From the San Francisco Bay Guardian 05/22/97


Clash of the titans
KPFA's local board may challenge Pacifica brass

KPFA'S LOCAL advisory board met last Wednesday and expressed its willingness to question parent network Pacifica's top management in the wake of a highly critical audit by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The audit accused Pacifica of violating federal open-meeting and local advisory-board laws, and recommended making the foundation's CPB funding contingent on its compliance with provisions of the Federal Communications Act.

Pacifica executive director Pat Scott has gone on the offensive since the release of the report, calling part of the CPB's audit "flatly false" in a press release and calling the corporation's inspector general, Joe Arvizu, inexperienced and unprofessional.

In a strongly worded letter to the CPB, Scott asserts that the inspector's "misconceptions of the role of the advisory boards [are] a grave mistake with far-reaching implications for Pacifica." Scott says Arvizu's criticisms of how Pacifica has treated its local boards "would undermine Pacifica's efforts to clarify its governance structures."

But the local board, led by chair Hank Levy, sees things differently, and plans to say so to Scott and Pacifica's national governing board in a letter to be drafted later this month. Local board members voted unanimously to send Scott and the governing board the letter before next month's national board meeting in Oakland.

After last week's meeting, Levy told the Bay Guardian about the disagreement with Scott.

"Many members of the board have grave reservations about Pat Scott's reaction to the CPB report," he said. "A lot of us think that the auditor was on the right track when he was discussing the role of the local advisory board, and we intend to write a letter to the Pacifica national board expressing our disagreements with the way Scott responded to the report."

The CPB report chastised Pacifica for hampering the efficacy of its local boards when major programming and governance shifts were handed down from national leadership, and for threatening local board members who did not agree with management's new tack.

Levy said the local board is taking an unprecedented step.

"We're going to try to say what we think, which might not be easy," he told the Bay Guardian. The local board also passed a resolution urging the national board to refrain from selling any of the network's five current stations, in response to concern that management may consider a station sale. Pacifica has adamantly denied any such possibility.

Pacifica governing board chair Jack O'Dell traveled to Washington, D.C., to address Monday's meeting of the CPB's board of directors. In a prepared statement he reiterated Pat Scott's claim that Pacifica's meetings have been open.

Take Back KPFA representative Jeffrey Blankfort went too, and he told the Bay Guardian he was "disappointed but not surprised" that the board took no action on its CPB report. The CPB said its rules need to be clarified, but reiterated its call for open meetings while not directly threatening Pacifica's funding. But Blankfort said, "If nothing else the reaction to [Pat Scott's] letter among members of local advisory boards across the country has stirred a potential rebellion."

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting's audit and Patt Scott's letter are both online.

Belinda Griswold

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