Public Comment

Another ‘Concerned Listener’

By Aki Tanaka
Friday November 09, 2007

I am not a member of the “Concerned Listeners”; nonetheless I am a ”concerned” listener. 

I, like most KPFA listeners, was under the impression that everything was resolved when the lawsuit was settled. However, at the prompting of a friend, I started to attend Local Station Board (LSB) meetings in early 2006 and then decided to run for the LSB in the fall of 2006. As the first runner- up in that election, I joined the board upon the resignation of board member Vida Simian in August 2007. 

I think the function of the LSB is similar to that of the board of directors of a company. The board is responsible for overseeing the management of the station to ensure that the finances are in order and that the station is providing compelling programming to the paying listeners. However, as I sat through the LSB meetings, I became concerned with many disquieting facts. I will list three of them. 

First concern is the relationship between the LSB and the general manager. In order for the board to exercise effective oversight of the station, it is important for the general manager to be working closely with the board. Currently, the interim general manager rarely meets with the board. Another thing we expect of a general manager is to nurture and encourage all the parts of the station. However, just as the Unpaid Staff Organization was finally getting its group organized, the interim general manager inexplicably and preemptively “de-recognized” them. Unfortunately this gave the appearance of cutting off a person’s legs who was just beginning to learn to walk again. Communication was lacking in the extreme. I hope that LSB can establish a good working relationship with the general manager, so that we can together strengthen every segment of the station.  

The second concern is the apparent marginalization of the Program Council to that of a strictly advisory role. It seemed that Program Council, consisting of all segments of the station, was an appropriate vehicle for making programming decisions in a fair, collaborative, respectful manner. Annie Hallet, of the Program Council, worked tirelessly to recruit candidates and conduct an election, but her efforts appear to have been for naught. A conspicuous example is that the Program Council should have been involved in filling the Sunday Salon slot, and it was not. Ob-viously, it should be of concern to the board whether the listeners are satisfied with the current new host. I hope that the program director will embrace a vibrant and engaged Program Council so that programming decisions can be made in a fair, collaborative, respectful manner, as laid out in the by-laws. 

The third concern is the way in which the LSB election has been run.  

1. Ballots were mailed out per the bylaws. 

2. The “Concerned Listeners” slate mailed flyers to all the members. This well- funded act of campaigning set the stage for unequal access to the voting subscribers which has not been balanced by anything else—including air time.  

3. Interim Executive Director Dan Siegel ruled that “People’s Radio Slate” statements were ‘personal attacks’ and removed them for a time from the station website in an especially autocratic moment. 

4. Audio archive of the Oct. 15 forum was removed from the web site 

5. The station has not played candidate’s recorded statements on air 20 days into a 30-day election cycle. 

As an institution that takes no corporate money, our election should be a model to the rest of the world of how a free and open election is run. 

Although “Concerned Listeners” candidates state that they will “bring civility to the board meeting” and “refrain from micro-managing the station”, after sitting in on LSB meetings for over a year I do not see them as issues. While civility is an important value, it is natural to have hotly contested ideas in situations that matter greatly to people and I fear that “civility” has become a code word to smear anyone who simply does not go along with Concerned Listeners’ plans.  

From a historical perspective we all owe Carol Spooner a great deal of gratitude for her Herculean efforts in bringing listener democracy to Pacifica and we should strengthen what she so admirably fought for, which is why I am joining her in her endorsements with one addition. 

I recommend voting for Joe Wanzala, Chandra Hauptman, Tracy Rosenberg and Steven Conley, among the independents; CC Campbell-Rock of the Voices for Justice slate; and Attila Nagy and his fellow candidates of the People’s Radio slate.  

Please remember that regardless of your preferences, to make listener democracy a reality, it is very important for each of you to take the time to mail in your ballot. Thank you. 


Aki Tanaka is an Oakland resident and is a listener member of KPFA LSB.