[transcriptionst note: I don't know the name of the KPFA announcer here -- sorry]
Announcer: Tonight Chair of the Pacifica National Board, Dr. Mary Frances Berry, and Pacifica Executive Director Lynn Chadwick will be joining us to address you, the listeners, and take your phone calls regarding the current issues at KPFA.
Lynn Chadwick: Wait 'til fadeout. OK, you're on.
Mary Frances Berry: Thanks for tuning in to KPFK tonight.I'm Mary Frances Berry, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Pacifica Foundation. Board members serve as unpaid volunteers. I only point that out because I've been getting emails from people who ask..tell me they're paying my salary, and why am I not in Berkeley going to work everyday? So the Board members serve as Directors of the Pacifica Foundation, which is the nonprofit parent of KPFA, as well as four other Pacifica owned and operated radio stations across the country.
I'm here tonight to give you a brief update and to answer the quesions of KPFA's listeners. If you're a regular listener you've already heard about a recent labor dispute at KPFA. How could you not have heard? On March 31st the one-year contract of KPFA's former station manager expired, and she was told it would not be renewed. Personnel and labor laws do not allow us to share how we came to our decision not to renew the contract, but please be assured that there was a great deal of care, deliberation and exploration of options put into the decision, and we sincerely wish her the very best. Later that night, around 11 p.m., gunshots were fired into the Pacifica Foundation's offices next door to KPFA. The Berkeley Police Department, I am told, has classified this as a targeted act of violence against the organization. It is investigating the shooting as an attempted homicide. As a result of this we may find it necessary to take increased security measures both at the national foundation's office and KPFA. We take this very, very seriously, as I hope we do.
After a couple of false starts in trying to open up dialogue with the staff at KPFA....I just met with some of the staff on a conference call...along with the Executive Director was with me...but it was my meeting with them. We had an exchange of views and ideas, and I'm optimistic that we'll be moving into some more meetings where we can openly and honestly discuss the issues at hand, resolve some conflicts, and come to a conclusion to the disputes.
As you already know, I'm sure, most of you, Pacifica was founded fifty years ago by a group of conscientious objectors that sought a medium in which to speak out against the military force of World War II. I believe that the Strategic Plan of Pacifica, "A Vision of Pacifica Radio, Creating a Network for the Twenty-first Century", which was developed before I became Chair of the Board, by representatives from each station, the Board and community, and was unanimously adopted by the organization, articulates the goals for achieving the network's mission as set forth by its founders fifty years ago, to promote cultural diversity and pleuralistic community expression, to contribute to a lasting understanding between individuals of all nations, races, creeds, and colors, to promote freedom of the press and serve as a forum for various viewpoints, and to maintain an independent funding base. Since I became Chair of the Board and...our current Executive Director have been implementing the Strategic Plan, which in part addresses the need for our stations to reflect the demographic realities of their signal areas, I mean the folks who live in the signal area.
Taken as a whole, our programmers, Local Advisory Board members and listeners do not reflect the rich cultural and age diversity of our country, which our mission clearly requires us to do. Given these realities, the future of our stations hinge on our ability to implement change. We must include more people of color as programmers and on Local Advisory Boards, and we must expand our listener base while keeping the listeners we have now, if we can, by attracting a younger and more diverse audience. And this is not about corporatization or making money or anything like that. It's because we want to extend the progressive message to more people and to include more people, and to have a future that reflects the demographic reality of what our country and our signal areas are becoming.
The Strategic Plan envisions more quality national programming, such as Democracy Now and the national news, as well as more local programming, to meet the needs of [interrupted by 5 seconds of music] requires greater administrative efficiency, consolidation of financial management, provision of services, and other functions to provide greater resources for programming. In case you don't understand what they means, or you don't think it makes any sense, the way I put it is simple: that if you have people buying things at five different stations that can be bought by one person at great..at less cost, you can save money. Now, that's just managerial efficiency. It doesn't have anything to do about trying to centralize or trying to take power away from somebody or other.
Reasonable people may disagree on the best course of action needed to achieve the goals. And the Board does not run the Foundation or the stations...the Executive Director does...who is a full-time person to run it. But the Board does welcome recommendations from anyone who feels they have a better process or some better ideas to suggest about how we should do some of these things.
Some of the underlying and long-smoldering issues that led up to the current dispute at KPFA have been articulate by Marc Cooper in the May 10th issue of The Nation. I don't agree with everything in the article, but I think he's right about saying that one issue is whether the stations and Pacifica should be..simply reflect a small group of people speaking and having radio stations to use to express their vision, or whether it should be a newspaper, sort of like, for the left or for progressives, and that this is one of the issues. And would think that this is an important article to read.
But whatever the reasons, the Board and the staff at Pacifica Foundations (sic) remain committed to all five stations, including KPFA, and look forward to our future as a national radio network of progressive programming.
Now I will be happy to answer any questions that any listener might have about this or anything else, or that I didn't mention.
LC: We should give out the number here. Jim, could you give us the number for people to call? [pause] You want to repeat that for us? I'll write it down so that I can repeat it. [pause] 4425.
Male Voice: All right, let me just...let me come on the microphone, and I'll get out the number for people to hear, and we are getting lots of calls.
Male Voice: 510-848-4425. And I'd be happy to go to the calls, if you're ready for that, but I'll...
MFB: I'm ready.
LC: We're ready.
Male Voice: OK. Hold on.
LC: Oh, I see. Thanks, so we're not...OK. Joseph from Berkeley.
