Change Links Editor John Johnson's Statement on Pacifica

The following statement was issued Monday, April 19, 1999 by John Johnson, editor of Change Links, a progressive monthly newspaper  which has served as a major source of activist connectivity in Los Angeles for more than a decade. We consider this very important, because John has a policy of not taking sides in his paper on left-left disputes and instead offering space in the paper for both sides to articulate their position. Here in Los Angeles, where there has been virtually no press expressing the community control side, or even admitting that this is an issue, John has consistently invites us to submit articles, which we have willingly done on several occasions. John has also extended a similar invitation to KPFK management, which has to date not taken him up on it. John has a long history as a KPFK supporter, and has seen a variety of problems there, all stemming from the creation of the first "Pacifica Executive Director" Sharon Maeda, which have continued to negatively impact KPFK, and eroded its tradition of very radical and unexpurgated free speech. - ed


Statement on Pacifica Radio

Pacifica Radio Network is not only a community-based avenue for free speech but a creative business.  One because of the nature and structure of radio and the fact that it broadcast over public airwaves and thus operates at the behest of the FCC and US Government cannot be a true democratic institution.

KPFK and Pacifica Radio has always been both good and bad.  We love its good parts and fight to keep them and rage at its shortcomings. We do not like it when our favorite programs are taken off the air but this is not about that.

Change Links has been reluctant to criticize other progressive efforts, especially other progressive/radical media.  We believe that such criticism is often of little interest to others not involved and many times only hurts the entire progressive movement.  Also, internal matters and creative decisions, unknown to others on the outside, are very tricky areas to get into and sometimes it's just better not to interfere and to mind ones' own business.

We also realize the difficulties of forging, producing and continuing alternative progressive media in these times. That leadership is not always a popularity contest.  But it should at least instill confidence, trust and stand on principles.

But in the case of Pacifica Radio, we feel the National body of Pacifica Radio, it's leadership, has lost all credibility and confidence of not only those that work and produce for its 5 radio stations but in it's supporting and listening audience.

That the so-called "gag or dirty laundry rule" which was initially set up to guard against the slander of station personnel, thus hurting their professional careers, has been used, continually and most recently in the most undemocratic fashion.  Where critics, of certain actions and policies of some personnel of Pacifica, have been silenced in the most severe ways. Ways which run so against the grain of the principles of Pacifica and those of basic free speech, that there can be no excuses.  These actions not only hurt those they are used against, not only those who would now be threaten by them, but hurt the very community Pacifica seeks to serve.

Pacifica officers have also made decisions which seem to violate its own bylaws.  They recently acquiesced to a questionable rule of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, (an agency with questionable governmental ties) and taken actions that can be viewed as steps away from democratic progressive ideals.  Steps if taken to logical conclusions threaten the existence of Pacifica as a free, non-corporate progressive institution.

Pacifica has for a number of years exercised arbitrary and incompetent control over local station affairs, including once trying to personally smear the reputation of a popular candidate for KPFK's manager position for the Pacifica's President own personal agenda.  Now that small group has almost complete control over the Pacifica Network. Others have documented their current actions.

The mere fact that an institution may raise a certain amount of funds and produce subjectively "professional and pleasingly sounding" material is not enough in these times.

Our inner cities are continuing to erode, corporate and governmental institutions seem to be taking more control over our lives, wars are breaking out and the community, the progressive community, needs principled and reliable voices.  Change Links can't do it all.

So we believe that in order to keep this extremely value asset alive and its voice one of thoughtful progressive ideals, the current governing board and its personnel should resign their positions immediately and that a new governing board be reconstituted along democratic lines.

That democratic and community based boards be reconstituted at each station and that representatives from those boards, from the stations programmers and volunteers and from the staffs formulate a new set of democratic governing principles for Pacifica and that new national personnel be hired.

If these actions are not taken, then all those effected by Pacifica, must themselves begin to act to protect Pacifica and free speech radio from these "internal" attacks.  Programmers, guests and staff should speak out, on and off the air.  Subscribers should act with their pocket books. Media campaigns should be developed.

It shouldn't be enough that they are the only game in town. Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky,the Berkeley City Council and 700 picketers have spoken out in opposition to their policies at KPFA.  Similar voices in Los Angeles and elsewhere should also speak.

John Johnson
Change-Links Progressive Newspaper  and
(818) 982-1412

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