pacifica crisis. (See "Pacifica
Station Axes CounterSpin": http://www.fair.org/activism/pacifica-wpfw.html.)

* March 13: After weeks of refusing to allow Amy Goodman to assume her usual
role as co-host of WBAI's Wake Up Call, interim WBAI station manager Utrice
Leid officially fired Goodman from the program. Leid's action followed
Goodman's written complaint that she had been harassed by Clayton Riley,
whom Leid had appointed as a temporary host on Wake Up Call. Wake Up Call
news anchor Robert Knight, who had also been covering Pacifica, was informed
of his dismissal from the show a month before Goodman.

* March 9: Mario Murillo, another co-host of Wake Up Call, resigned from the
show after refusing to submit to management orders not to book Goodman as a
guest on the Wake Up Call, a show Goodman had co-hosted for years.

* March 5: WBAI's Leid interrupted and then canceled the labor show Building
Bridges while host Ken Nash was conducting a live interview about Pacifica
with Congressman Major Owens. The show's other host, Mimi Rosenberg, had
been fired and banned from WBAI studios several days before; Nash was
dismissed after the cancellation. Owens has since described himself as
"gagged" in a speech on the floor of Congress, noting that Leid had
"proclaimed that she had to intervene because it was her job to allow only
the 'truth' over the airwaves."

* March 1: Houston station KPFT censored Democracy Now!'s announcement of an
upcoming meeting of the Pacifica National Board in Houston.

* February 28: WPFW cut away from a Democracy Now! commentary on Pacifica by
Pennsylvania death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, airing jazz music instead.

* February 14: Three separate independent websites featuring discussion of
Pacifica issues-- savepacifica.net, wbai.net, and wbaifree.org-- received
letters from Pacifica's lawyers at the firm Epstein, Becker & Green
threatening suit if the listener groups that run the websites did not
transfer the rights to the domain names to Pacifica by February 19.

* January 31: Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez resigned on-air; WPFW and
KPFT cut away from his statement to other programming. Gonzalez cited
harassment and muzzling of free speech as key reasons for his departure.

For most of its 50-year history, Pacifica has been a vital and vibrant
resource for the progressive community. Recently, however, a self-selected
board majority has acted to disempower listeners and local station workers,
watering down the network's tradition of critical, independent programming.
Listener groups, as well as staff at some stations, have organized ongoing
protests against Pacifica's management and in support of a democratic,
accountable and diverse network.

For more information, please visit:


jon lebkowsky    jonl {AT} well.com

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