Joseph: Yes, thank you very
much. Ms. Berry, you received a call about this from an older black
woman when I believe you were on the first Report to Listeners program...the
first one with Ms. Sawaya. And I just want to say that I was recently
one of about six blacks at a Yugoslav teach-in in a packed church full
of mostly white progressives where
the issue of KPFA's terminations came up. And to the hoots and howls of seemingly most, but certainly not all of the white liberals, I dared to mention that as a black male I as a regular KPFA listener..other blacks, many of whom are active in the community, including the UC Berkeley community, and even the prominent award-winning writer Ishmael Reed were not going to cry over the firing of Larry Bensky. You know, for all the piety that Larry Bensky has about censorship, we feel that when it comes to authentic, legitimate, responsible intellectual criticism or comment or question regarding issues -- especially those issues that affect the black community -- that Larry Bensky has shown an historical pattern, especially on Living Room, of dismissing, summarily preempting, censoring, cutting off, diverting, subverting ethnic points of view he doesn't like no matter short the question or comment, no matter how civil. And he either shields certain guests from legitimate authentic black criticism or accountability -- or when the guest is even resonant to a certain question from a black perspective, especially a black guest, like Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Bensky will interpose and preempt the guest's answer with his own and abruptly move to the next question.
MFB: Right. I understand.
Joseph: You've been told about
this. I said an older black woman called -- I certainly don't know
her at all -- when you
were on with Nicole Sawaya. And, you know, you unintentionally, I am sure -- you unintentionally sort of plied her off with platitudes about, you know, keep on listening. And I guess what I want to say is, although you may not...you know, you're familiar with the local scene...Many of us Bay Area blacks have to live with these people like Larry Bensky or Michael Krasney, you know, at KQED. And we know what we have to...we know what we have to deal with. We know what's in the community. So when people call in to tell you that -- or indeed, Ms. Sawaya, or indeed Larry Bensky's producer and other people -- I would hope that you would take them more seriously as people who have had to live under this and to address that issue, and to encourage Ms. Sawaya to address that issue, because she totally ignored it. And apparently an intelligent, articulate white woman who called and complained about the same sort of thing -- not only with regard to minorities and women -- but also with regard to those views who are more progressive than Larry Bensky's, who he censors or dismisses.
MFB: I want to thank you for your comments. And it's sort of what like what my friend Roger Wilkins, the Pulitzer Prize winning reporter who has been lefty all of his life, calls the left often has blind spots on issues of race, and very often on issues of gender, and I have become much more sensitized to that since I have been....within the last...I always saw Pacifica from outside as being this lefty organization, progressive, and I was sure it was always doing the right thing. But I have been very aware of how hard it is to meet the kind of goals that we have on diversity. And I do take all this seriously, and I thank you for your comments.
LC: The next call is from Jack in Santa Rosa.
MFB: Go ahead Jack.
Jack: Just as a quickie. I have rather enjoyed Larry Bensky, while I haven't always agreed with. I think he's quite articulate. But what concerns me more than anything else...I see..I have seen one radio station after another go down the tubes. There's no free form of expression anywhere but on Pacifica stations. Now this monolith seems to have appeared on KQED (sic), who has been central, core to every disagreement with the government, for instance, that I've ever seen. I have..I feel a sense of security that at least there is one voice out there -- albeit collective -- that's standing firm and saying "Uh-uh. This isn't good for us." And I...now all at once I see what looks to me like a quasi fascist move where "We are the head the corporation, and we don't like what you're doing. So we're going to fire your butt, and we're going to sit back and not talk to anybody about it". Now, this is just impressional, but I'd hate to see this station, or Pacifica generally go down the tubes. I think Pacifica is too big. I think it should..I think responsibility should lay more on the laps of the individual stations. Thank you.
MFB: OK. Thank you for your views.
LC: The next caller is Lee in San Francisco.
Lee: Yes, the information that I had is when we'd hear from both Ms. Chadwick, and apparently that hasn't happened, and it's not surprising. She has continuously refused to face reality. As to what we have just heard, I would say that your lawyer needs more imagination when he writes his speeches. The tipoff that it was a lawyer-coached speech was "reasonable people may disagree". I have lived around and in the legal profession all my life. I can smell a lawyer's speech from a mile away.
MFB: I'm actually a lawyer myself..
Lee: I haven't finished, we heard....
MFB: I'm actually a lawyer myself, you know, so I don't need a lawyer to write...
Lee: ...the speech was contrived. In any event, the secretary is now speaking. Please don't interrupt. I have been a lifetime listener of KPFA, and KPFA happens to be as old as I am, and so when I talk..we talk about the progressive community of the Bay Area, I know exactly what it is and what it is all about. It is all about integration. And the people who were fired in 1995 were from Freedom is a Constant Struggle, which is very much part of the black community's struggles. There was Fruit Punch, the gay community struggle program. There was a labor program that was kicked off the air. We know have a growing labor movement; we need that labor program back. And, of course, there was the one and only, outstanding Bill Mandel, who should be able to speak on KPFA so long as he has a voice to speak. And...that was 1995. The month that they were all kicked off, who was featured on the August Folio? Not Mumia Abu-Jamal, whose life was on the line, but the fascist Jerry Brown, who's now promoting war in Oakland. Now we're here in 1999. Nicole Sawaya, after doing a tremendous fund raising effort, is kicked off the air, and we have someone who has a reputation of causing extreme stress in the east, so that a person named Mr. Marksman died of a heart attack after having to deal with her, and is now causing extreme stress here. This is very suspicious to all of us. No, it is not the Bay Area that is having trouble with integration. It is Ms. Chadwick. And Ms. Chadwick had better resign today, because we will not stand for it here in the Bay Area. We have a strong progressive movement, a very integrated progressive movement. We are not blind to racism. But we definitely do not support nationalism, which we have just heard on the air. And we hope we never hear again. And reinstate Mr. Bensky as well.
