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Nationwide protest targets Pacifica radio

By Jon Mays Daily Planet Staff
Friday November 17, 2000

The Grassroots Radio Coalition pulled Pacifica Radio Network programming off 20 radio stations across the nation Thursday to protest what it calls “the on-going crisis” at the network. 

Although it was business as usual at KPFA, listeners at affiliated stations as far away as Portland, Maine, and Tampa, Fla., heard alternative programming such as Free Speech Radio News instead of regular radio shows such as Democracy Now! hosted by Amy Goodman. 

The KPFA/Pacifica Radio Network conflict arose in July 1999 after Pacifica officials did not renew a popular KPFA general manager’s contract and directed staff not to talk about the situation. Programmers and radio hosts protested leading to a lock-out at the station and a three-day protest in the streets during which, more than 50 people were arrested. Although the station re-opened later that month, there is still tension between station supporters and Pacifica. 

“All the stations are drained by this situation and we want democracy to return to Pacifica,” said Cathy Melio, one of the protest’s organizers. “We want to shine a light on this situation and that there are efforts happening to democratize (Pacifica Radio Network). It’s meaningful that we’ve taken time out of our lives to take a stand.” 

The protest is a follow-up to last year’s “Day without KPFA” in which Melio said a PNN news director was reassigned for reporting on the boycott and prompted the departure of host Verna Avery Brown from PNN. 

PNN’s Washington, D.C., headquarters was closed by the time the protest was reported, although a worker at the station said KPFA’s news room put a report on the boycott on the air. 

Still, Melio believes Pacifica has been less than responsive to its listeners and its workers since the Berkeley protest.  

“They need to be held accountable and get more boardmembers who care about Pacifica,” she said. “The corporate people don’t care and the strength of community programming is the community. It’s important for it to become a great force like it used to be.”