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by Unchained fury Monday, Aug. 25, 2003 at 9:50 PM

KPFK votes against diversity, grassroots democracy, moves left-wing Pacifica Foundation to the right

Progressive Radio Moves Right


In a sharp reversal of its historic support for affirmative action, the KPFK Radio 90.7 Local Advisory Board yesterday voted by a nail-biting margin for a bylaws proposal (Plan B) without affirmative action remedy.  Plan B, unlike other proposals, has no mechanism for a failure of its subscribers to elect boards with ethnic, gender, or social diversity.

As the last Local Advisory Board needed to pass Plan B for the Pacifica network, the LAB's reversal may install Plan B as the organizational framework for the Pacifica Radio Network Foundation if legal challenges do not arise.

Without assurance of diverse boards, Pacifica Foundation endangers its status and funding as a "majority minority" owned radio network under Corporation for Public Radio broadcasting guidelines.  KPFK's vote removes Pacifica from a shrinking list of progressive "minority" non-profits.  Such status for Pacifica's stations now will depend on the varying outcomes of annual local elections.

The vote also threatens CPB funding for the network, which is struggling with unscheduled fund drives and incessant campaigns for additional donor support, to recover from the years of lawsuits and financial misappropriation that culminated in the new bylaws..

Numerous alternative plans, including one modeled after the recently-upheld University of Michigan's Law School admissions process, were derailed by some members of the current national board and organized groups of listeners from other stations, who bombarded the KPFK LAB with e-mails and phone calls.

Plan B has been widely opposed by peoples of color throughout the network since it first arose in February in response to a corporate attorney's recommendation that Pacifica avoid the use of numeric goals for diversity, in spite of CPB regulations.  

A several-years struggle against centralization and firing programmers of color ended in a court-ordered settlement in January 2002 mandating the Foundation revise its bylaws to include subscriber elections of its local and national boards, and reinstate its local boards, including that at KPFK. 

Last month, Pacifica's national board appealed a vote of its own directors to the settlement court.  The Oakland court determined that the three national Directors, who had voted for none of the three plans before them, had effectively abstained from voting and would not be counted among the number needed for 2/3rds approval of Plan B.  With this national "approval" of Plan B, the five station boards voted on Plan B.  KPFK rejected Plan B by a single vote, joining stations in Washington DC and New York City.  The stations' votes, which should have ended hopes for Plan B, were reported to the court by its July 23rd deadline. 

A facilitation process began last weekend, with an agenda and facilitators determined unilaterally by Foundation Chair Leslie Cagan (also of the Peace and Justice Coalition), after Cagan after cancelled a public national board meeting which might have reconsidered the national board's vote supporting Plan B.  Last week, in spite of the continuing process, Cagan distributed a confusing memo about the chances of a successful outcome to the facilitation process.  

The memo and reports from a few of those involved in facilitation (two of whom were flown in to address the local board meeting), led to one KPFK board member's decision to support Plan B, and may have entrenched others in their determination that "passing bylaws now" was a necessary step for the Foundation.  A LAB member reported at the local meeting that Cagan, in a private conversation, had concluded that the facilitation process was in difficulty, shoring up that member's vote for Plan B. 

The 47-page bylaws continues much of the centralization that threw the network into turmoil in the late 1990s.  It permits the national board to mandate local programming, limits local representatives' access to station financial records, and restricts which bylaws amendments listeners may vote on, among other provisions that allow for strong top-level control of the network. 

The KPFK LAB had, over the past nine months, repeatedly endorsed requirements for including women and people of color on Pacifica boards, as well as greater local board and subscriber control.  

With its vote, KPFK, a widely-respected voice for Southern California progressives, breaks ranks with DC and New York sister stations, and joins more cautious stations in Berkeley and Houston.  

KPFK programming has recently moved to diversify its public affairs and cultural programming, including reviving the African-American Mental Liberation Weekend and adding Spanish-language programs.  The impact of the local board's vote on these programming changes remains to be determined. 

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Free Pacifica.....? lynx-13 Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2003 at 12:01 AM
reverse racisim wavemaster Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2003 at 1:18 AM
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