A Vision for Pacifica Radio
Creating a Network for the 21st Century
Strategic 5 Year Plan

November 1996

Free Pacificans analyze the plan

Introductory text by Dick Bunce, Pacifica Radio
Copyright 1996, Pacifica Foundation, Inc.

Table of Contents

Part One


The Crisis of Democratic Communications in the Late Twentieth Century

Protecting and Growing Pacifica Radio

Pacifica Assets

Planning Process
Premises for Pacifica's Plan
Goals and Objectives

Pacifica's Priorities

1997 Operating Plan

The 50th Anniversary Campaign


List of Planning Participants



In the half century since the Pacifica Foundation was incorporated, the worlds of public radio, broadcasting, and the media have been through multiple transformations. The present and onrushing future is no less dynamic in opportunities and risks for Pacifica Radio. Patricia Scott, Executive Director of Pacifica, believes that we stand at an "unmarked crossroads" in the life of our network, "where a failure of the will necessary to make investments in our franchise could trigger the beginning of our demise. Imagination and a new sense of purpose in Pacifica can make us a national force, defining the course of electronic journalism, not being defined by it." Challenging the network to address improved methods of impacting political discourse and culture, Scott and Pacifica's leadership committed extensive time, energy and resources in 1996 to strategic planning. We sought to take measure of our circumstances, identify our opportunities and options, our resources and barriers.

The resulting Plan endeavors to identify our vision and our role, our organizational values and operating assumptions, our goals -- and the process to make these dreams real. The document prepared as a result of these deliberations asserting Pacifica's claim to a valuable place in the changing new world of public radio and other media, is included in this report. To understand the plan requires first some consideration of the context of Pacifica's operations, and why we felt the urgency to develop a strategy for Pacifica's future.

The Crisis of Democratic Communications in the Late Twentieth Century

The rise of media trusts in the late twentieth century has shifted the context for Pacifica Radio's broadcast operations. The rise of this trust isolates Pacifica institutionally, but also increases the distinctiveness of Pacifica programming and mission, raising the value of Pacifica's work to the democratic process. It may even increase the audience and demand for Pacifica's programming.

Media trusts are the corporate concentrations among media industries, now with newly globalized holdings. Today five global, vertically integrated media companies dominate the information and entertainment economies: News Corporation, Disney, Time-Warner, Viacom and TCI. Similar firms with global ambitions include General Electric (owner of NBC), Westinghouse (owner of CBS), Sony, Seagrams (owner of MCA) and the European giants Philips, Havas and Bertelsmann. [1] . Under the media trusts, public broadcasting generally and Pacifica Radio specifically are reduced to the media equivalent of a mom-and-pop grocery in a world of Wal-Mart superstores, or more to the point, media "craft shop" outposts in a marketplace overwhelmed by infotainment factories.

The Marginalization of Political Journalism

This concentration of ownership, financed by advertising for the pursuit of profit has fundamentally transformed U.S. journalism, rendering it an extravaganza of crime, mayhem, and natural disaster stories seasoned with personal tragedies. In short, journalism is being tabloidized by the media trusts, because tabloid product draws a more profitable audience. As Ted Turner, founder of Cable News Network (acquired in 1996 by Time-Warner) explained, "The more complex, the more forward-looking the story ... the smaller the ratings are."[2] "Journalism, real journalism, is not profitable" -- and is not currently the object of investment by the media trusts, since the "market has little apparent interest in serious journalism."[3]

Compounding this was the elimination in the late 1980s of the Fairness Doctrine --which required attention to diverse viewpoints on controversial issues. Erasing Fairness and the trusts' takeover of journalism has meant that tabloidization has re-cast the nature of news, information and public affairs in daily newspapers, television and radio. Consequently, the chief information fare now provided to Americans -- particularly on broadcast media, the primary "information source" of Americans -- "is a deception that distorts reality and undermines people's faith in government, their sense of community, and the notion of shared social responsibility."[5

The Assault on the Public Sphere

By restricting the flow of information essential to political discourse and citizen participation, media trusts imperil democracy. Paradoxically, this alarming predicament is not the subject of public debate today over communication policy. Congressional concern, dominated by extremists, is "whether the only vestiges of nonprofit broadcasting should be eliminated so that we may have a thoroughly market-driven system."[6]

