Category Archives: Commentary

Time Is Running Out for Us on the Left

By Sharon Kyle, New Day candidate for Transition National Chair of Pacifica and Co-Founder of the Left Coast Forum and LA Progressive
Sharon Kyle
For over 50 years, the right has stomped all over the left in its unfettered domination of the media. A few decades ago, it would have been unthinkable to turn on televised news and hear some of the outlandish assertions made on Fox News today. What we now refer to as mainstream media showed itself to be in the pockets of the war profiteers after 9/11. One need only look at which outlets posed serious questions to George W. Bush as he marched us into Iraq and Afghanistan.
Authoritarian regimes are on the rise globally with half the population of the United States demonstrating a willingness to support authoritarianism by backing Trump in the last election. The right’s control of the narrative through its network of media outlets in both television and radio have helped to make this possible.
Time is running out for the left. We don’t have the luxury of stumbling on with barely funded media, internal squabbles, financial kerfuffles and radio programs no one listens to.
For 20 years, Pacifica has operated under a governance structure that has proven itself to be ineffective. The time for change has never been more urgent. Vote YES for New Day Pacifica.

West Coast vs. East Coast Stations?

Myth: The four Vote Yes-New Day officers from the West Coast and Texas will be able to do anything they want, including selling WBAI and WPFW.
Fact: The 4 officers along with 5 locally elected station directors (one each from each station, democratically elected by each Local Station Board within nine days of the election certification and one director elected by the affiliates take office together within 15 days of the election results. The national officers are always part of a larger national Board that will also include two national staff directors and three at-large “expert” directors.
Fact: Under our present system there are over 120 Local board members and 22 National Board Members many of whom try to micromanage the network and each station. With astonishing incompetence Pacifica’s national board has fired or forced out 17 executive directors in 18 years. That in a nutshell is why Pacifica is in a downward spiral: there has been no one steadily at the helm for almost 20 years. No one steadily in charge of station management, fundraising, outreach –or anything!
Pacifica’s audiences are minuscule compared to their potential listenership. Many of Pacifica’s once fiercely loyal long-term listenership is long gone. An active and enthusiastic fan base once embraced the network’s news reporting and commentary, music and culture and grassroots activism. Our job is to win them back and connect with thousands of others who will appreciate Pacifica’s progressive perspective.
For more than a half-century, Pacifica broadcast news, opinion and in-depth analysis that could not be aired anywhere else in America. Its broad, loyal, thoughtful listenership brought real clout to the political spectrum. The incredible range of progressive, cultural and spiritual voices it carried was a source of pride at a well-run network with powerful signals in major media markets. The Pacifica flagship stations and its many affiliates were proudly appreciated by serious seekers and activists everywhere. THIS is what New Day Pacifica is hoping to bring back to Pacifica.
In the alternative, are snake oil infomercials the way out of Pacifica’s problems?
Myth: Pacifica is in decent shape already, so no major changes are needed.
Fact: Three of the five stations are in financial crisis, which unless turned around will sink the network. The biggest threat to the network is not the New Day Bylaws—it is refusing to change the present ones which have led to this crises.
Myth: The New Day Leaders are corporatist “power grabbers” who don’t care about the individual stations.
Fact: The New Day Leaders are a multi-racial (Black, White, Asian & Jewish) group of progressive activists and fierce supporters of Pacifica who are committed to uniting and revitalizing all five stations. As a group, their “street cred” includes Anti War Activists fighting to end the Vietnam war, Iraq, Iran, Israel/Palestine, Afghanistan wars and engagements; civil rights, civil liberties and Black Lives Matter activists.
Sharon Kyle: Co-Founder of the Left Coast Forum and LA Progressive, featuring such writers as Richard Wolfe, and Bill Fletcher, Jr. Candidate for the Pacifica Transition National Chair.
Jan Goodman: President of the National Lawyer’s Guild’s LA Chapter, Co-Founder of the Paul Robeson Community Center in South Central LA. Candidate for the Pacifica Transition National Co-chair.
Akio Tanaka: County Councilor and Treasurer–Green Party of Alameda County. Candidate for the Pacifica Transition National Secretary.
Lynden Foley: Involved in Texas protests including the encampment outside George W. Bush’s ranch and Indivisible Houston’s weekly protests outside Senator Cornyn’s office after Trump was elected. Candidate for Pacifica Transition National Treasurer.
Myth: Vote Yes-New Day have no plans to solve Pacifica’s financial and listenership problems.
Fact: Vote Yes-New Day Pacifica’s Ten Point Plan is an initial blueprint to addressing Pacifica’s financial, organizational and leadership problems. The cornerstone of the plan is to hire and support a media-experienced executive director dedicated to the Pacifica mission.

