Public Comment

Is It Time to Occupy KPFA Fund Drives? (Not physically, to politically straighten them out.)

By Richard Phelps
Friday June 29, 2012 - 01:22:00 PM

The beauty of the Occupy Movement is that it brought to the forefront of the people’s consciousness the reality of the 99-1 ownership of the wealth in this country. Something the 1% and their media conglomerates have tried to ignore and/or censor forever. 

Unfortunately there is a parallel divide with our country operating at KPFA! Each of us may have our own interpretation of the Pacifica Mission. I do think we would all agree that getting public affairs, news and culture, that the corporate media won’t broadcast, out to the people, is the essence of Pacifica’s Mission. Educate and activate. 

Pacific Bylaws, Article One, Section 2, in part: 

“In radio broadcasting operations to promote the full distribution of public information…” (Emphasis added.) 

Speeches we record need to be broadcast to the entire KPFA audience when they are fresh. Given the steady march toward corporate oligarchy an educated public is needed now more than ever before! Unfortunately over the past several years these programs have been used to fund raise in a backward, wealth biased way. They are seldom if ever played in their entirety for all our listeners to have a chance to hear. Instead they are held captive for the next fund drive when they are “sold” as “premiums” or “gifts”, only part being played to tease listeners to buy them. 

So maybe 1% or a little more of our potential audience ever get to hear the whole speech! This is the OCCUPY parallel! KQED plays the entire program when it does its fund drive and I have seen some of our programs played in their entirety on Link TV during their fund drives. 

I have no problem with selling the speeches and programs as long as they are played for all to hear. The corporate media has a political firewall to stop progressive speeches, programs and culture from getting to the people. KPFA has a monetary sound barrier, stopping those that don’t have the money from hearing these important speeches and programs. Unlike the corporate media, KPFA lets us know of them so they can sell them. How do you think this makes our low-income listeners feel? Excluded, not good enough, not deserving? 

Does KPFA’s entrenched staff think this creates loyal listeners? Do they care? This has been raised many times and they don’t seem to give a damn about our low-income listeners or our Mission. Instead of playing these speeches for tens of thousands of KPFA listeners, they sell them to a small number of people. Is this what KPFA/Pacifica is about? I hope not. 

When I moved to the Bay Area in 1974 I fell in love with KPFA for many reasons. I had just finished 5 1/2 years working on-air in AM and FM radio in San Diego and enjoyed the variety and politics on KPFA. Another reason was that when someone gave a speech and it was recorded, almost anywhere in the country or world, it was on the air for all to hear shortly thereafter. I knew that by listening to KPFA I would know when such programs would be played and wouldn’t miss them. Somewhere along the line some reactionary elements at KPFA decided to turn public affairs programs into just another commodity and sell them. Now we all have to wait weeks or months until the next fund drive and only get to hear a small part of the speech or program unless we can afford to pay the price. 

“…unregulated capitalism knows no limits, and in essence commodifies everything, human beings become commodities, and the natural world becomes a commodity…” Chris Hedges.  

KPFA needs to have some excitement on the air to bring back those that have left and bring in new listeners. KPFA again needs to be the place where you will hear Richard Wolff , Joy Degruy, Richard Lichtman or Chris Hedges right after they give their speeches. Promote it on the air for a few days and then play the entire speech. Of course requests for donations could be made during the program and there could also be callins about the speech and its topics to fill up the two hours. The station gets endless requests for callins whenever there is an open discussion on the air about programming and they happen so rarely, and often with tight control and/or outright censorship of some callers. Why is anyone at a “Free Speech” radio station afraid of what our listeners have to say? 

I have a simple solution for the problem of getting the speeches on the air. We have four music programs on M-TH at 8 pm. To free up a two-hour time slot to play these programs, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday 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 evening program with speeches and public affairs available for our audience to sit down in their comfortable chairs and listen to after dinner. Many people have said they would enjoy such a program. 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 have caught 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 some subscribers we have lost and encourage new ones to contribute. It is a great opportunity to increase the audience. What do we lose? Only two hours of music out of 60 or 70 per week. 

The financial situation at KPFA/Pacifica is not good. We need to bring some excitement to the station that will bring in new listeners, bring back former listeners and increase loyalty. This program idea has the potential to do all three and thus increase donations. So why not give it a try? Contact the IGM, Andrew Phillips, and encourage him to bring back Mission integrity by playing the speeches for all, not just those that can afford $100.00, and add some excitement to our weekday evening air time, which will increase loyalty and donations. You can reach him at or at (510) 848-6767 ext. 203.

Richard Phelps, former Chair, KPFA LSB and 38 year listener/subscriber.