In 1994 Republicans took over both Houses of Congress and immediately targeted Pacifica Radio as the wedge issue to undermine Congressional support for public broadcasting. In the House, Republican Members from Colorado (Joel Hefley) and Illinois (Phil Crane and John Porter) -- where Pacifica owns no radio stations -- used spurious charges of "hate broadcasting" as a tactic to cut off Corporation for Public Broadcasting Funds to Pacifica. In the Senate, South Dakota Senator Larry Pressler (also from a state without Pacifica Radio) sought to revive witch-hunting tactics against Pacifica and to drive a wedge between Pacifica and two other key institutions in public radio -- NPR and CPB. Earlier Bob Dole, as Senate Majority Leader, singled out Pacifica for criticism at the annual Public Radio Conference, admonishing CPB to clean house and reign in Pacifica's broadcasts. Dole's aide Jim Whittinghill rationalized his boss's call for CPB censorship arguing that "freedom of speech doesn't apply because we are able to put conditions on grants of federal money, the same as we do with farmers." The Republican leadership's moves in 1995 to eliminate federal funding of public broadcasting was in part a reward to Christian broadcasters,[7] many of whom took credit for the election of the 104th Congress.[8]

The message is clear: Independent journalism is an endangered species in American media, and public media -- potentially the most significant practitioner of independent journalism -- is under siege for that very independence. A corollary message should also be clear. it is unlikely that federal dollars will ever fuel Pacifica's growth - or that of public broadcasting -- and "we will have to work very hard if the federal appropriation is to keep pace with inflation."[10]

The Commercial Imperative

If public funding is eliminated, chances are the dominant players in public radio -- NPR, PRI and their satellite-driven franchise stations -- will replace federal support with commercial support. The entire system -- except for Pacifica --is already preparing to survive without a federal subsidy by becoming more explicitly commercial -- and more restricted to an upper income target audience.

Except for Pacifica, the conditions of public radio's existence - especially the terms governing the making of the prime time programs distributed by NPR and PRI -- require strict conformity to the norms of expression deemed proper by the corporations that sustain their programming.

As NPR CEO Delano Lewis continues to collaborate with the media trusts, notably with TCI subsidiary Liberty Media's CEO Peter Barton, and with Bell Atlantic (Lewis's previous employer), and as PBS's v-p cuts deals with producers from NBC and Paramount Pictures, commercialization becomes audible and visible throughout the continuum of financing, management and program development.

Today NPR's and PRI's regularly scheduled news and information programs exist at the pleasure of their corporate underwriters; increasingly global conglomerates like Archer Daniels Midland (NPR News) and GE (PRI's Marketplace) are paying the overwhelming cost of program development and production. Public radio -- except for Pacifica -- appears to be proceeding dangerously along what Bill Moyers calls "the slippery slope to serfdom, where we wind up the stepchild of industry: ruled by the iron imperative of commercialism, in hock to the lowest common denominator, our decisions of what to produce and program determined not by educational or cultural needs but by the size of our back-end deals."[11]

The Paradox of Media Trusts: New Opportunities for Public Media

By diminishing the supply of informational programming -- Pacifica's and public radio's stock-in-trade -- the media trusts have paradoxically increased audience demand for Pacifica and public radio services. As audiences experience a declining number of non-fiction sources, public radio becomes the place to turn to, and not just for radio listeners, but for all media users. Public information, democratic debate, social and political intelligence are the franchise of Pacifica Radio, and to varying degrees, public radio generally. (This is particularly true of locally produced and focused programming, which is a key component of Pacifica stations, and less characteristic of the rest of public radio.)

