Commentary: Listeners Marched to Support KPFA, Not Staff By MARA RIVERA

Friday September 02, 2005

I was one of those 12,000 or more KPFA supporters Bob Baldock referred to in his Aug. 26 opinion piece, and I have a different take than Mr. Baldock (for whom I have a lot of respect) on both the meaning of that march for KPFA six years ago and of the present situation. We did not march to support the staff, but the station. And we listeners not only won it back, but we won recognition as the guardians of the station, and network, and a role in station and network governance which we hadn’t had before. Now we find some staff blocking us in this role.  

I was out there to preserve the community ownership of the radio station which was my trusted source of information about our world. I’ve been a listener/supporter of KPFA since 1962 and as a leftist I pay attention to dissident views, and that is why I participated in movements to democratize the station and stop the corporate takeover, long before 1999 (Take Back KPFA and Save KPFA). It was not to support just the station staff—the station is more to me than just particular individuals. I was happy to see staff support the autonomy of the station from the forces trying to gag and sell it, but I was well aware that this struggle began long before 1999 and that previously much of the staff had had much denial for the situation and little support for those trying to save the station. 

It was an amazing victory when we won the station back and won democratic participation for the listeners, who were instrumental in the victory. Our governance was changed from a general manager and an “advisory five stations’ representation on the National Board. 

I don’t know all the details of the sexual harassment charges and denials, but I see that this elected board has taken it very seriously, spending many hours investigating it, and found Mr. Campanella not guilty as charged. I am a feminist but am all too aware of these charges being used to manipulate situations. 

And as someone who keeps up with governance at the station, I am also aware that there is a basic struggle going on there for the last two years at least, between those who want a station run by shared decision making, and those who have de facto power and want to preserve it. I have been a part of various democratic collectives over the years, and I can tell you two things: Democratic decision making is essential to the health of community organizations, and those who have the power want to keep the status quo and will fight to the death—the death of their principles!—to preserve it! This is what is really going on: The general manager was trying to include others in the decisionmaking, and various forces on the staff are trying to push him out, just as they did the former GM, Gus Newport.  

This is all very heartbreaking and confusing to most of us. We love and identify with the brave and true hosts and commentators on KPFA, and actually know them personally if we are staff. But, I have to say, we are also being manipulated with such issues as harassment, feminism, workers vs. management, violence, a safe workplace, unity, and they are all red herrings, whether intentional or not. 

I will offer some websites as well: go to www.PeoplesRadio.net for pro-democracy articles; also www.IndyBay.org and/or SF.IndyMedia.org for articles such as Maria Gilardin’s well documented “Why Did the Staff not Prevent the 10-Year Corporate Raid?” (Aug. 30, 2004). 


Mara Rivera is a KPFA listener and supporter.