"Radio Days" at KPFK 90.7 fm

"Letter of Resignation"

On May 14th of this year, I resigned from public radio station KPFK 90.7 fm in Los Angeles, in protest of unfair labor practices against Latino's, women, Asian's and African-Americans. I was the afternoon drivetime host of Beneath The Surface" every Monday at 5pm, as well as the morning news anchor. Because the management at KPFK have established what can be called a "pattern of harassment" against it's non-paid interns, volunteers and paid staff, and of creating a hostile work environment, I felt I could no longer produce and report news for an organization that treats it's staff worse than the worst violator of worker and union rights.

I am not under any illusion that this article will change the management practices at KPFK, but I do think it's important that the public who sends their hard earned dollars to KPFK should know that if Latino's and other minorities were being treated this way at any other media outlet, KPFK & Pacifica would be all over the story. But, like any dysfunctional family, keeping the secrets, secret, is the key to keeping the up the charade.

Below is the letter I sent to KPFK GM Marc Schubb, and I stand by what I wrote.

May 14, 1999

KPFK 90.7 FM

Marc Schubb, General Manager

3729 Cahuenga Blvd.

North Hollywood, Ca. 91604

Subject: Discriminatory Practices at KPFK


Dear Marc:

I received a phone call on Monday, May 11, 1999, from Kathy Lo, the former Program Director whom I understood had resigned from KPFK earlier this year. She informed me that after the current fund drive which ends May 21st, that I would no longer host the Monday afternoon "Beneath The Surface" (BTS) show. She told me John Weener would be taking my spot in order to give Weener more on-air experience, preparing him to fill-in for Marc Cooper, should his show be expanded to two hours.

As a volunteer programmer at KPFK since 1996, I have invested hundreds of hours in preparing for, and airing both talk shows and news reports. I have taken and paid for out of my own pocket, voice and performance lessons and am enrolled in the Print & Broadcast Journalism Extension course at UCLA. As you know, I have been anchoring the morning news for a year, and have hosted the Monday "Beneath The Surface" for a year as well. I have also filled in for Frank Stoltze on the Evening News Show and was recently recognized by the Radio & Television News Association of Southern California with a Golden Mike Award.

Mark, I would never dream of trying to dictate programming decisions at your station. Although, after all of the hours of programming I have produced for KPFK airwaves, the numerous times I have pitched for funds with Frank Stoltze, and my willingness to jump in and help without monetary compensation, I feel as though I should have, at least, been consulted. I may have agreed with your thoughts, and tried to see how I could support your new direction with my continued participation. Since you have not responded to my memo and phone calls asking for a meeting with you to discuss this matter, I can only assume that you have no intention of doing so.

Since Kathy Lo recruited me to host/produce BTS, I have interviewed community people that truly would never get airtime anywhere else. From former gang members, to independent filmmakers, to community groups, I have raised issues on my show that are as credible as any other programmer. And, of all the programmers at KPFK, paid and non-paid, it was I who was chosen by the White House to interview Vice President Al Gore earlier this year.

As the only radio station with a Latino on afternoon drive time talk radio, in this, the number two media market in the country, I feel it would be detrimental to the Latino community to lose that time slot. Latino’s at KPFK have been relegated to off-hours and weekends, most on non-paid status. When Lo first approached me about hosting BTS, she offered me two days per week without pay. I told her I could not make that kind of commitment without being compensated. She later offered Joe Dominick two days per week, on paid status with a paid producer. Naturally, he accepted.

And even though I have never been offered the same support as the Anglo paid programmers at KPFK, such as office space, telephone and computer access, and a paid producer, I still produced and hosted BTS, because I felt it was important. Kenny Monroy and Liz Chavez have helped produce my show with no compensation, because they believed in what we were doing. I, like the Sam Brown (African American), and Susie Weisman (female), have produced hundreds of hours of programming during the 5 o’clock hour, and none of us have ever been paid. It seems only the friends of Kathy Lo are ever respected and treated with value.

About three weeks ago you instructed the News Director, Frank Stoltze to tell me not to pronounce Spanish words in my morning news casts, with a Spanish pronunciation. This should have been the last straw, but I felt it was more important to continue to have access to the airwaves of Los Angeles, rather than be personally insulted by the stations racist policy. I complied.

However, once the 5 o’clock show was taken from me, without discussion, without regard for my listeners, and without regard for my personal commitment to KPFK over the years, as a programmer, reporter and film club member, I realized that I really had nothing to lose by leaving KPFK. It seems I was used to draw Latino listeners, to fill airtime and to give KPFK the look of being culturally diverse and progressive.

I am not the only Latino or minority programmer to be treated in this manner and I surely won’t be the last. As long as we allow KPFK to treat us in the very manner which KPFK condemns corporate America for it’s treatment of employee’s and customers, it will continue at KPFK. Unfortunately most programmers have to stay silent or risk losing their show and income.

You can take comfort, however, in knowing that I do not plan to launch a letter writing or phone call campaign against you or KPFK. I do not plan to call on the National Pacifica Board to ask for your removal. After my planned press conference to announce my departure from KPFK (date not yet set), you will never hear from me again. As for the public, they will have to figure out for themselves if you are really the last source of alternative idea’s and programs. You actually may be, you just don’t seem to be capable of running the station in that manner.

I want you to know that I have the utmost respect for the programmers at KPFK, they are enduring and producing excellent programs, and I wish them well. I hope Up For Air, Beneath The Surface, Marc Cooper, Amy Goodman and Frank Stoltze will cover the press conference and this story. I hope you won’t try to suppress the freedom of the last alternative media source in the country, to cover yet another story of discriminatory labor practices by a growing conglomerate.


Gil Contreras

Former Host/Producer

"Beneath The Surface"


Cc: National Hispanic Media Coalition

California Chicano News Media AssociationS


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