Progressive Radio Moves Right
KPFK ENDS HOPE OF AFFIRMATIVE
ACTION, QUASHES GRASSROOTS DEMOCRACY FOR PACIFICA
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
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
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
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.