Most mornings, especially while driving to school, I listen to the radio station KPFA 94.1 for local and international news coverage. KPFA is more than a radio station – it’s an education. It is a community radio station established after World War II by the famous Berkeley pacifist, Lew Hill. The station is a part of the Pacifica network, a media network which reports all over the world and includes programs such as Democracy Now!
As a progressive, I feel my opinions are represented in KPFA’s coverage better than anywhere else on the dial, including NPR. Unfortunately there are political wars happening at the station between different segments of the staff and this programming is in danger of being lost.
On Nov. 9, I was among thousands of KPFA listeners listening to “Morning Show” staff getting laid off on live radio. This is only the latest turn of events at KPFA. The station has had an ongoing internal dispute stretching back to the middle of the 1990’s.
Back then, the management tried to eliminate several shows produced by local volunteer staff. This dispute was, at its core, about the type of programming the station carried and how much influence the unpaid staff had on the station board. The unpaid volunteer staff used to belong to the employees’ union, but the paid staff voted to join a different union, disempowering the volunteers of their union sway.
“The Morning Show” staff were all paid employees. According to KPFA managemennt, they were laid off due to budget cuts. The station operates off of listener pledges. A few times a year the station asks its listeners to contribute donations. KPFA does not accept corporate sponsorships.
In the past, the station ran on a mostly volunteer staff. In recent years, full time paid staff doubled. During that time, KPFA’s subscribers have decreased by 20 percent.
“As a progressive, I feel my opinions are represented in KPFA’s coverage better than anywhere else on the dial, including NPR.”
The staff of “The Morning Show” pointed out that their show raised the highest amounts during the fund drives. Therefore, eliminating the show was defeating the purpose of financial solvency. The show’s staff asked the station manager Arlene Englehardt to state her salary, which she declined to do.
The laid-off staff filed an unfair labor practice charge against the station on Friday, Nov. 5. The union staff had offered the management a cost saving plan that would have eased the financial concerns, but this plan was rejected by management as too minor to sufficiently address the budget problems.
In the mid 1990’s, in response to the station management’s attempts at cutting programming, a group of unpaid staff, listeners and activists organized a group called ‘Save KPFA’ to counter the managements actions. In the current dispute, a new ‘Save KPFA’ group has formed. The agenda of this group is very different than the group from 15 years earlier, and many listeners feel that the new group’s intentions are to make the station more mainstream.
Voices such as Mumia Abu Jamal, death row inmate and progressive African American writer, would not be heard at all if not for KPFA. Today the station has evolved to represent its local listeners’ perspectives. KPFA’s audience can join the decision making process by donating at least $25.00 a year and becoming a member.
This station has struggled to air voices from all corners of the world. These alternative voices are the essence of KPFA.
Let’s not lose these voices! As a long time listener of “The Morning Show” and an advocate for the inclusion of diverse perspectives, I urge you to make this donation and ensure that alternative media continues to thrive.