"I was also told by the executive director to tone down the news coverage. CPB wanted me to tone down the news coverage, to be more "balanced" as they put it. Especially this was at the time of the war against Yugoslavia, and they didn't want to hear, as the present management of Pacifica used to tell me, "about 'our boys' dropping bombs and killing babies in Iraq. We don't want to hear about that on our airwaves. We don't want to hear about the police brutality."
- Former Pacifica News Director Dan Coughlin speaking in Berkeley, CA 3/25/01
Below is a transcript of a presentation given 3/25/01 by former Pacifica Network News director Dan Coughlin in Berkeley, CA. This important testimomy proves conclusively that Pacifica, as well as community and public radio in general, are the targets of a government operation to silence critical journalism through the funding mechanism of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting..
I want to thank the organizers of this afternoon, friends of Free Speech radio, of course Dennis Bernstein, Barbara Lubin, Lauren Coodley and Robbie Osman, who picked us up from the airport a short while ago.
I'm really pleased to be here today, especially after last night in Los Angeles. Amy, Juan, Bernard and I got into LA yesterday afternoon and we right to the First Baptist Church in downtown Los Angeles. And it was a cavernous hall, a huge place, with balconies up on the right and the left. And Amy and I and one of the organizers, we just started putting red tape on the chairs in the back, to seal off the chairs so that all the people who would come would fill up the front, and at least it would look a little filled. We were very worried that nobody...that maybe three, four hundred people might show up but that the hall would look empty. And we were stunned when, about 7 o'clock somebody rushed into the reception and said, "Please, please, we need volunteers at the door. There's hundreds of people coming in!"
And last night was the biggest meeting in the recent Pacifica crisis of the last two years. 1200 people showed up and packed the meeting and stayed until 11:30 last night. [cheers and applause]
Dennis mentioned a very important word: silence. And that's what Verna Avery-Brown mentioned last year at a speech in Los Angeles, when we were in California together. And, she asked listeners, and reminded listeners, that it wasn't so much what you hear on the radio, but what you don't hear.
That's also what Amy teaches us as well, which is part of her practice as a journalist, which is to go where the silence is. And what Mark Schubb, and Marc Cooper, and Pacifica Radio executives, Pacifica Radio lawyers, PNN News staff tried to do over the last several weeks was to silence that event in Los Angeles. They worked overtime pressuring men and women of good will who were coming for a discussion on a national and international debate, to pressure them to withdraw from the event. Sadly, some people did withdraw.
Pacifica had their hired gun anti-union attorney on the phone for five hours on Thursday night pressuring AFTRA to tell Amy not to announce the event on Democracy Now! on the air. This is what listener money is going to, to gag us. They sent down, last night, to LA, two people from PNN to address, to come in, to hand out leaflets denouncing our campaign and our struggles for a free radio network. They flew down from San Francisco, the Pacifica News Director and a Pacifica reporter.
After spending two weeks trying to gag the meeting, they had the audacity to show up and demand a place to speak. Same with Mark Schubb. We said, " yes, we're not afraid of what you have to say. Bring them up onto the platform!" [cheers]
And they came up and they had their piece. And they had their piece. And we heard from them, and we heard from Juan, we heard from Amy and we heard from Bernard. We heard from brothers and sisters on strike in LA, and we had a great meeting and we were energized and mobilized to fight for our radio network that belongs to the listeners, belongs to the people of this country and this world who are engaged in a struggle to build a better society so that we can live without war, racism and poverty,
[cheers and applause]
I'm particularly pleased to be here with Dennis for this event for Flashpoints, because Flashpoints is the kind of journalism that we've practiced for many years at Pacifica, the kind of journalism that is under severe attack. Wake Up Call, the morning show in New York, hosted by Bernard White and Amy Goodman, which you will hear a little bit about, has been purged.
Dozens, I would say about fifteen people participated in that program over the course of the week. They've all been fired and banned, including Robert Knight, including Amy Goodman and including Bernard White. They've been subjected to a scurrilous and vicious campaign of defamation on the air, where for instance Amy is openly called: a "racist", a "liar", "unprofessional", "responsible for the firing of Bernard and Sharan", a "bitch." And that her contribution to Pacifica is "defecation." This is the subject of discourse in the newspapers in New York, that she "vomits" on the air. And this is the kind of statements that Pacifica management, that supposedly wants to "professionalize the network, is busy making.
Because what is in fact happening, as we know, as we've experienced here in KPFA, as we've experienced in PNN, as we've experienced at Democracy Now!, as we've experienced at WBAI, is nothing but a political purge targeting the most successful, the most relevant, and the most politicized programmers, producers and activists in the network. And that is what is happening.
