Commentary: KPFA Staff Has Refused to Implement Local Station Board’s Decisions By BILL MANDEL

Tuesday August 30, 2005

Bob Baldock’s commentary in last weekend’s edition is astonishing. It is a combination of contempt of court and frank admission that the entrenched staff at KPFA has no use for the democracy its broadcasts preach to the world. 

A court decision put an en d to the rule over Pacifica by people we at the station called the hijackers. It required the formulation of a new set of by-laws and elections to adopt them and to choose members of local station boards for each of the five stations. A remarkably large number of people had the patience to write those by-laws via endless e-mail discussions. 

A great deal of negotiation went into formulating bases of representation of the various players (paid staff, unpaid staff, affirmative action requirements to assure full representation of ethnic minorities and women). It was only far-reaching concessions in representation that finally coaxed paid staff to deign to associate with the rest of us in the local station board, which differs from the previous local advisory board in that it has real powers. 

But now the station board has dared to exercise those powers. It decided, fully two years ago, to make a time change that would give Pacifica’s proudest human product, Amy Goodman, access to prime drive time, requiring the Morning Show to move to the second best hour. The paid staff has simply refused to implement that, flat insubordination that merits dismissal in any union contract worthy of the name. 

Now, for three months, the board has given the fullest imaginable hearing to the charges of those who want Roy Campanella dismissed as manager. At the end, the vote was totally surprising to board members opposing such action. They had thought, on the basis of its actions in various other respects, that the decision would be by something like a one-vote margin. Instead it was 15 to 5 to retain Mr. Campanella. 

So now Baldock tells us that votes don’t count and powers will be ignored. Despite the existence of a manager found after a long and careful search, he says that “Essentially the same workers then being endorsed (in the huge demonstration and parade of 1999) are running the radio station now.” Among the 20 members of the elected Local Station Board who voted for or against Campanella’s dismissal, I recognize one n ame of an individual who can be classed as having been endorsed in 1999. 

At the National Board meeting held in Berkeley in March, 2004, I, like all who were not members of that body, had two minutes in which to set forth a position, so I prepared my rema rks beforehand. The key sentence reads: “I believe the biggest problem facing the new National Board in accomplishing anything whatever, particularly in programming, is breaking the stranglehold that the senior paid staffs now have on the stations.” It won a standing ovation. 


Bill Mandel was a KPFA broadcaster for 37 years.