An Open Letter to Pacifica Radio’s KPFA Management – by Stephen Lendman
Subject: A “truth emergency” over censorship at Pacifica’s flagship station
By implementing early December budget and staff cuts, KPFA’s management targeted its award-winning Flashpoints Radio for extinction, sullied the name of its founder, Lew Hill, and defiled fundamental First Amendment freedoms without which no others are possible.
On April 15, 1949, Hill went on the air saying: “This is KPFA, listener-sponsored radio in Berkeley” and launched America’s first independent, listener-supported, “people’s radio” as a sanctuary for free speech, dissent, alternative voices, social justice, and human dignity unlike anything previously heard.
Unless reversed, management’s decision will deprive listeners in 30 US cities, and online globally, of some of the most vital and respected programming anywhere – thanks to the heroic work of Dennis Bernstein, Nora Barrows-Friedman, and the entire Flashpoints team, dedicated to providing accurate, in-depth coverage of the most-cutting edge issues with an array of distinguished guests.
Bernstein calls cutting 30% of its annual budget “a political battle. Management has pumped up (their internal supporters’) budgets, and at the same time tried to kill Flashpoints through intimidation and attrition, and outright disrespect. (Now management) is about to deal the show a final blow,” one as well to Pacifica’s founding purpose and stated mission to:
— “to gather and disseminate information on the causes of conflict between any and all….nations, races, creeds and colors;”
— “promote the study of political and economic problems and of the causes of religious, philosophical and racial antagonisms;” and
— distribute public information fully, accurately, objectively, and comprehensibly “on all matters vitally affecting the community.”
Hill believed Berkeley was the best place to do it because of the university and its diversity of people, hopefully as committed as he was. He and others worked from 1946 – 1949, recruited the staff, raised the money, got a license, and began broadcasting “sounds that (would) change the world,” ones now threatened with extinction.
Several years ago, I contacted Bernstein, spoke to him at length, thanked him for his work, expressed my support, sent a check directed solely for Flashpoints, then learned it was used otherwise – without my knowledge or consent.
Today’s action is the latest betrayal – attempting to silence the very best, what Lew Hill would be proud of, and what listeners greatly value and respect, Hill’s idea that:
“The people who actually do the broadcasting should also be responsible for what and why they broadcast. In short, they must control the policy which determines their actions. Whatever else may happen, we thus assign to the participating individual the responsibility, artistic integrity, freedom of expression, and the like, which in conventional radio are normally denied him. KPFA is operated literally on this principle,” and he meant never to corrupt it.
He believed in pacifism, non-violence, and free expression, and wanted programming to feature it during the height of the McCarthy era’s witch-hunts against voices on the left, ones he called “subversives, loyalty risks, unpatriotic, (and) card-carrying communists” to target the innocent and silent dissent – a spirit revived by KPFA’s management in defiance of Hill’s legacy, and a betrayal of a loyal audience’s trust.
Democracy requires a free, open, vibrant and diverse media, elements losing out to management’s decision to make KPFA a force for oligarchy, not free expression and social justice.
Support Flashpoints Radio, its co-hosts and staff.
Email KPFA General Manager Lemlem Rijio at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Demand the announced staff and budget cuts be reversed, and tell others to do the same thing. It’s our media, our choice, and our responsibility to support the right of free people to be informed – fully, openly, and accurately by heroic hosts like Bernstein, Barrows-Friedman, and others like them doing what good journalists should – their job.
Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to the Lendman News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday – Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.