Public Comment

KPFA: Putting Money Before the Mission

Wednesday January 21, 2009 - 06:31:00 PM

By Richard Phelps 



The most important thing of all is the unfettered flow of radical information, culture, arts, news and politics that you get here on KPFA. 

—Sasha Lilley, Interim Program Director, on KPFA, May 20 during a fund drive 


I happen to agree with the above statement. It fits right in with our bylaws: Article One, Section 2, in part: “In radio broadcasting operations to promote the full distribution of public information… .” 

Unfortunately, for the current concerned listener administration, it is only sales talk. As I pointed out in previous commentaries in the Berkeley Daily Planet, the CL/Rijio administration has quietly been selling important speeches and public affairs programs that they do not play on the air for all to hear! I have no problem with selling as many as possible, as long as they are played on the air for all to hear, which is our mission.  

In the online version of this commentary you will find a partial list of these speeches and programs. During a fund drive the Morning Show folks proudly proclaimed three times during the pitching, “The Great and Mighty Walk was not available anywhere else.” I easily found it on the web and purchased a copy for a third of KPFA’s price. The entire program has never been played on the air, like those on the back page! Shouldn’t honesty to our listeners be a fundamental principle at KPFA/Pacifica?  

I have a simple solution for the problem of getting them on the air. We have four music programs on Monday through Thursday at 8 p.m. To free up a two-hour time slot to play these programs, Tuesday or Wednesday could be freed up for public affairs by either the Monday and Tuesday programs or the Wednesday and Thursday programs alternating every other week on one night. This way we could have an interesting weekly program with speeches and public affairs available for our audience to sit down in their comfortable chairs and listen to after dinner. It could also be used for hot topics when they come up, like police shootings, invasion of Gaza, etc. I will gladly volunteer to help put it together. 

When we don’t have any current programs and catch up with the backlog, we could play something topical from the Archives (police brutality, Palestine, etc.) or have a political discussion time for callers, similar to Air America, so our listeners could share their ideas with each other about current topics. Having these speeches and programs on will increase loyalty and thus donations. It will put some excitement on the air. It would also bring back subscribers we have lost.  

Then we will be able to say on the air what Sasha Lilley is quoted as saying above, and it will be an honest statement, not a sales pitch to get you to buy something that should be played for all to hear. We won’t have two classes of listeners: those that can afford to spend hundreds of dollars to hear speeches and programs and those that can’t and don’t get to hear them. This change will be in line with Pacifica’s goal to have a diverse audience. Low-income people are more oppressed by injustice in our society and need to know who is doing it to them and what they can do to fight back. Also low-income people are more proportionally women and people of color. We should want all these folks to be loyal listeners and not be priced out of important programs and resentful.  


Please tell management that KPFA must be honest to its listeners and play programs for all to hear, regardless of wealth: (510) 848-6767 ext. 3 or 


KPFA PREMIUMS: must buy to hear! (Is this part of our mission?) 


Tariq Ali Berkeley 2008 

Naomi Wolf Berkeley 2008 

Robert Fisk 2008 

Vandana Shiva 

Noam Chomsky 2008 

Deep Sports Dave Zirin & Michael Lewis Berkeley 2007 

Thomas Frank Berkeley 2008 

Michael Eric Dyson 2007 

Winona La Duke Green festival 2008 

George Lakoff In Santa Monica 

Michael Eric Dyson 2008 

Gallagher v. Hitchins Debate 

Howard Zinn 2007 

Naomi Klein Financial Crisis 

God is Great Debate 2007 

911 Forum 

David Harvey’s Marx on Capital, free on line, $ 250 from KPFA 

Rachel Corrie Speaks 2007 

Take Back America Conference 5 CDs 

Derrick Jensen “Now this war has two sides.” 2 CDs 

Steve Bezruchka “Is America Driving You Crazy” 

Steve Bezruchka “Health & Wealth” 

Michael Klare  

Maude Barlow 

Erwin Chemerinsky debates John Yoo 2 CDs 

Naomi Klein and Tariq Ali at Left Forum 

Left Forum Opening and Closing Plenaries 

Michael Meade “The World behind the World” 

Karen Armstrong “Understanding Islam and the West” 

Isabel Allende At Dominican University 

Dr Joy Degruy Leary “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome” 

Jack Rasmus Financial Crisis in America; Global Context 

Harry Belefonte – Commeration of 40th Anniversary 1968 

Van Jones Speaking in Oakland  

Amy Goodman at 2008 Green Festival 

Robert Scheer in LA 

Brecht Forum with Tariq Ali 

Susan George Neoliberalism 

Ethics of Synthetic Biology 

Rumi 800 Birthday 2007 2 CDs 


As far as I know, none of the programs listed in the online version of this commentary has been completely played and the program promoted on the air for all to hear. They have all been sold. It is only a partial list. How many of these would you have liked to hear? Do you feel cheated? Does this build a loyal audience? The years 2003 to 2008 saw a 50 percent increase in paid staff and 5,000 lost subscribers. For more information go to 



Richard Phelps is a former chair of the KPFA LSB, 34-year listener-subscriber, and a former AM and FM radio announcer.