Tired of Snake Oil on WBAI? Vote YES on the Bylaws Proposals

Boku, Youthblast and Corrine’s Hot Plants.
WBAI has lots of unique amazing public affairs and cultural programs. But for three hours every day WBAI plays hour-long infomercials, preempting our favorite shows. These snake oil informercials drive WBAI’s loyal listenership away, resulting in a WBAI funding crisis that WBAI management has decided can only be addressed with more and more snake oil infomercials.

WBAI’s top fund-raising premiums are Boku, Youthblast and Hot Plants. The Boku premium is a one-month supply of superfood for $150. Youthblast is an anti-aging supplement and spray for $200. Hot Plants is a sex drive supplement for $80-150.

WBAI has a proud progressive history of supporting social justice movements and playing cutting edge music and cultural programs. Snake oil programming has no place on a Pacifica station.

Read former WBAI producer Doug Henwood’s story (Behind the News still airs on KPFA). He criticized the snake oil premiums years ago and WBAI management took his show off the air as a result.

Vote Yes on the bylaws to stop the infomercials and get WBAI back to its progressive roots and tradition.

Top 10 Reasons to Vote Yes

From NDP’s May 31, 2021 email:

Top 10 Reasons to Vote Yes

1. Pacifica staff you know and respect are voting Yes to change the Pacifica bylaws so we can save KPFA, KPFK, KPFT, WPFW, and WBAI.

Aileen Alfandary
Aileen Alfandary, KPFA News Director (also heard on KPFK): “The current bylaws structure has encouraged dismal mismanagement which threatens the continued existence of the nation’s only progressive radio network.”

Sonali Kolhatkar
Sonali Kolhatkar, Host of Rising Up with Sonali, heard on KPFK, KPFT, and KPFA: “I’ve been shocked year after year watching the local and national boards hamper the workings of stations, undermine worker rights, and generally stand in the way of the Pacifica network thriving.”

Egberto Willies
Egberto Willies, KPFT Host of Politics Done Right: “I am absolutely sure that everyone on both sides of the by-laws debate loves the Pacifica Network and what is best for it. I did not make up my mind to support the new by-laws until just recently, when I finally understood why the current dynamics were untenable. Insanity, doing the same thing and expecting a different result, will ensure Pacifica continues its death spiral. Direct democracy is an antidote to factions as we are learning now with our own national politics.”

Ian Masters
Ian Masters, KPFK Host of Background Briefing: “The Pacifica Foundation is run by a dysfunctional Board incapable of raising funds and in denial of its looming debt. Please do your part and sign the New Day Pacifica bylaws petition.”

2. Listeners want a solid professional radio network: well-run, without constant desperate fund drives and the fear of being shut down and sold off – with great progressive shows and music reflecting Pacifica’s diversity.

3. Current bylaws have led to organizational crisis and impending financial disaster.

4. New Day Transition Officers named in the new bylaws love and are devoted to saving Pacifica. They have stellar progressive activist bios and strong financial backgrounds. With a newly elected functional New Day Pacifica Board, Pacifica can finally hire a stable, long-term Executive Director with media management experience to return Pacifica to financial and organization health. They are neither corporatists, capitalists, dictators, or fascists as name-called in the Vote No literature.
5. Pacifica’s dysfunctional national board has burned through 17 Executive Directors in 18 years, leaving the Foundation essentially leadership for 18 years.

6. Vote Yes so we can save and strengthen all five stations, including WBAI and WPFW.

7. Pacifica has failed every financial audit since 2013. Independent auditors have encouraged Pacifica to consider bylaws revisions “to simplify and encourage more productive meetings… The Foundation and its several stations would benefit from changes designed to achieve a more productive governance process.”

8. Pacifica has forfeited over $7 million in federal grant money since 2013 due to organizational dysfunction. Pacifica was finally totally kicked out of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting grant program last year for not paying back a requested $137,000 overpayment that was 7 years overdue.

9. Pacifica does not have the reserves to pay the $3.2 million loan payment, now due October 2022. This tipping point for the financial cratering of the Foundation has luckily been put off 18 months, but without massive amounts of fundraising from progressive funders and celebrities and doubling our membership, Pacifica may not survive. The $2 million in Covid grant money went to payroll and other long-overdue debts, NOT toward the $3.2 million loan.