Public radio may have a fresh opportunity to define its market niche and control it. Could we be on the verge of public radio as a "growth" industry? Chris Farrell, a major on-the-air economist thinks so[12] . Remarkable growth in public radio audiences nationwide is associated with all-news formats, which are increasing among the 450 public stations, and now dominate music formats, both jazz and classical, on public radio. From San Francisco to Boston, dramatic audience gains have been registered by public stations converting to all-information broadcasting.[13]

Significantly, Christian radio is now another major public affairs media source. This opening in the communications system is being aggressively addressed by the fundamentalist Christian right. When the FCC dropped the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, Christian broadcasters were relieved of their need to cover diverse viewpoints on controversial issues. Many substituted broadcast attacks on abortion clinics, attacks on gun control efforts and support of like-minded political candidates. This transformation was not widely reported outside the circles of their regular audiences. They have pursued radio station licenses wherever any remained available. Based in rural America, these radio ministries have extended their reach through KU Band satellite technology and translators (authorized by the FCC), penetrating most suburban areas. Their success in attracting listener support and advertisers (two of every three Christian stations are commercial[14]) has built wealth for them -- after some 10 years of work -- sufficient to step up purchases of urban, major market licenses. Now there are nearly three religious radio stations for every "public" radio station. Religious right radio has proved far more successful (they now number one out of every ten U.S. radio stations[15]) than the community radio movement ever was. They have done so by using radio to build a political force, a community, a movement -- a strategy originally invented by community radio pioneers.

Emerging Commercial Competition

The opportunity is ours. Today people spend more time with radio than any other medium -- television, newspapers, magazines, computers or the Internet. Americans twelve and older spend 44% of their total media time with radio, Monday through Friday, 6AM to 6PM.[16] Not only is radio the dominant medium, it is dominant in information, news and opinion formation. If public radio and Christian radio have the information field to themselves for the present, it is unlikely the media trusts will abandon it indefinitely. In all likelihood, at the turn of the century, if not before, a number of new commercial, informational audio services will be inaugurated. These commercial services, startups from the media trusts, will have theoretically unlimited financial backing, and with that, the ability to compete cutthroat-style. CNN-Time Warner is offering audio services, AP Radio is developing a 24-hour news service, and Westinghouse-CBS piloted a "listening post" format on a San Francisco commercial station featuring 5 minute in-depth stories across the board.[17] While these commercial forces will not take away the Pacifica franchise, nor that of public radio generally, they will appeal in varying degrees to our current and prospective audiences

Protecting and Growing Pacifica Radio

Institutional isolation, the marginalization of authentic journalism, political assaults on Pacifica, the looming withdrawal of federal funding, emerging competition -- these are the external challenges facing Pacifica. We are mindful also of internal challenges that have been mounted in the wake of changes in programming and organizational accountability. Pacifica's leadership is making decisions that will determine whether Pacifica Radio prospers or withers in the coming decade. We will distinguish fact from fiction about the services we provide and how these services will be delivered. We believe Pacifica faces difficult opportunities and holds substantial resources. Impediments to Pacifica's growth come chiefly from the limitations of anarchic or bureaucratic systems -- and yet which operate in a competitive environment. In other words among barriers to our growth is our own inability to fix ineffective and unsustainable aspects of Pacifica Radio's programming, financing, and operations.

Pacifica Radio's future is also the key to public radio's future: "Focus on serving a significant audience with a valued public service."[18] Our answer may not, however, and certainly need not be theirs.

To consider our answer, the Pacifica Board of Directors and management in 1996 engaged in a strategic planning process. The Strategic Plan is designed to secure a future for our communications organization worthy of the Pacifica vision and of our half-century of achievements.

Pacifica Assets

An inventory of Pacifica's existing resources provides an impressive list of systems, capacities and assets from which we can choose our future. It also testifies to the acumen of Pacifica's leadership over several generations in growing despite chronically limited financial circumstances.

The Pacifica Franchise

A Signature Mission and Programming with Vision

Pacifica was founded just after World War II by a group of visionary women and men who were disturbed by the way radio had been used, on all sides, to stir the passions of war, and who were excited by the idea of using the medium to promote peace and community. "The potent communicative instrument of radio broadcasting had never been used in the serious service of these problems," wrote Eleanor McKinney, Pacifica's first Program Director, "nor had radio ever been able to provide an atmosphere of freedom and diversity which would attract serious writers, artists, thinkers."

Lewis Hill and the founders who put Pacifica on the air sought to create an independent, noncommercial radio in the service of peace, social and racial justice, and the arts. Pacifica has pioneered the use of radio as a forum to ignite the democratic spirit.