MFB: Let me just say, thank you for your views. And let me just say that I take personal umbrage at people using the memory of Samori Marksman after he's gone to the grave. I know when you die people can use you however they want to, and you can't do anything about. But this rumor that Samori Marksman was somehow driven to his death by Lynn Chadwick is simply false. Lynn Chadwick got along very well with Samori. I know this, because he told me. And Samori came down and had a long meeting with me about a week before he passed. He just said he wanted to come in and just sit down and talk about issues and talk about what he saw as the future. And we had a warm, engaging conversation, including his relationship with Ms. Chadwick, so...and we can demonize people when we have a dispute. It would be better if we would not do that, and not personalize it in that way. And I just want to say that I take umbrage at someone..you know, speaking about the dead and trying to use someone's memory in that way. I'll take the next caller.
LC: It's Ken in Palo Alto. And I want to give out the number: 510-848-4425. Ken in Palo Alto.
Ken: Oh, hello. Thanks for taking my call. I wanted to say that about five years ago, when the changes were made in KPFA, it's the first time we started subscribing to the station, my wife and I. We'd been listening to it off and on before that. But the changes that came in made the station more listenable, seemed to be more solid and professional than it had been before. In fact, my favorite show right now is Amy Goodman's Democracy Now, and I try to catch it every morning before I go late to work. I have found that this whole...that during the last year, since Nicole Sawaya came in, we've been less and less happy with KPFA, and mostly because of Larry Bensky. He has been terribly arrogant, rude to his guests, righteous, self-righteous, sexist, and so often he's wrong on important issues. It just..it just drives me crazy. And my impression from Nicole Saway on air was that she was too weak and she was controlled by him and the other old leftists at KPFA. I don't think the role of KPFA is to give a voice to radio personalities, but that seems to have been what has happened. And since this..the firing of Nicole and the firing of Larry Bensky, the programmers who have taken up that cause I'm afraid have lost all credibility with myself and my wife. I hope that the people on Pacifica Board -- yourself included and Lynn Chadwick -- can get the station moving back in the direction of being more of the magazine that you spoke of in your opening remarks...
Ken: ...being more professional...because we depend upon it so much to get information that we're not finding in the commercial media or on NPR. However, as long as there are broadcasters who feel like, you know...It's not free speech when we only have a handful of people that are on the radio and they're just distorting issues...I can't believe anything they say any more. It's very difficult.
MFB: Well, I want to thank you for your views, and I promise you that we will continue to try very hard to make it the newspaper or magazine for progressives that you talk about, and to continue in that direction, and to have more programming like Amy Goodman's Democracy Now. Thank you. I'll take the next caller.
LC: We have a caller from Santa Rosa. I didn't catch the name.
Jim Moore: Jim Moore.
LC: Jim. Thank you.
Jim Moore: Yes. My comments will stand in contrast to the previous comment. I began subscribing to KPFA at the outset of the first war, that's back by President Bush. I found KPFA to be the only available source of clear, true reporting about..about my world. And since then I have continued to subscribe. And I enjoy very much the very vivacious and clear and stimulating reporting of Larry Bensky. I think that the station has just only improved. I mean, I listen to Flashpoints and the news almost every night, and I know that I'm getting a very clear alternative viewpoint of what's going on out there. Now my question for the guest is this: I personally prepared to quadruple my pledge to KPFA if it decides -- if it's necessary to become that -- an independent station. And I'm wondering if the Board is prepared for that kind of activity of the progressive community in the San Francisco Bay Area.
MFB: Um..I thank you very much for your comments. And I don't know if you mean that KPFA should be independent of Pacifica. If that's what you mean...
Jim Moore: ...if it's necessary in order...
Jim Moore: ....to protect its integrity, yes.
MFB: Pacifica owns KPFA, as it does all five of the stations, and we intend for it to be a progressive...a newspaper, loudspeaker, as it were, for the left, for progressives, and to make it stronger in that regard, and it is a much...
Jim Moore: [unintelligible as MFB continues]...
MFB: ...it is a much-loved asset. And...So we intend to develop it more in that direction. And we certainly wouldn't want to do without KPFA as a voice for that whole signal area in the Bay Area and all of that growing population and all of those people who...It would be great to get into the progressive camp, which is what we'd like to do. But thank you very much for your views.
Jim Moore: Well, you're very
LC: The next caller is..I believe it's Samuel in San Francisco.
LC: In San Francisco?
Samuel: Yes. Hi, name
is Samuel, and I happen to be an ex-employee of KPFA. Samuel Guia.
