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1999 Letter to LA Weekly re: slanted coverage about Pacifica

by David Adelson Thursday, Mar. 28, 2002 at 7:36 AM
dadelson@ucla.edu

In July 1999, the LA Weekly published an article on the conflict surrounding Pacifica's lockout of the KPFA staff in Berkeley. Though that article was vastly superior in reportage to Ella Taylor's recentwork, then as now, the coverage was slanted and erroneous. This letter was sent to the Weekly in response.

August 9, 1999

Dear LA Weekly,

I am writing to express appreciation for your choosing to cover the recent events at KPFA in Berkeley in your July 30-August 5, 1999 edition (Tuned In, Turned On and Locked Out by Kate Coleman). However, I am concerned that the article, which gave prominence to the position of former Pacifica Executive Director Pat Scott and quoted her at length, provided no balance from similarly knowledgeable people with an opposing view. The only other quote was a brief comment from an unnamed management source. More balanced reportage might have prevented errors of fact such as the claim that the litigants in the suit being brought against the Pacifica Governing Board for eliminating the voting rights of members of station advisory boards have agreed to federal mediation with Pacifica. Pacifica has agreed to federal mediation is with the KPFA Steering Committee, an eleven member group including community members, paid and unpaid staff. This mediation has no relationship to the lawsuit. Pacifica indicated in a letter to our attorney dated June 28 that it does not recognize the merit of the action, and to our knowledge has not indicated anything to the contrary as yet.

This, however, is a small point. I am most concerned about the article's representation of the arguments against what has been occurring at Pacifica over the last several years. For example, in discussing the situation here in Los Angeles (KPFK), the article states: "As at Berkeley, station loyalists are suspicious about moves to broaden the audience base. To them, such talk verges on corporatization." This construction is precisely the argument used by the Pacifica administration to discredit its critics. It suggests that opposition to the administration equates with opposition to increased listenership. It does not. The issue of corporatization, i.e. the structure of the institution, is distinct from the question of how market performance will be measured and responded to. The central issue is what the corporate structure will be: who has decision-making authority at Pacifica, by what right it is granted, and how non-market (democratic) values are treated in relation to market (fundraising and ratings) values. The Governing Board of Pacifica has weighed in on this point. It asserts that it and its executives shall have sole authority in decision making, and the recently enacted changes in governance we are suing to reverse make the Board entirely self-selecting.

Ms. Scott suggested that those who have opposed the changes occurring at Pacifica over the last five years, changes she was instrumental in promoting, are "losers." The fifteen thousand protesters who marched in the Bay Area on July 31st were in essence contesting the right of the Pacifica Governing Board and the Pacifica administration to make that judgement without their knowledge and consent.

Respectfully yours,

David W. Adelson, Ph.D.

Acting Chair, KPFK Advisory Board

Plaintiff, Adelson v. Pacifica Foundation

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