The freedom which Pacifica does truly enjoy exists because the network is financially independent of commercial imperatives that define virtually all other broadcast organizations. Pacifica accepts no underwriting, and its singularity in this has made it the odd fellow of public broadcasting. The leading scholar of public broadcasting, Ralph Engelmann, defines the Pacifica franchise this way:

Acknowledged as the conscience of public broadcasting, Pacifica's stations have produced a rich current of programming, while making it safe for mainstream public radio to show more independence in subject matter and journalistic style. Critical commentary and editorial point of view on public radio are as vigorous as they are in no small measure due to the persistent presence of Pacifica's unwavering insistence on exercising the fullest possible First Amendment rights and responsibilities. This practice has clearly broadened the acceptable range of discourse on public radio, thereby strengthening its mandate as an indispensable medium for communicating the dissent requisite to a democracy.

As "Radio with Vision," Pacifica is almost alone in bringing to a mass audience visionary voices who are inspirational spokespersons and catalysts to overcome powerlessness. From Cornell West to Helen Caldicott to Noam Chomsky, no other radio broadcaster has so built its reputation on bringing the ideas and analyses of the country's most important intellectuals, activists and writers to a broad audience. In the words of public radio scholar Jeffrey -Land,

Five Major Market Radio Stations Pacifica has continuously held its licenses for stations in five of the top ten media markets. Pacifica's KPFK in Los Angeles has the strongest FM signal anywhere in the United States. KPFA is the strongest FM signal in Northern California. WBAI in New York transmits from the premier location in its metro area, the Empire State Building. The market value of these five licenses alone exceeds 100 million dollars. Pacifica owns the land and studio and office facilities in Berkeley, Los Angeles and Houston, and its transmission tower and property in Berkeley.

Weekly Audience of Over One Million Listeners

Pacifica's five owned and operated stations' signals reach 22% of American radio homes. Pacifica programming draws an audience of 708,300 listeners each week2l, and the 55 affiliate stations broadcasting Pacifica National Programming add an estimated 500,000 - 1,000,000.[22]

Other major resources include:

Non-Broadcast Distribution Capacity

National Board of Directors
Draft - Strategic 5 Year Plan
November 1996

Planning Process

Pacifica staff and board have met in retreat three times to discuss the future they see for the Foundation as a whole, and the most promising ways to achieve that future. In March 1996 the group identified the impact Pacifica wants to have, key elements which will be required to achieve that impact, and how well the Foundation is positioned to achieve its goals. During the spring, board/ staff task forces discussed specific initiatives which might help the organization move forward. These initiatives were reviewed by the whole group at the June retreat, and core elements of the shared vision and plan were identified, along with criteria for prioritizing. In August the Administrative Council met to propose goals and objectives and identify key strategies for achieving the goals. These recommendations were presented at the September retreat, and when the Board held its meeting on Sunday, they asked that these ideas be presented to local staff, volunteers and local advisory boards for comments before the plan is formally discussed and acted upon by the Board in January 1997. Local stations will then create their own local plans and priorities within the framework of the Pacifica strategic plan.

Premises for Pacifica's Plan

In this discussion, Board and Staff recommitted to Pacifica's purpose, identified key elements of its vision and the primary support its vision would require. These are as follows:

Purpose and goals
As a professional radio broadcast organization committed to positive social change, Pacifica is a forum for democratic debate, advocating social and economic justice. To optimally accomplish this mission, Pacifica will:

Shared elements of Pacifica's vision

"Maximum Prudent Growth" (financial and audience) achieved by stabilizing and building on the following:

Guiding Principles for Planning

In defining its vision and identifying its goals and objectives the Board and Staff discussed shared principles which informed their decision-making. These principles are as follows:


Strategies are defined as the most important initiatives for the organization to undertake. The Board and Staff have identified three inter-related primary strategies to meet and achieve its goals.

Goals and Objectives

Goals represent the long range vision of success in specific areas. Objectives are more measurable forms of success in each area.


Goal: Develop and maintain adequate national staff and systems to service Pacifica stations and units.