10. Reinvigorated, democratically elected Local Station Boards will actively support their stations with fundraising, community feedback on the station’s programming, and all-hands-on-deck efforts to help double the station’s membership. LSBs will “work with station management to ensure that station programming fulfills the purposes of the Foundation and its response to the diverse needs of the listeners (demographic) and communities (geographic) served by the station.” (NDP bylaws)

Questions about Pacifica losing federal funding, failing audits, having no reserves for upcoming $3.2M loan payment, Pacifica’s lack of stable staff leadership?

Pacifica is in trouble, and desperately needs your help. Dysfunctional bylaws have made it impossible for Pacifica’s National Board, though well-intentioned, to function. The network’s financial decline and debt burden have worsened to a crisis point over the last ten years. The board, tangled up in unworkable bylaws, is unable to stabilize the situation or turn things around. This puts the future of an invaluable, irreplaceable progressive asset in grave peril.

Pacifica has forfeited millions of dollars in federal funding since 2013.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting stopped funding Pacifica in 2012 after Pacifica refused to pay back a $137,000 overpayment uncovered by a regular CPB audit. Pacifica only paid back the $137,000 last year after CPB announced it was dropping Pacifica from its grant program. Pacifica was way too late to be reinstated to the grant program; Pacifica now has to start over from the beginning with a totally new application to re-enter the CPB grant program (and Pacifica does NOT currently meet CPB’s minimum qualifications). See CPB’s May 22, 2020 letter to Pacifica.

The Pacifica Board has forfeited over seven million dollars in CPB grant funding since 2012. This annual million dollars was divided among the five stations to help pay expenses and fund new programs.

Pacifica has failed every financial audit since 2015.

Auditors since 2015 have said they have “substantial doubt about the organization’s ability to continue as a going concern”. That’s the language Auditors use to say an organization is in extremely bad shape. Review Pacifica’s audits.

Pacifica has no reserves to pay a $3.2 million dollar loan payment. Despite the FJC lender’s written offer in October to extend the $3.2 million loan payoff one year, the National Board apparently still hasn’t nailed down a formal extension of the loan due April 2 2021. The National Board has known for at least two years that it would not be able to put aside $3.2 million, and that loan default meant losing station buildings at KPFA, KPFK and/or KPFT. While New Day Pacifica is very hopeful that Pacifica will be able to get an extension from the lender based on FJC’s October offer to Pacifica, the fact that the Pacifica Board still hasn’t nailed down the details reflects the profound dysfunction generated by Pacifica’s current governance structure and bylaws. (At their February 25 meeting the National Board was still discussing whether or not they should ask the lender for an extension. We understand that since that time the Board has decided to ask for a loan extension.)

Pacifica’s Executive Directors are constantly changing, with 17 EDs both permanent and interim in 18 years. This means there has been no stable leadership at Pacifica in 18 years.

One of the National Board’s central roles is to hire and support an Executive Director with media management experience to run the network, fundraise and supervise the stations. The National Board has chased out or fired every experienced ED they have hired during this time because the Board micromanages ED decisions. As a result, the ED position has largely been filled by current or former National Board members (sometimes paid, sometimes volunteer)in long-term “interim” positions. None of these Interim Executive Directors have had media management experience.

More on Differences between the PRP and NDP Bylaws Proposals

The New Day Pacifica (NDP) bylaws proposal is completely different than last year’s losing PRP proposal.

Differences include the role of the Local Station Boards, whether or not to have staff on the National Board, and whether or not the majority of the National Board would be elected listeners and staff (New Day) or appointed experts (PRP).

Role of the Local Station Board: Last year’s PRP Bylaws would have eliminated the Local Station Board structure. New Day Pacifica refocuses the duties of the LSBs on community outreach, fundraising and supporting the stations rather than counterproductive micromanagement.

Whether or not staff represented on the Pacifica National Board: PRP eliminated staff representation on the National Board. With New Day, staff for the first time will directly elect their National Board directors.

Composition of the majority of the new National Board: With PRP the majority of the National Board would be appointed experts, not elected listeners and staff. With New Day, the majority of the 15-member National Board will continue to be elected listeners and staff, with three appointed experts.)

For more information, see the Detailed Description of the NDP Bylaws.

Also see more about the relationship between the March 2020 (PRP) Bylaws and the New Day Pacifica version