So we have to understand that this "debate" about audience building, and about diversity has nothing to do with reality in the network, as we know here at KPFA. The two, obviously the two most successful radio stations in the network, KPFA and WBAI, are the ones that are being attacked and destroyed. Because this Pacifica management, this Pacifica management can only do one thing. And that is to go to war against us. That's all they know how to do. There's not been one programming initiative over the past few years. There's not been one administrative initiative of any kind. The organization is in complete disarray.
We were just down in KPFK. They don't have a news director. They don't have a program director, they don't have a development director because they keep power to themselves and they can't share it because people don't agree with them. And this is what's happening to the network; it's being destroyed and a political purge is happening.
And this is happening for a number of different reasons, and one of the reasons that I want to touch on this afternoon, briefly, is to tell you a little story about my tenure as news director. And I was news director during the height of the KPFA crisis and I thank the hundreds of people who called me during that time to inform me about what was going on. [audience laughter] And send me e- mails, as Lynn Chadwick and the Pacifica Board used to talk about, used to refer to it as the "great Northern California e-mail machine." [audience laughter] Which is absolutely true. I still have the e-mails.
A couple of things that happened which are pretty interesting. I think one was in June, end of June in '99, after a Pacifica Board meeting. And Lynn Chadwick came to me, and she said, "Oh, Dan, it's really great, we're meeting, Mary and I are meeting with Kevin Close."
And I thought, wow, that's interesting, you're having lunch with Kevin Close. Kevin Close is the boss of National Public Radio. And he comes from Voice of America, from Radio Free Europe in fact. He was responsible for...he was a journalist with the Washington Post, went over to Radio Free Europe, was responsible for the shift of Radio Free Europe from Munich to Prague, part of the eastward expansion of NATO and the eastward expansion really, of US imperialism. And he, from Radio Free Europe, became head of NPR. And they were meeting with him to discuss the KPFA crisis.
A little while later, Lynn then said to me, "Well, we met with "Uncle Bob," as she used to call Bob Coonrod, the head of CPB. And Bob Coonrod also comes from VOA, and he was in charge of things like Radio Marti. And she said to me, "Dan, you know it was really interesting...we had this meeting with Uncle Bob, and you know what? He promised to give us some money to see us through the KPFA thing." (To defeat the KPFA struggle) And she said, "You know, all these years we've been asking CPB for money and they say they never have any. And here you are, now, they're ready to give us money!"
And whether this is true or not, whether CPB in fact ended up giving money to Pacifica, fact is that Bob Coonrod, according to Lynn, told her that and she interpreted that obviously as political support.
I was also told by the executive director to tone down the news coverage. CPB wanted me to tone down the news coverage, to be more "balanced" as they put it. Especially this was at the time of the war against Yugoslavia, and they didn't want to hear, as the present management of Pacifica used to tell me, "about 'our boys' dropping bombs and killing babies in Iraq. We don't want to hear about that on our airwaves. We don't want to hear about the police brutality."
Whenever we used to do a piece on Mumia Abu Jamal, they'd joke, " Oh Dan why don't you just get a, and Amy, why don't you guys get a direct ISDN line to Mumia's cell. Wouldn't that be easier for you?" The belittling, the pressure, the demands, the repression, about what we're covering and why at Pacifica National Programming is very serious and this is why we have to take Dennis' words very seriously. That what is happening here is political repression in the network. And we, many of us who have been in the network for several years, feel this quite directly. And it's not hidden. It's told to us openly.
We are faced with a drastic situation in Pacifica. It is the eleventh hour. We have seen the KPFA crisis, we have seen the crisis at PNN. And by the way, let me say just one thing about the crisis at PNN since I was the National News director. The stringer's strike has been one of the most important struggles that has occurred in the Pacifica battles over the last two years. We've seem more than 40 stringers from around the world stop their work, organize themselves, and refuse to contribute to PNN until editorial integrity and journalistic integrity is respected.
Stringers...[applause] And they've put out a newscast to 42 community radio stations cross the country every week. It's a remarkable feat. And they spread the struggle, and they circulated the struggle all across the country. And so wherever you go now to talk about Pacifica, people know about it, because they hear it on that Free Speech Radio newscast.