Goals: Achieve or exceed basic minimum standards in the following areas to improve air sound and build audience in service of Pacifica's mission:

Related Objectives:

Audience Development


Equipment and Technology

Staffing Levels



Goal: Present/produce mission driven signature programming providing audience and revenue high points to five Pacifica stations.



The "Governance" goals and objectives will be completed at the January planning retreat.


Goal: Ensure adequate financial resources to support Pacifica's vision consistent with Pacifica's policy to maintain its independence.

Objective: Create a national programming endowment and capital fund to "upgrade" local stations per their strategic plans.


Goal A: Make use of cutting edge technologies to enhance Pacifica's ability to deliver programs and build audience.


Goal B: Make use of technology to manage information and communications.



Goals: Promote Pacifica programming, activities, image and values.




Pacifica's Priorities

The following criteria were developed by Board and Staff for identifying priority areas within the plan:

Based on these factors, Pacifica has identified as its primary strategy a multimillion dollar 50th Anniversary Campaign to build a programming endowment and provide capital and operating funds to "upgrade" local stations per their strategic plans. This campaign meets all of the criteria noted above, acting as a unified fundraising effort which benefits the entire system

1997 Operating Plan

The 1997 operating plan proposes investment in those areas which allow Pacifica to research, launch and support the 50th Anniversary Campaign. In addition, it identifies certain initiatives which help build audience locally and nationally. Key activities proposed for 1997 in support of the strategic plan include:


List of Planning Participants

Led by Barbara Miller, Senior Consultant from the Support Center of New York, Pacifica's Strategic Planning took place in 1996 at several specially scheduled Board-and-Staff retreats, public meetings of the Board of Directors, phone conferences by Board-and-Staff Task Forces, and Administrative Council meetings*, as follows:

Pacifica Foundation Board of Directors
Jack O'Dell, Chair
Director of Interactional Affairs, Rainbow Coalition
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada     

Cecelia Mecca, Ph.D. - Vice Chair
Professor of Sociology, City University of New York,

Baruch College
New York, NY

Roberta Brooks, Secretary
Staff - Hon. Ron Dellums, US Congress   
Oakland. CA     

Hon. June Makela, Treasurer
School Board Member, Borough of Manhaum
New York,  NY   

David Acosta
Certified Public Accountant
Houston, TX

David Assmann
Public Outreach. San Francisco Recycling Program
San Frmcisco, CA

Alexis Gonzales
Labor Organizer - Local 2 Hotel and Restaurant
Employees Union
San Francisco, CA       

Charlotte Hellman
Washington, DC

Ambrose Lane
Minister and Consultant (resigned 8.96)
Washington, DC

Frank Millspaugh
Executive Director, Film Video Arts
New York,  NY

Charles McClung
Attorney-at-Law (Alternate Board Member)
Laguna Niguel, CA

Dorothy Nasatir
Activist (Alternate Board Member)
Canoga Park, CA

Michael Palmer
Real Estate Broker (Alternate Board Member)
Houston, TX

Loretta Ross (joined Board 9.96)
Executive Director, Center for Human Rights Education
Atlanta, GA

Roger Scarborough
Houston, TX

Adrien Zubrin
Fundraiser (Alternate Board Member, began 9.96)
Washington, D.C.


Pacifica Foundation
Administrative Council
National Staff:

Pat Scott
Executive Director
Berkeley, Ca

Dick Bunce
Development Director
Berkeley, CA

Gail Christian
Director, National Programming
North Hollywood, CA

Sandra Rosas
North Hollywood, CA

Julie Drizin
Bureau Chief, PNN/Democracy Now
Washington, D.C.

Mary Tilson
Station Relations Director (non-member)
Berkeley, CA
Pamela Burton
Director, Pacifica Radio Archives
North Hollywood, CA

Station Managers:

Garland Ganter
General manager, KPFT
Houston, TX

Marci Lockwood
General Manager, KPFA
Berkeley, CA

Mark Shubb
General Manager, KPFK
North Hollywood, CA

Valerie Van Isler
General Manager, WBAI
New York, NY

Bessie Wash
General Manager, WPFW
Washington, DC

Louis Hankins
Acting General Manager, WPFW
(April-July 1996)
Washington, D.C.


