Pacifica Spin Doctor's "cheat sheet"
In February 1997, Pat Scott announced she hired Burt Glass to be the first "communications director" in the history of the Pacifica Foundation. Glass' hire reflects the intentions of the Scott regime to clean up its image rather than its act. The San Francisco Bay Guardian did some research into his background which includes work as a spokesperson for the Clinton Justice Department.
Just following Glass' hire, the WBAI website was suddenly shut down. Then, we obtained a script prepared by Glass for Pacifica managers to use when talking to the public. We have reproduced it as exactly as possible, including typos. Jeff Blankfort has annoted the document. His comments are linked to the relevant sections.
TO: Jack, Loretta, Pat, Dick, Mary, Gail, Julie, and Pacifica station managers
FR: Burt Glass
DT:11 March 1997
RE: Questions & Answers about Pacifica
Below are some of the questions sometimes asked of Pacifica staff and GB directors, along with proposed answers. We're providing this to you to assist you in answering the concerns of your colleagues and members of the community/public radio family. I call it a "cheat sheet" to help me stay on message and represent the organization accurately and consistently.
You should always feel free to refer questions from the public to me or other designated spokespeople should you feel uncomfortable with answering. Pat has asked that all questions about national programming or about the Pacifica network in general from members of the media, (emphasis in the original) however, should be directed to me or her for now. It may make sense to also designate one or two board members -- Jack as chair, Loretta as communications committee chair, perhaps -- as additional national spokespeople.
While there is nothing in this document that is untrue or incriminating, please do not make and distribute copies to others. (Emphasis in the original)
This document certainly is not the final "word" on answering these questions. Answers may be refined as circumstances changes (sic), and new questions will be included. Please do not hesitate to forward your comments to me at any time so I can incorporate your ideas and edits. I can be reached at (510) 843-0130, ext. 253.
Why did Pacifica management hire a union-busting firm to deal with the unionized workers at WBAI in New York?
Pacifica remains a pro-union, pro-worker organization. We have never
sought to "bust a union." In fact, we welcome organized labor,
and have devoted countless hours of on-air programming about the struggle
of unions and working people.
Why is Pacifica trying to exclude 90 percent of your New York work force from the union?
Everyone in the Pacifica family must have a role in shaping the organization
and their position in it. As a matter of justice, however, we feel uncomfortable
with volunteers who do not make their living at WBAI bargaining for the
wages and working conditions of the people who do. Other mechanisms outside
the formal bargaining unit of paid employees must be found to communicate
the concerns of volunteers.
Now that the New York labor review board found against you, will you be acknowledging the volunteers at WBAI as full members of the union?
The decision by the regional board is under appeal. The National Labor Relations Board is now reviewing this case at the national level, and it would be improper for me to comment further about it until a final ruling has been made.
Why are you trying to gag some of your affiliates and prevent them from telling listeners about your conflict with unionized workers in New York?
Pacifica is not trying to gag anyone. We have no ability, legal or otherwise,
to prevent an affiliate or subscriber station from airing a commentary
or program. We also have no desire to do so.
Why are you reducing the number of seats on Pacifica's board of directors for local advisory board members?
[Before release of strategic plan:] Aspects of the strategic plan dealing with governance issues have not been approved and are still flux (sic). We'll be happy to comment after things are finalized.
[After release of strategic plan:] The number of board directors from
our five station areas remains unchanged. In fact, two-thirds of our board
are required to reside in our five station areas -- reaffirming our commitment
to remain close to the needs of grassroots community radio. One-third of
our board will be elected at-large.
Why didn't you just add five signal area members to the Board -- instead of subtracting Local Advisory Board representatives?
The Governing Board considered that option, but decided that Board membership should remain compact to increase the effectiveness of Board operations and committee work. Equally important, keeping the Governing Board compact contains the very considerable costs to the organization of each Board director -- expenses like flying Board directors to meetings, holding committee conference calls, etc.
Why didn't Pacifica move toward electing Board directors by the listeners, like some stations do?
Board responsibilities -- for fiscal oversight, fundraising ability,
management skill, political direction, familiarity with Pacifica Radio
and the time to devote and willingness to travel -- are not guaranteed
by a listener election process. Pacifica is set up to depend on a working
Governing Board, which week-in and week-out requires specific talents and
Democratic representation shouldn't play second fiddle to efficiency and a smooth operation -- why is efficiency being given top priority?
