WHOLE Story: Pacifica, KPFA, and 50 years of history
by Ken McCarthy
"...to get any real art or any significant communication, one must rely entirely on individuals, and must resign himself to accept not only their uniqueness but the possibility that the individual may at any time fail. By suppressing the individual, the unique, the industry reduces the risk of failure (abnormality) and assures itself a standard product for mass consumption." - Lewis Hill. Founder of Pacifica.
Some facts for the confused:
1. The Pacifica Board does not own KPFA. The Pacifica Foundations does. The board are mere custodians who are supposed to be serving the interests of the foundation which includes the pursuit of its highest ideals.
2. The Pacifica Foundation was founded by Lewis Hill in 1949. Hill, a pacifist who registered as a conscientious objector at the outbreak of World War II, worked as a Washington DC correspondent before moving to California where he founded KPFA. He served as Pacifica's head until his death in 1957. He stated his intentions for the form Pacifica stations should take very clearly. More on this later.
3. Pacifica is the oldest listener supported radio system in the US and was a pioneer of the "talk radio" format which invited live listener call ins.
4. For the last 50 years, Pacifica radio has been one of the very few broadcast outlets that accurately reports on the war-based economy of the United States and its effects both at home and abroad. In exchange for providing this unique reporting, listeners have funded the operation of Pacifica stations with donations as well as substantial amounts of volunteer labor - for 50 unbroken years.
Pacifica stations have also widely reported on the details of government corruption including but not limited to the sponsor of terror in the Third World and the tolerance of drug trafficking by US allies and in some cases government employees. The rampant criminality of the Clinton administration has been covered at length and in depth as well.
5. The current Board of Trustees - headed by Clinton's appointee to the US Civil Rights Commission - has decided that the system that has produced this uninterupted stream of information for the past 50 years is theirs to be manipulated in any way they see fit without answering to anybody: the staff, the volunteers, or the listener-supporters.
When people talk about Pacifica being "corporatized" or refer to the current conflict as a "labor dispute" they are greatly understating what is taking place. The correct term is "censorship." Programs, reporters, producers, and an entire culture of ethical, listener sponsored journalism, is, at the hands of the current board, in the process of being gutted station by station.
The destruction of these stations is a public disaster of serious proportions for all Americans who value free speech.
The past 50 years clearly indicate the nature of Pacifica and what its overall goals and methods are. Only a mob lawyer - or Clinton appointee - would propose that the station's board has leave to destroy the fruit of 50 years of labor in order to replace it with their personal "vision" of public broadcasting, one that, not so coincidentally, is less diligent in pursuit of information about the misdeeds of the administration to which the board's chair belongs.
Not only are 50 years of history against the destructive actions of this board, so are the clearly stated intentions of Pacifica's founder who was quite explicit about how he believed Pacifica-owned stations should be run.
Hill knew that giving individuals, not program directors and sponsors, and certainly not board members, real authority over programming was the *only* way to generate worthwhile content. Here's what he said on the matter:
"...to get any real art or any significant communication, one must rely entirely on individuals, and must resign himself to accept not only their uniqueness but the possibility that the individual may at any time fail. By suppressing the individual, the unique, the industry reduces the risk of failure (abnormality) and assures itself a standard product for mass consumption." - Lewis Hill
Hill intended not only that individual hosts and commentators be free to speak their mind, but that the very structure of the stations be designed to insure that they are free to do so.
"The answer of the KPFA project on this point is not necessarily the only good answer, but it is explicit. It requires that the people who actually do the broadcasting should also be responsible for what and why they broadcast. In short, they must control the policy which determines their actions. " - Lewis Hill
Finally, Hill clearly stated that the content of Pacifica stations was to be a collaboration of listeners and producers - not station managers and board members:
"The (KPFA) schedule
has two sources in almost equal balance as to their importance and influence.
On the one hand, these happen to be subjects of primary interest to people
working at KPFA. On the other hand, they happen also to represent the articulate
interests of well-defined minorities in the audience of the San
Francisco Bay Area.
is not accidental. A constant exchange between the staff and the
audience enriches the schedule with fresh judgment and new ideas, materials,
and issues. Thus members of the staff work out their own ideas and,
if you like, categorical imperatives, with some of the undistracted certitude
one feels in
deciding what he will have for dinner, subject to the menu. Listener sponsorship makes possible this extremely productive balance of interests and initiatives." - Lewis Hill
"The Theory of Listener Sponsored Radio" by Lewis Hill. founder of Pacifica
More historical perspective:
The links below provide an in-depth look