But stringers are notoriously difficult to organize. Stringers...we've all been stringers, many of us...we're independent, we're fierce, we're our own minds. Some of us speak many different languages. We go seek the truth in Indonesia, or in Nigeria, or wherever the struggle is, we go and take a look. Stringers have been so independent that even the CIA couldn't organize stringers in the in the 1950's. [Audience laughter]
You know, you read about it in Graham Greene novels. You couldn't organize stringers. They hated stringers. Stringers, these stringers, came under attack by PNN news staff, by the AFTRA unit of Pacifica. "Oh, you're striking against a real union and you guys don't know what you're doing. We're the unionized workers."
But stringers, in fact...the term "stringers" comes from a string. Where journalists, news reporters used to string together their news reports for a telegraph wire, and that would determine how much pay they would get. And that was based on printers. Because printers, to see how much type you used to lay out, would take a facsimile of the type they print out and put it up on a string, and then as many pages as you collected, you would measure the width and that's what you would be paid, along with some kind of piece rate.
And it's very interesting because the printers have always been at the forefront of free speech, going back to the Gutenberg bible in the 15th Century and the struggle against ecclesiastical authority, the struggle against dictatorships, against colonialism. Ben Franklin was a printer. So, here we have a struggle for free speech that is rooted in trade unionism, remember printers were the first trade unionists, and in free speech. And they are routinely derided by Pacifica management, when they represent the most deeply rooted sentiments in our society and in the world. And that is the struggle for free speech and we should support, continue our support, we should applaud Friends of Free Speech Radio for supporting the stringers' strike, and that noble fight for free speech.
But as I was saying, we have a drastic situation at Pacifica. KPFA, PNN, Democracy Now!, and now this horrific, horrific coup at WBAI involving armed guards, firings and bannings, new surveillance equipment being put in, the use of the NYPD, arrests, gag orders - the usual story. And we have to sit down and really think about what we're doing as a movement, and how we're going to win this struggle, because we can't keep going around putting out these fires.
They go from one place to the next place. And, know they're going to come back to KPFA. It's only a matter of time. And they're going to be much more clever about how they do it, just how they were clever about what happened at WBAI by doing an internal palace coup, which is what they did at PNN. We have to figure out a strategy that's going to defeat these people. And we think, at the Pacifica Campaign, that our strategy is simple and it'll be effective. And, it's based on one simple goal: that the Pacifica Board, the corporate clique that is now in charge of the Pacifica Board, has to resign now. [cheers] They have to resign now!
And we're going to remind them of that. And we want to remind them of that in pickets at their homes, talking to their business partners, putting pressure on them. And of course in a non-violent, anti-racist, anti-sexist way. We're totally clear about that, even though Pacifica labels...claims that we're racist, violent and sexist, as they put in their press releases. But want to turn up the heat against the individual board members.
Groups around the country are adopting a Board member. [applause and laughter from audience] And we would like to see, in San Francisco Bay Area, [raucous laughter from audience] there's one person I think in the Bay Area you can perhaps persuade, persuade, that she should resign now. She has abrogated the trust placed in her as a steward of this great treasure, the Pacifica Radio network and she needs to resign now.
The second aspect, and this I don't need to tell you about, you know how to do that...I didn't say anybody, but I heard from the crowd, they were saying "Carolyn Van Putten." And she has proved to be a very negative force on the Board. She has supported the Christmas Coup at WBAI, supported, the firings and bannings of workers around the system, supported the gagging of free speech and she needs to resign. She needs to take responsibility. It's a simple thing. It's not complicated. Anybody looking at what's happening in the network can realize the chaos and mismanagement that exists! These people have to take responsibility for their actions, which they singularly refuse to do. It's unbelievable! They need to resign now!
It's a simple issue. But we need to maybe
help them to come to that conclusion. But the way that we can do that,
apart from pressuring them and lobbying them, is, we do have to turn up
the heat against them individually, but we have to cut off the water. We
have to cut off the water, we have to stop the funds from going into Pacifica,
because they, every three months, [applause] every three months they get
three more million dollars. And they come back to us to USE IT TO KILL
To fire us at seven in the morning and to drag us out of bed and to tell us we've been fired. It's got to stop! And the way to make it stop is to hold them accountable for the money that they're spending. And it is something that listeners can do. All of us can do it.
It's a giant national referendum. We can all participate in it. If the Board doesn't like the boycott, then fine, hold a national vote of the listeners. But let's put it to the vote! [applause]
But in the meantime, let's cut off the water to this Pacifica Board so they can't continue these policies. I'm outta here. Thanks you very much. Please go to the website of the Pacifica campaign, pacificacampaign.org, and cut off the heat and cut off the water.
[sustained clapping, cheering from audience]
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