And I had a chance to meet you, Mrs. Berry, some time ago, probably two
years ago, when you came to introduce yourself to the staff. And I was
very very upset, to the say the least, with the firing of Nicole Sawaya,
because I had a very small chance
to deal with her under very, very difficult circumstances. I was injured from a repetitive stress syndrome, and she was one of the very few managers that I've met in the United Stated in the twenty years that I've lived in this country that had some humanity to treating injured workers. I was really [garbled]...My question is this...And I really want to have an answer, because it's been puzzling me that since 1995 KPFA has been downsizing it, has been downsizing the station. First they fired programmers, then they laid off five staff people, right after we ratified a contract, and now they fired the manager that is making a lot of sense out of the station, that was trying to bring new voices, that was trying to really make it as strong as it was before 1995. And then suddenly you fire that. And what really bothers me is that the person who is behind all this firing and all these layoffs happens to be Lynn Chadwick, which probably remembers me very well, who had a chance to probably speak twice in the whole time that I stayed at KPFA until I left the beginning of this year. And there's a question that keeps coming to my mind: If Pacifica is trying to sell the station, is trying to bankrupt the station -- KPFA -- so that they can profit from the many millions and millions of dollars that Pat Scott had been receiving as offers -- or is it something else, a secret agenda behind all of this downsizing business. And I will take the answer off the telephone. Thank you.
MFB: We thank you for your views. I thank you. No, we're not talking about selling any stations, and none of us profit from anything. I told we don't even get paid to serve on the Board -- which is fine. We're volunteers like many of the volunteers that are throughout the network, and we're very appreciative to them. And so the idea is not to sell anything. It's to make the station stronger. I'll take the next question.
LC: We have a caller from Oakland. I didn't catch the name.
LC: Kathy. Thanks, you're on the air. Thanks.
Kathy: I guess I really have two questions that I'd like to ask you about, and I very much like hearing Larry Bensky, and he's someone that I always try to get on the radio, and I understand some of this debate, that there are a variety of opinions about him. But I don't understand why you can't have someone of his intelligence and his articulateness and his analytical ability from a different race do a different show. Why is it him or someone who's black? Why is it him or someone who's Hispanic? You have a lot of white listeners. If you're gonna call it a race issue, I don't understand what the issue is about him, except that he seems to me to be a great analytic thinker, and I've learned a lot from him over the years. That's my first question.
MFB: OK. You want me to answer that?
MFB: OK. It has..the Larry Bensky thing has nothing to do with race. What I was..when I was talking about diversity, I wasn't talking about Larry Bensky. I was talking about all the different programmers that are on all the stations. This had nothing to do with Larry Bensky. When we have more new programming and can afford new national programming, we will have people without regard to race if they propose good programs. What's the second question?
Kathy: But then, what is the reason that Larry was let go?
MFB: Larry Bensky, as I understand from the Executive Director, was warned three times about using his show, instead of doing what he's supposed to be doing on the show, which is to talk about the issues, just to keep talking about KPFA and what was happening at KPFA. Listeners listened in, as you heard some of them tonight. They wanted to hear about the issues. They weren't interested in hearing internal management things. They can find that out from either Report to the Listener, looking at the website or other news sources. And so, he was warned three times not to do this, and he did it again. And so Larry Bensky, as I understand from the Executive Director, was let go because he did not follow the policy. Now, you may disagree about the policies, or you may have some concern about whether people...
Kathy: [garbled by MFB talking on]
MFB: ...should take up the station time doing that, but that's the reason why. It had nothing to do with anything else.
Kathy: Well, I just wanted to say that for me he's one of my major draws for my contribution, that I just think he's very perceptive, very analytical, and it's a great loss to the station to not have him.
MFB: OK, well...
Kathy: The second issue that I wanted to say is...and I get this..you know, I'm very concerned about...You talked at the beginning of your statement that KPFA needs to be going through change. But every time there's ever been a change at KPFA, it seems the way the management does...the process for doing the change...is always...and I'm thinking of when they changed a lot of the people who emcee'd -- whatever you want to call it --different shows, that the process for how you do change, it seems like it's very archaic. It seems like it's..you know, in this modern day even corporations involve employees when they're making change, because employees are...you know, are right in the trenches doing the work, and they have a good perspective on what's going on. It seems like every time KPFA makes a change it's always this top-down decision that then reverberates, which is why Larry Bensky ends up talking about it on the show. He says you're not living..well not you, you're not the management..but the management is not living to its principles.
MFB: Well, I think that one can...and you made very good points, and one can always try to do better in that regard, and I will be discussing with the Board ways to make sure we do the very best we can. But we do have staff input. There was staff input into the Strategic Plan. There was staff input every time we hire managers..we hire new managers. Staff get to be involved on the hiring committee. So, we probably need to more of that and to find ways to do...and to not have such a clumsy process, or to make it less clumsy. I agree about that. There are a lot of things that I find to be very clumsy, the way they're done in Pacifica. So I take your comments, and I thank you for them.
Kathy: Because as I say, it's not a probably. To me it's like a necessity. If the station's gonna survive, the energy's simply going to reaction to management. Every time management jerks...makes a decision...then the decisions need to be made collaboratively.
MFB: And the energy also should not go to resisting. It ought to be done in terms of -- in my view -- some collaboration. And energy ought not to go into, you know, just resisting just because management -- and not me, because I'm not the management -- decided to do something or other. So, I think it's a two-way street. But I take what you say, and we'll work on it.
Kathy: But there's things management can do to reduce resistance...
Kathy: ...and that's the part that I don't think management is taking responsibility for.
MFB: OK. I appreciate that. Thank you.
Kathy: Thank you.
LC: Our next caller is Jim from Oakland.
LC: Hello, Jim?
Jim: Hello. Yes?
LC: You're on.
MFB: Go right ahead.
Jim: I'd like to remind you that
you indeed own the license, and I guess the airways as a result.