1 Robert McChesney, Monthly Review, June-July 1996.

2 Editorial, The Nation, June 3, 1996, p.3.

3 McChesney, ibid.

4 Don Hazen, "Ten Powerful Trends Transforming Our Media World," in Media and Democracy, Don Hazen and Larry Smith, eds., Institute for Alternative Journalism, San Francisco, 1996. The corporate lock on print and broadcast media has led to a generalized destruction of journalism and alienation of the public from the media. As Robert McChesney has written: "By defining the news as being based on specific events or on the activities of official sources, the news media neglect coverage of long-term social issues that dominate society. Moreover by sanitizing coverage and depriving it of ideological content, the news ma[kes] public affairs increasingly obtuse, confusing and boring. The excitement once associated with politics [i]s now found only in coverage of crime, sports and celebrities. This depoliticization has been marked by a general decline in political knowledge, lower voter turnouts, and a range of legitimate political debate far narrower than the historical standard, or than that in other nations." From Philanthropy Must Answer Market's Attack on Journalism... forthcoming. And leading mainstream journalists agree. Former Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein writes: "We are being dominated by a global journalistic culture that has little to do with the truth or reality or context. The result of the misuse and abuse of free expression in Western democracies actually disempowers people by making them more cynical about public life." And Reuven Frank, former head of NBC News was quoted: "It is daily becoming more obvious that the biggest threat to a free press and the circulation of ideas is the steady absorption of newspapers , television, networks and other vehicles of information into enormous corporations that know how to turn knowledge into profit - but are not equally committed to inquiry or debate or to the First Amendment."

5 Hazen, ibid.

6 Robert McChesney, "Public Broadcasting in the Age of Communications Revolution," Monthly Review, December 1995.

7 It has been argued that Christian stations, currently confined to less choice frequencies than most public broadcasters, would be able to buy out vast numbers of weakened public stations suddenly thrust on the market because of CPB cuts. Gingrich has actually outlined just such buyouts for the press, and cynically proclaimed "Rush Limbaugh is public radio."

8 Katharine Q. Seelye, "Radio Host Tells G.O.P. Not to Trust the Press," New York Times (National Edition), 12.12.94

9 Ibid. The threats and intimidation have lately also come from the trusts. In 1996 Disney-ABC attorneys threatened Pacifica with an expensive nuisance suit for broadcasting excerpts (provided by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) of ABC's NYC talk show host Bob Grant's shockingly racist diatribes.

10 Stephen Salyer, Keynote Address, Public Radio Development Conference, San Diego, CA July 15, 1994. Not only is there missing a coalition of advocates in Congress for increasing the public investment in public broadcasting, there is disagreement over the best use of existing support levels. The Twentieth Century Fund blue-ribbon panel recommended a fundamental re-structuring of federal support: "The best role for the federal government is not to support local stations, except under very unusual circumstances, but to provide key resources for critical national programming which has become the keystone of building public broadcasting and public service." Current, 8.9.93,p. lff.

11 Bill Moyers, Cw-rent, 7.8.96

12 Chris Farrell,'What the New Economy of the 21st Century Means for Public Radio,"Keynote Address to the 1996 Public Radio Development/Marketing Conference, Minneapolis, 8.2.96

13 Salyer, ibid. KQED/San Francisco and WBUR/Boston, a former Pacifica affiliate, are prominent examples cited.

14 Al Savitsky, "Ear on America," Media Studies Journal, Summer 1993.

15 ibid.

16 "Media Targetting 2000", reported in Arbitron's Radio Market Reports, Summer 1996

17 Salyer, ibid.

18 D. Giovannoni.

19 Ralph Engelman, Public Radio and Television in America, Sage, 1996.

20 Jeffrey Richard Land, Active Radio: Pacifica's Brash Experiment, Ph.D. Dissertation, Univ. of Oregon, 1994.

21 Source: Radio Research Consortium, Winter 1996 Toplines, Arbitron Radio Audience Estimates; and AudiGraphics, Audience Research Analysis of proprietary radio listening data prepared by The Arbitron Co., separate reports for Pacifica stations.

22 Only estimates are available because audience information for affiliate stations is proprietary and not available to Pacifica.

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