Public Comment

Commentary: KPFA Demonstration Announcements

By Sasha Lilley
Tuesday April 10, 2007

Marc Sapir’s April 6 commentary is an amalgam of factual inaccuracies, crisis-mongering, and unprincipled attacks on my character. That Sapir has launched an ad hominem attack on me is no surprise, given his track record of lashing out at KPFA staff for the past several years. But I was surprised that he chose to both agent-bait and red-bait me (and, bizarrely, my parents), in an attempt to discredit my work as KPFA’s interim program director. 

Here are the facts: 

There is no new rule against advocacy at the station. For the past three decades at least, KPFA has had a policy against “calls to action” that order listeners to attend events, such as stating that “you must come to this” or “be there.” Not only is it long-standing policy at KPFA and Pacifica, but it is standard procedure at community radio stations, owing to issues of liability. 

While staff have been sent reminders of station policy, no one at KPFA has been disciplined for making calls to action and no one is about to be “purged.” (Furthermore, Sapir is wrong in stating that Hard Knock Radio’s Davey D violated the call to action policy when he recently interviewed Fred Hampton Jr.) 

KPFA was founded on a mission of fostering cultural expression, investigating the causes of conflict, and engaging in radio that contributes to a lasting understanding between nations and individuals. We take that mission very seriously. We encourage KPFA programmers to announce demonstrations as often as they want and to give details on locations, times, schedules for when buses leave to demonstrations, etc.—anything short of directly telling listeners to attend events. Guests, however, can come on the air and freely urge listeners to attend rallies and demonstrations. The assumption is that listeners are savvy enough to make up their own minds without being told what to do by the station. 

What concerns me about Sapir’s hit piece is that, however riddled with falsehoods, it may leave the impression that KPFA does not allow announcements about the efforts to end the brutal US occupation of Iraq. Nothing could be further from the truth.  

We are very proud of the coverage that KPFA did this past month for the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, which included numerous announcements of demonstrations surrounding the anniversary. This coverage far outstripped what was done last year for the third anniversary of the occupation (before my appointment to this position). 

This time last year, KPFA broadcast from just one anti-war demonstration and did very little regular programming themed to the Iraq invasion anniversary. In contrast, this year KPFA did two live broadcasts from demonstrations opposing the occupation. We produced live coverage of the large demonstration in San Francisco on March 18, hosted by Davey D and Malihe Razazan and produced by Trinh Le, and covered the rally in front of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office on the 19th, hosted by C.S. Soong and produced by Aaron Glantz. 

KPFA also produced special programming connected to the war throughout the weekend of March 17 and 18, including a four-hour jazz against war special and a two-hour special of the bilingual Rock en Rebelion. Programming marking the Iraq occupation anniversary played throughout the day on March 19, the actual anniversary of the war. KPFA also did extensive announcements of the anti-war demonstrations on its public affairs, music and arts programming. Each night of the week leading up to the anniversary, the Evening News announced demonstrations throughout Northern and Central California. Management asked KPFA’s Web director to create a web page to announce anti-war demonstrations ( and on-air recorded messages announcing our demonstration coverage—including the locations of the demonstrations we were broadcasting from—directed people to that web page.  

I’d like to thank all those many hard-working programmers and staff members at KPFA, including members of our First Voice Apprenticeship Program, who made our war commemoration coverage so successful. Their work highlights the fact that, as KPFA celebrates its 58th birthday this month, our commitment to shining a harsh spotlight on the causes of war is as strong today as it was in 1949 when KPFA came on the air. 


Sasha Lilley is interim program director for KPFA Radio.