But you don't own the listenership, and this is an activity you've embarked
on that I don't think is going to be very pretty to watch. The core
audience at KPFA, whatever their diversity and whatever their allegiance
to different voices in the community, doesn't like to see this kind of
really heavy-handed and really repressive sort of behavior. And I think
it's been a mistake of a lot of movements, especially on the left, to think
that they've got to adopt the tactics of their enemies in order to survive
to do the good work. There's no point in having a progressive station,
or a station espousing progressive views, that
isn't able to function in a democratic and a really fair way internally. That's something that's probably existed at Pacifica for a while, but it's never been as naked and it's never been as brutal as you are describing right now. And I think you really need to address how you're going to keep the core listenership of KPFA.
MFB: I think that that's an important question, and we very much want to keep the core listenership of KPFA. We've heard from them with different views on these issues, and we try to take all the views in account, and we will, but we definitely want to keep the core issues -- or listeners. This is not about trying to drive any core listeners away. It's about trying to expand and to make sure that the reach is greater rather than less as time goes on.
Jim: Do you understand the way, though...
Jim: ...I'm sorry. Do you understand the way that this, at the very least, appears on the surface to be an extremely
[end of tape side one]....[unkown length of missing recording]
neighborhood constituency. There was a move to expand and make them into a broader Bay Area concern. And I'm sure the reason was for the highest principles: to make good, economical food available to everybody. But it resulted in bureaucratic messes that eventually killed the entire enterprise. And I would.....
[11 second gap in recording - (silence)]
MFB: ...you know, extricte ourselves from whatever difficulties and move forward, because there really is no effort to try to, you know, destroy anything, and so [sound blurb interference]..in account, and I really appreciate them.
Jim: Well, I appreciate your interest in this, and I do -- and let's be honest -- when I heard the clarity and the forcefulness with which you were speaking, and when I see the underlying agenda that I perceive, at least, and what you're doing, I'm disheartened. Because I don't get a feeling that there is a responsive hear for dialogue coming from Pacifica. I..This feels extremely combatitive (sic) and extremely an accomplished fact.
MFB: Well, I'm sorry you feel that way.
Jim: OK. I just had to let you know that. Bye bye.
MFB: Thank you.
LC: Our next caller is Eleanor from Berkeley.
Eleanor: Yes. Ms. Berry, I want to point out to you that democracy is a very very clumsy process. And Mussolini made the trains run on time, which brought him a great deal of power and destruction. I find it disingenuous when I hear the word progressive from your lips, because it has a hollow sound. What we've got in Berkeley, and in Northern California, is an extremely progressive community -- more so, perhaps, than any other place in the country. It's been developed over a long period of time, and is very heterogeneous. In 1995, when all of the elder people on KPFA were fired summarily --Toby Towell [sp? -- apologies for not knowing the name], Bill Mandel, Phil Elwood, and Mama O'Shea -- I stopped my contributions to KPFA, because I didn't feel it represented me. When Nicole Sawaya was elected and I got a monthly report from her as a listener, I not only resubscribed, but I increased my subscription. And I think that there are thousands of people -- from what I've heard -- who have felt that their donations and contributions to KPFA have been for a cause -- to keep something going that's important to us locally and as a guidepost for the nation.
MFB: Can I dialogue with you just for a minute?
MFB: You may not know this, but when I became Chair of the Pacifica Board, I told the Board they should agree to direct -- the Executive Director -- have each station manager give a Report to the Listener on a regular basis, and that I was adamant that that be done, and that is why all the stations began giving regular Report to the Listeners. I thought that was absolutely necessary. So I...you know...And as for using the term progressive and having it come from my lips -- and as for being analogized to a fascist -- I think that the people who have criticized me all my life on the right would be shocked to know that I am now Mussolini. And also I think that -- while I don't want to take up air time going through the history of my present and past progressive activities -- I think that the record is there. And maybe I should take the time, but I'm not gonna do it, because I don't feel like tooting my own horn. But I think that I have as much right to call myself a progressive -- or is this a situation where words only mean what the person who's using them means and no one else has a right to embrace them? I'm sure you don't mean that, but that was the tone and tenor that I got from what you said.
Eleanor: Yes. I've been put off by some of your comments, and...but we're really not talking about you so much as we are Lynn Chadwick...
MFB: I see. Uh-huh.
Eleanor: ...but you've escaped the condemnation or the criticism by saying you're not management. So it's Lynn Chadwick who takes her directions from you that we are really talking about.
MFB: She doesn't take her directions from me. I'm only Chair of the Board. I have one vote. So, I thought I'd tell you that. And she has independent authorities for some things under the..under the documents that we have. But I do take responsibility for the policy. And I understand what you're saying. And I..and everything that everybody's saying. I do intend to pass along to the rest of the Board and take it into account. This is not just an exercise in futility. I'm listening to your questions, trying to answer them, and trying to take in what you said.
Eleanor: I hope so.
MFB: And I thank you for talking to me.
LC: Our next caller's from San Leandro. And I wanted to give out the number. It's 510-848-4425. Frank. Frank from San Leandro?
Frank: Oh, hi. Thank you, Dr. Berry, for taking my call. You know, one of the previous callers touched on it, but I just wanted to kind of clarify in my own mind..I've heard from what I consider to be reliable sources that the Pacifica Governing Board is exploring -- I'm using the word "exploring" -- the possibilities of selling one of the station's licenses to endow the rest of the Pacifica network. I've heard of KPFA and possibly WBAI being one of those stations. And I'd like you to answer if that is a possible plan for KPFA.
MFB: The answer is no, no, no, no. Did you hear me? The answer is no. I'll take another question.
LC: We have a call from Andy from Daly City.