The issue isn't efficiency -- but really effectiveness and accountability. Board members must serve on committees, attend committee meetings by conference call, serve as committee chairs, serve as Board officers, attend national meetings away from home several times a year, read staff reports and Board committee reports, and be available for consultation and input with their peers and with staff. Most Board directors are asked to assist with fundraising, outreach and other matters that carry the work of the organization beyond Pacifica and its stations -- to community and public radio networks, to other progressive organizations, to the media and to funding institutions -- from donors to Congress. The Board needs to insure that it can take care of its business. The new system balances needs for effectiveness and accountability with representation.
Why are Pacifica board meetings closed to the public? Pacifica
Foundation business meetings of the board are not closed to the public;
they are open to all. In keeping with the standard practice of other
non-profit organizations, the board may retire to private session when
sensitive personnel issues or proprietary financial matters are being discussed.
Recently, board directors spent time together for a series of strategic planning retreats, during which no formal action was taken or voted on. These retreats were not board meetings at all, and as with all such planning retreats in any organization, these retreats were limited to board members and senior staff.
Why is Pacifica Foundation trying to squeeze out local programming with national programming?
Pacifica remains dedicated to the absolute primacy of local programming;
it's the life-blood of community radio -- including Pacifica-operated stations.
Today, Pacifica requires its stations to air only one, 30-minute national
program, the daily Pacifica National News. Other programs made available
through Pacifica are aired at the option of local station managers.
Remember that most national programs are championed and often produced by local Pacifica stations. For example, We The People with Jerry Brown is produced by KPFA in Berkeley. Radio Nation is produced by KPFK in Los Angeles.
Is it true that Pacifica plans to cancel Flashpoints (or other locally-produced program)?
Programming decisions over locally-produced programs such as Flashpoints always lie with the local station manager, not the national executive office of Pacifica.
Are Pacifica and its five stations "selling out" by changing its programming to attract more listeners -- and abandoning its historic mission to (fill in blank)?
Hell no! Listen to any of our national programs such as Democracy Now!
or the Pacifica National News, and you will find the sort of hard-hitting,
alternative voices on which the public has come to depend and expect from
Pacifica. We recently aired commentaries from controversial death row inmate
Mumia Abu-Jamal, commentaries similar to ones that National Public Radio
planned to air but shelved under political pressure. Pacifica's decision
was hardly the behavior of a network intent on "going corporate."
Will Jerry Brown keep his program if he runs for Oakland mayor?
Pacifica is proud to provide We The People with Jerry Brown to a national audience, and we have no plans to end its distribution at this time. Pacifica, of course, will fully comply with relevant campaign law when and if Jerry decides to run for elected office in the future.
How much is Pacifica receiving through CPB?
Pacifica receives about 15 percent of its annual budget through CPB. For 1996, that was $1.3 million out of a $8.5 million dollar budget.
Does Pacifica accept corporate underwriting of any kind?
Pacifica is steadfast in its commitment to maintain an independent funding base. Pacifica has not sought, does not have, and will not accept corporate underwriting of programming -- period. Our funds come from individual listeners who appreciate our programming and understand the importance of a truly independent voice in a free society.
Why must Pacifica's five stations give 13 percent of their income to Pacifica's national office?
Pacifica-owned stations pool resources at the rate of 13 percent of local revenues to pay for shared network activities, including insurance, accounting, legal and management services, Governing Board operations, and governing and public relations services.
What is Pat Scott's (or other Pacifica Foundation employee) salary?
It is Pacifica's long-standing policy not to publicly discuss employee salaries.
Isn't Pacifica too left-wing and too biased to report on the news?
Of course not. Pacifica strives to promote diversity and pluralistic community expression, and to provide a forum for various and, sometimes, neglected viewpoints. That's why our reporting sounds a little different from what a listener might hear on commercial radio. If anything, our commitment to alternative voices has enhanced our reporting, because we've been able to offer our listeners a side to stories that is usually omitted elsewhere.
Why did you hire a former press secretary for the Justice Department's police hiring office? Isn't that antithical (sic) to Pacifica's mission?
Burt worked for the Justice Department's office
dealing with community policing, a crime-fighting strategy that more
fully involves the public and reconnects the police to the communities
they are sworn to serve. A good community policing program, for example,
places less emphasis on reacting to 911 calls and more time preventing
crime by helping start neighborhood crime watches and building one-on-one
relationships with people in their communities.