Public Comment

KPFA Dialogue Must Be Honest

By Henry Norr
Tuesday November 20, 2007

Sasha Lilley is right that KPFA needs dialogue, not demonization (Commen-tary, Nov. 13). But dialogue can be effective only if it’s honest; if not, demonization is sure to prevail. Unfortunately, parts of her commentary are anything but honest. 

Consider, for example, what she writes about the issue of demonstration an-nouncements. First, she says “people,” whom she does not name, have asserted in the pages of the Planet that the station’s interim managers “have prohibited the announcement of demonstrations on KPFA’s air.” She then declares this allegation “patently false” and, as proof, cites a couple of demonstrations she and Interim General Manager Lemlem Rijio personally promoted on the air. 

What Lilley writes is perfectly true—the allegation she lays out is false. But it’s a straw man—a charge no one has made. As she surely knows, the issue is not that KPFA never promotes any demonstrations on the air, but that it lacks a systematic mechanism, without undue restrictions, that would ensure that any progressive group could publicize marches and rallies, even if the event doesn’t have a champion in senior management. 

If you question whether this is a real problem, I suggest a glance at the web page ( where the station posts its guidelines on public service announcements. There you will see, in plain English, the restrictions that are the heart of the issue: 

• “All events must be submitted by an organization that qualifies as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Service Tax Code 501 (c)(3).” 

• “Organizations are allowed one announcement per month.” 

• Announcements of several kinds of events, notably including “Rallies/ Demonstrations,” “cannot be accepted!" 

The only alternative the guidelines offer is the station’s “community calendar,” which is aired several times every day. The problem with that solution is that the guidelines for the calendar (http://kpfa. org/calendar/) require that items be submitted at least three weeks in advance—a rule that excludes many, probably most, rallies and demonstrations. 

This is by no means a mere technicality. Last year, as Congress was about to adopt the horrendous Military Commissions Act (aka the torture law), a group I’m part of called Act Against Torture called a demonstration in protest at the offices of Feinstein, Boxer, and Pelosi—and we couldn’t get it announced on KPFA because we’re not a 501(c)(3) and we  

hadn’t scheduled it three weeks in advance! That experience was hardly unique—I myself have personal knowledge of rallies and other events concerning Haiti, Palestine, immigrant rights, and even the war in Iraq that weren’t announced on KPFA because of one or another of the station’s restrictions. 

Yes, there’s a way around these obstacles: If you have personal connections to station insiders, or you find a programmer who takes a fancy to your cause, you might get a one-time mention of your event on his or her show, but that’s hardly a fair or adequate solution. 

As a listener representative on the Local Station Board—a body charged under the Pacifica by-laws “to work with station management to ensure that station programming fulfills the purposes of the Foundation and is responsive to the diverse needs of the listeners (demographic) and communities (geographic) served by the station,” I offered what I thought was a co-structive solution: a resolution calling on the interim program director and the interim general manager to establish a “political calendar,” separate from the community calendar, for progressive events that don’t qualify under the station’s current restrictive rules; to create simple ways for activists to submit events for this new calendar by phone, e-mail, or the web; to post the calendar on the KPFA website; and to direct the news department to announce events from it daily, as part of regular newscasts. 

(If you want to read the resolution for yourself, write me at; maybe someday it will be posted on the station’s website, but don’t hold your breath.) 

Last month the LSB adopted this resolution by a vote of 13-0 with three abstentions. A month later, the station’s interim managers have not offered a word in response—except the commentary from Ms. Lilley that ducks and distorts the issue. 

Is that the kind of dialogue KPFA really needs? 



Henry Norr is a professional journalist with a long resum´e.