Andy: Good evening. I'm friend of several staff members at KPFA, and I hear a lot of rumors, and I see a lot of things in the press, and I'm having a very hard time figuring out exactly what's going on here. But I keep wondering where the money is going. And let me just focus it in on one specific question. Is Pat Scott being paid anything by Pacifica?
Andy: Not at all?
MFB: The answer is no.
Andy: Thank you.
LC: Thank you. Our next caller is Pat from [garbled by electronic beep sound]
Pat: Yes. Thank you, Mrs. Berry, for taking my call. My husband Barton and I have been subscribers for KPFA for thirty-some-odd years, and before that we lived in the area that was serviced by KPFK and were subscribers there for probably twenty years. This is a very very upsetting situation for us. We're double subscribers. We have..each month we have deductions on two occasions for KPFA, because we believe in the dream of Lew Hill, and it really disturbs me greatly to see it being compromised. I'm disappointed that you have not had any comments from Ms. Chadwick, because I have heard her previously mutter a few words on the station, trying to explain her actions, and they have been most arrogant. And I am combative. And I would urge you, in the name of those who have passed on, specifically Lew Hill -- but all of the fine people, like Trevor Thomas and Catherine Corey [sp?] and, God knows, people like Mama O'Shea -- in the name of people who are brave and courageous, like Bill Mandel -- to change your opinion and urge the Pacficia Board to reinstate Nicole Sawaya and Larry Bensky. Larry Bensky has had the courage to cover things that have been controversial for many many years, and this is kind of an ageist, as far as I'm concerned, ageist way of handling him and all of the others that were fired in 1995. So I urge you to reconsider the actions that have been taken here, and to give us back our station.
MFB: OK. Thank you very much for your views.
LC: The next caller is Brett from El Cerrito. And the number again is 510-848-4425.
MFB: Go right ahead.
Brett: Yeah. Thanks for taking my call. I'm a subscriber for several years, although I'm a young listener, but I've been listening for a fairly long time. And I'm beginning to learn, unfortunately, a little bit more in depth about..you know, sort of the power source here at this station..I guess at this national level of programming, or decision-making. And I guess, you know, I'm really questioning, you know, it's kind of leaking into, you know, the quality of the experience of listening to KPFA is beginning to be affected, because I guess I'm sensing..like..what I'm sensing is a sort of quality that I notice very just typical of the mainstream and the mainstream way of...and when I say mainstream it's basically everything we as listeners try to retreat from and try to sort of, you know, somehow escape from. It's the concept that you can so far, you know, until you hit a wall, you know, and, you know, you might be let into the lobby, but, of course, you can't get beyond this room, or you can get this far but you can't go any further. And I'm just...
MFB: Can I ask you a question? Could I ask you a question?
Brett: Yes. Certainly.
MFB: Do you like Democracy Now?
Brett: Yes, I do, it's, it's..
MFB: Well, OK. I just wanted to know. That's all.
Brett: No, no, I do. I think that's excellent programming. And the national programs are great. But I'm just concerned with the..you know, when one comes to power one has to realize that where the power is is really where the decisions are gonna be made, and I guess I'm not so hopeful that that dialogue is truly occurring, where, you know, the local needs.. and..you know, it's pretty much, it seems like, a very clear example of sort of, you know, what we learned in American history as states rights versus federal rights. You know, I mean to what degree...
Brett: ...I'm sorry?
MFB: Right. I heard what you said, and I was gonna explain something to you, and then you can continue...
MFB: ...that there is local input into what the national Board does. There are local advisory committees at every station, and those advisory committees are supposed to inform us as to how well the stations are meeting the needs of the community. The Chair of the Local Advisory Board in the place where we meet comes to the Board meeting to discuss issues...I meet with the Council of Chairs, the Chairs of all the Local Advisory Boards -- I meet with them on a regular basis so that they can tell me all the things that they need to tell. So, in other words I just wanted you to be clear that there was more than one route for people to have input. But go ahead.
Brett: I'm glad you said that,
because it makes it a lot more clear. But, for example, like in this
particular situation, I mean, what's gone wrong? I mean, it seems
like there is something wrong. You know, like something isn't...there's
some kind of hold up here. I mean, there's such passionate and clear
protest, in a way, of what's happened,
and I'm just, you know, concerned. Can this system that you're describing really..really work through this problem? You know....
MFB: Uh-huh. Well, let us hope so. And we'll keep trying to work through it. And I understand your concerns, and I hope at least part of the answer gave gave you a little bit of..a tiny little modicum of reassurance. And we'll keep working on the problem. OK?
Brett: OK. Thanks a lot for taking my call.
LC: The next caller is Paul in Berkeley.
Paul: Yeah, hi. I'm
a long time [garbled], and I'm a long time KPFA supporter, etc. First,
Mussolini never made the trains run on time. An aspect of fascism
was he just declared that they were running, and there was no truth to
it. But, that doesn't matter. I want to say that first off
everything that the KPFA management -- Pacifica management, whatever --
has done is clearly legally within management's prerogatives, you know,
and under a capitalist system management is very protected by the law.
