By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
|Photo by David Bacon|
That's not also to imply that those who today dissent from, criticize or attack Pacifica share some moral symmetry with the Pinochet right. On the contrary. What boggles the mind is that some of these protestors accuse Pacifica, the country's only progressive media network, of itself being some sort of nefarious conservative conspiracy.
We are to believe that this collection of five radio stations, founded 50 years ago by anarchists and pacifists, has magically and without clear motivation acquired a "secret agenda," a "corporate agenda," a "plan to become a new NPR." The do-gooder -- and often muddle-headed -- liberals who make up its national board have been accused of plotting to "steal the network," or of outright being "Pinochetistas."
When I recently wrote a piece in the L.A. Times revealing some ambivalence toward the current conflict around Pacifica station KPFA in Berkeley, it elicited a barrage of e-mails informing me that the reason I was not by President Allende's side in the National Palace the day he died in the 1973 coup was surely that I had been given advance warning of it by my supposed contacts in the CIA. That sort of rubbish can be forwarded to the Black Helicopter File. Less amusing, indeed downright nauseating, were the placards held aloft in last week's anti-Pacifica march in Berkeley, where network board chairwoman, Mary Frances Berry -- a veteran African-American activist who also heads the U.S. Civil Rights Commission -- was compared to the legendary Mississippi racist Bull Connors.
CAN ALL THOSE EMBROILED IN THE PACIFICA CONTROversy please catch their breath for a moment before we go any further? It's crossing a very important line when those who run Pacifica are satanized. What a sad but revealing spectacle it was a couple of weeks ago when, at a Valley meeting of those who claim to want to "save" Pacifica, a rambling Helen Caldicott -- who once had something insightful to say about nuclear arms -- suggested that Pacifica's leadership had become entwined in a conspiracy masterminded by the CIA itself.
Is this what debate on the left has come to?
There is plenty wrong with Pacifica. Like many public-service nonprofits, it is underfunded, undermanaged and maddeningly inefficient. Working inside Pacifica often feels like searching for a customer-care rep at the Havana phone exchange. Historically, its national governing board, as well as each station's local advisory board, has been dysfunctional. Policy has always been vaguely articulated and haphazardly enforced. Honest debate, scrutiny and accountability on the board, between board and staff, among staff itself, often take a back seat to politically correct bromides.
But we can live with all this. We have for 50 years.
Pacifica cannot prosper into the next century, however, if the current bogus mythology being constructed around it is allowed to stand. Let's take a look, charge by charge:
MYTH: Current Pacifica management is embarked on a "secret agenda" to centralize programming control and disempower the local stations. Pacifica wants to "mainstream" and "NPR-ize" programming to make the network attractive for future "corporate funding."
REALITY: Of the 24 hours of available daily programming, Pacifica mandates that exactly 90 minutes of national programming be carried by local stations: an hour a day of Democracy Now! and the 30-minute Pacifica National News. Ironically, both of these programs are managed by staff least sympathetic to the national board and often contain what many consider the most radical material. By any measure, Pacifica's national programming is about as far from NPR as you can get short of Radio Tirana.
What Pacifica has done in the last two years is to build the backbone of what could become a broad-based progressive radio network through its own KU-band satellite system. At its own cost, Pacifica has donated KU receiver equipment to more than 50 community radio stations in exchange for a subscription to Pacifica's national programming stream. What's provided on that KU stream? Programming from The Progresssive magazine, from the media-watch group FAIR, from lefty professor and author Saul Landau, as well as Democracy Now!, Pacifica National News and my own RadioNation, among others.
Plans for corporate funding? How can I say this, other than it's just a filthy, execrable lie. There is no evidence of any such plan. And if some knucklehead came up with such a plan, isn't it just a bit obvious he or she would be flayed and fileted by Pacifica staff? Anyone who propagates that rumor begs a vigorous examination of conscience.
MYTH: Pacifica staff labors under an extraordinary muzzle known as the "gag rule."