You also have the disadvantage that if an employee or former employee goes
public, "No. You can't say anything about it", and management can't
play to the press. However, you're not a capitalist corporation,
you know, playing to a bunch of blind, apolitical consumers. You
have an audience here who is very interested and who cares. And I
think Pacifica has shown itself utterly blind and insensitive to the concerns
of its audience. The big thing is, a few years ago when negotiating
a contract with the employees Pacifica retained a notorious anti-union
management consulting firm to help it -- the same one who's helping the
Lafayette Park here Hotel -- right here in Contra Costa County -- thwart,
year after year, the organizing efforts of the largely immigrant housekeepers
who work there. OK? This is a scab firm, and Pacifica hired
a scab firm. If Pacifica doesn't understand how hiring a scab firm
is going to really aggravate, and pain and alienate its listeners and its
base, then Pacifica management is out of touch. OK? And therefore...and
Nicole was wonderful. I had been a big supporter, and I finally let
it lapse, because I felt Pacifica did a lot of top-down, insensitive things,
and I wasn't interested in putting my money there. I didn't have
any other way to make myself felt. And Nicole was there, and she
did her monthly meetings, and they're real different -- her programs --
from Marci Lockwood's, because she was open, and she took calls.
And I just felt such a sense of openness. It was a like a breath
of fresh air. And I resubscribed. And I was down for a hundred
and fifty bucks this year. And I got it off when Bensky got fired,
you know. And I don't think you people want anything out of us but
our money. We're not consulted. We're not thought of.
You don't understand us. And so all I can do is say, "I cut off the
money". I hope your May fund raiser is miserable. And you put
that against the very successful one that Nicole managed four months ago.
And what does that show you? Will that degree of demonstrated alienation
of the financial support of your listener base, your community in Berkeley,
convince you of anything? Or are you gonna just dig in and just go
on with the shreds of an organization that's left to you? I was working
in the Nicaragua Information Center ten years ago when there was a split.
And we got the shell. And the heart was gone. You could
do permanent damage to your organization. If you are that callously
disregarding of the interests and the values of your community. You
know, Bensky got fired for talking about it. I listened to his whole
show that day -- his swan song. You know, he was talking a lot about
what happened last December. But when Lynn Chadwick made her public
statement that had to get broadcast about Nicole Sawaya's termination,
she brought up -- she brought up -- what happened to Larry Bensky and how
public opinion didn't count and all this good stuff and so forth.
So she raised the issue on the air! How can you then fire Bensky
for responding to what management has said about his situation on the air?
That seems grossly, grossly unfair. I'm not impressed by it.
That's what caused me to call up and cancel. OK? Nicole was
really good. I really liked Nicole. I really....She got me
back involved, and she got me contributing, she got me caring. And
I think this whole thing has been conducted so callously that I'm profoundly
alienated. I am profoundly alienated, and I don't think that I speak for just for myself. You know. But, you know, you don't understand Pacifica's relationship to its audience. You know, you're not Delmonte relating to the people who buy the canned goods off the shelf at Safeway. This is something different. And if you can't understand this, you're leading this system ruin. Thank you.
MFB: Well, well, I thank you very much for your views. To respond very quickly, what you said about a scab -- hiring of a labor union lawyer or something -- happened under previous management, which no longer exists, and was a short-term thing, as I understand it. If I'd been here I would have agreed it was a mistake. I wasn't here. The second thing is, you asked if people care about the audience. I care about the audience, and I don't think Pacifica is selling Delmonte fruit, or whatever it is. We have heard from people who both like what has been going on in the last year and people who don't like what has been going on in the last year, and people who have different views on all these things, and we're gonna take into account. The main thing I'm really interested in is, yes, people's views, but also how we can make things better and what we can do in terms of process and how to communicate better, and anything else you want to say. So, I'll take the next call.
LC: It's Arnie in Berkeley.
Arnie: Yes, I'd like some information or clarification on these shadowy figures I hear are called consultants. Could you explain the role of consultants in Pacifica -- radio consultants?
MFB: Radio consultants?
Arnie: Yeah. There was
somebody who was brought in about five years ago, for instance, who said,
"Well, get rid of the folio". And keep hearing about these consultants,
who are very prized people in commercial radio, 'cause they say "We'll,
talk more over the songs. You'll squeeze in more commercials", and
things like that. You know, I just want
to know if this is something that's become a factor at Pacifica, particularly in its relationship to KPFA. Are there these consultants involved? And have there been?
MFB: There were no consultants involved in any decisions that were made about what is happening at KPFA, and I wasn't here five years ago, so I don't know, and neither was Lynn Chadwick. But, there are no consultants involved in those issues related to KPFA.
Arnie: Could you restate your statement from your introductory remarks about..You said something about who could argue with managerial efficiency. You said something about one person instead of five people doing something.
MFB: Oh, no, no, no. I was trying to explain what I meant about efficiency, administrative efficiency. I was just trying to give an example of what I meant. It had nothing to do with power. It had to do with...
Arnie: No, I'm not talking about power. But could you explain that example again?
MFB: Oh. OK. All I meant was, for example, we're looking at things like purchasing goods and services to see if there's some better way to purchase them in bulk and to get a cheaper rate rather than having five different stations ordering things separately, which costs more. The idea is, as many cost savings as we can find in that way, we would have more money to put into programming, rather than using it for administrative services. And that's one of the big goals of the Strategic Plan.
Arnie: Thank you.
LC: Our next caller is Jane in Albany.
Jane: Hi. Thank you for taking my call. I've been a listener for about ten years. I like Larry Bensky. I like what I've heard about Nicole Sawaya. I'm real scared about what you're doing, and I have thoughts about why you're doing what you're doing. Free speech seems to be getting dimmer and dimmer, and evil it seems afoot in the world, all over the world. I have two questions: I would like to know what percentage -- say KPFA has a fund raiser and raises a hundred thousand dollars -- how much does the Pacifica Foundation get of that money? And number two: If I wanted to go and take a look at your books and see how you're spending that money that you get from all the stations, can I come and look at your books?
MFB: Uh, the books of the accounting and the, uh, uh, records of expenditures of the Foundation are public information...
Jane: Clearly. Where..how can I find them?
MFB: ...People can come to
the station -- any station -- or the national office, with some notice,
you know, just say you're coming, and people can...
Jane: OK, and how much percentage is....
MFB: I'm about, I'm about to answer that question. The Board has provided that for all the fund raising that goes on throughout the Foundation that 17.25% of it will go to national programming and national office expenditures -- national programming and national office expenditure. You know what national programming is. I guess the programs are the national programming. The national office -- in case people don't know what that does -- it manages such things as all the administrative services -- trying to consolidate them, as I said -- representing us on all of the regulations that we have to deal with, with all the government agenices -- trying to set up a new human resources function. We've got an awful human resources personnel function throughout the whole network. Paying for that...paying for a Board, expenditures for traveling to meetings and conferences and managing -- all that sort of stuff -- so there are a lot of management things that the national office does -- administering the KU system, which in fact gives our programs out to people throughout our satellite system -- all of this is stuff that the national office has to do in addition to making sure we have national programming.
Jane: So every dollar is accounted for?
MFB: Yes, and you may see it if you wish.
Jane: And who makes the decisions about how big the Pacifica Foundation gets and how much of a percentage you keep nibbling away at these other stations?
MFB: Well, I like the expression "nibbling away"...
MFB: ...but the Board makes policy about..after recommendation from the finance committee of the Board....
Jane: The national Board, over which we have no control...
Male Voice: Say again. We couldn't hear you.
MFB: ...which you have....Your LABs get to meet with them. Your LAB chairs, your LABs give advice, and there are representatives from every single area throughout the network on the Governing Board.
Jane: Well, if indeed the strength with which the...and the listening that you have for us...I mean, it's..I just feel like you basically..you've made us impotent. And I really resent you. And I really resent what you've done to KPFA.
MFB: OK. Thank you very much for your views, and we'll take then into ccount....other....
LC: We have a couple more minutes here, and there's a caller. Larry in Berkeley.
Larry: Hello, Mary Frances. Hello, Lynn. This is Larry Bensky. May I begin by asking you about what you said earlier, Mary Frances Berry, about the three warnings that I was supposedly given before I was fired a fourth time. Were these written or verbal warnings?
MFB: I have no idea...
LC: They're in the record of Larry's employment.
MFB: They're in the record of your employment, Larry.
LB: In other words, you're telling me there are written warnings that I was given?
MFB: I'm telling you anything except that they're in the record. Go ahead and answer him.
LC: Yes, I have...there's, there's...Larry, as you're aware, there's a file, and we don't want to really to get into a whole lot of personnel issues here on the air. I think there's....
LB: Oh, yes, we do, Lynn, because you fired me because of it, and there were no written or verbal warnings. Not one. Not two. Not three. Now, let me ask you another question, Dr. Berry. Why did you walk out of the Pacifica national meeting in February when I began my presentation about the finances and structure of Pacifica, which indicated that Pacifica had gone from a half of a percent as the money it took from stations twenty-five years ago to 17.25% now? That it's increased from three and a half employees to thirteen national employees? That there is no accounability? There is no record of what the national office spends on personnel or consultants, contrary to what you just told that previous caller. Why did you walk out of the room when I began that presentation?
MFB: Larry, Larry -- whether I walk out of rooms to go to lavatories, leave, do whatever I do personally is none of your business. To answer your questions about the money: I have already answered them. And the national programming that exists now didn't exist then. The various functions that the national office has now didn't exist then, and are necessary to the Foundation, and ....
[talking over each other]
LB: We had ......national programming then....
MFB: ...and there is public information...You asked a question. Let me answer it....
[talking over each other]
LB: But you're not answering it. You're avoiding it...
MFB: ...there's public...If you'd like me to answer the question, I'll answer it.
LB: I would like you to answer it.
MFB: There is public information. It is publicly available.Anyone can ask for it. We're required to give public information....
[talking over each other]
LB: You have never responded to a request about how much money.....
MFB: ...Well, if you're gonna talk while I'm talking, I don't wish to argue with you. That's not why I came here.
LB: Why did you come?
MFB: ...So the short answer is that there are functions now that didn't exist twenty-five years ago...
[talking over each other]
LB: There is one and a half....
MFB: ...there's national programming now that didn't exist...
LB: There is one and a half hours a day of programming now. We had a half hour a day then. We have an hour and a half of programming now. The spending for the national office has gone from approximately $150,000 to over a million dollars. Dr. Berry, whether you know it or not -- and you are a person [background sounds -- perhaps MFB and LC conversing] of good will with a great progressive record. You are presiding over a catastrophe. You have created....
MFB: Mr. Bensky, Mr. Bensky, you are spreading misinformation...
LB: ... You are presiding over a catastrophe....
MFB: ...the money you are referring to includes national programming. It is not money being spent in the national office.
MFB: And I thank you very much for your views, and I'm very happy that you called in...
[talking over each other]
LB: ...I would like everyone who wants more to consult our website....
MFB: ...thank you very much, thank you very much for your views, Mr. Bensky. Thank you very much.
LC: And this is the end of our hour. I want to thank you all for listening and for your calls, and we appreciate the time.
MFB: And I will be using this
information, and I thank you for it.
Fore more info on the role of the Pacifica
National Board, see Anatomy of a Heist