Pacifica supporters who have not been on a Local Station Board, including KPFT members, sometimes ask why is there so much conflict between board members. There are multiple reasons, including distrust generated by a few board members through some rather un-Pacifica tactics. But I think the basic conflicts are between two groups:
- Those who feel we just need to express progressive political positions and have programs that espouse those as strongly as possible
- Those who feel that’s not enough – that if we are to fulfill the Pacifica mission, we must not only have ideas that other stations won’t let you hear, but we must also increase listenership and revenue so we’ll have more people hearing our programming and providing enough money to pay our bills and stay on the air.
I’m part of the second group above. We all appreciate programs at KPFT and other Pacifica stations that stand up for those who our society casts aside and who have been exploited and oppressed. We all have sympathy for such people and causes. Some of those programs have been very good. But others, despite covering topics that appeal to many of us, have had various problems that have resulted in few listeners and almost no support.
It’s not enough to have politically-correct programs. Ones that have listeners and which are fulfilling important parts of our mission are important to keep. But some programs that generate neither significant number of listeners nor financial support should either be improved so more people will listen and support them, or they should be replaced with better programs. Or at a minimum, board members and others should help their favorite programmers who are struggling to produce better shows, and help to promote them more effectively.
We’ve even had some board members who have created an artificial conflict, saying such things as KPFT should not have music programs. They ignore that about 2/3 of our revenue comes from those shows, and that many musicians are victims of the corporate media just as many political activists are. Many musicians, like many people with non-mainstream political positions, can’t get on the air at other stations, but KPFT listeners appreciate getting to hear a variety of types of programming, and they support them.
Moreover, we’ve had LSB members at KPFT and other Pacifica stations who have wanted to give preference to friends of theirs, over more qualified people, when deciding who should be a permanent General Manager or Program Director.
We should not just strive to be politically correct according to some LSB members, and keep other potential (and better) shows from having air time, just so friends of LSB members can get or keep shows or get management (or other) jobs at our stations. Board members who insist on protecting programs to which hardly anyone listens, are not only keeping us from fulfilling our mission, but are also one of the main causes of Pacifica’s continuing deficits and critical financial situation.
When I was interim Executive Director of Pacifica in 2017, we made a few changes in both personnel and programming to help stabilize things financially. KPFT was able to pay all its bills (including our share of Pacifica national expenses) after that, and some of the other stations started doing better. But we need to do more, across all Pacifica stations. We can’t have more staff than we can pay for at some stations. We need better outreach to get more listeners. We can’t continue to keep very low-performing shows on the air just because they are hosted by friends of LSB members, when there are plenty of good shows available that would attract more listeners to better fulfill the Pacifica mission and help to raise funds that are critically needed to pay off debt. We need to not just barely survive, but to thrive, if the Pacifica mission is to mean anything!
So perhaps the most important conflict among board members is whether we’re just going to protect programs hosted by friends and have a program schedule that appeals to only a small number of people, or whether we’re going to make sure we have more quality programs that both (1) listeners can’t hear anywhere else, and also (2) listeners will support with their donations. In my opinions, doing only the first is NOT enough. Not all shows need to bring in lots of donations, but collectively our program schedule must attract more listeners and more dollars. KPFT already has a lot of good programs and I don’t want to replace them. But we also have a few that consistently do poorly.
In addition, we have had too many cases in Pacifica of General Managers or Program Directors doing the opposite – replacing shows that were doing OK, with ones produced by friends of theirs or of board members. Sometimes the new shows have done all right, but some have done much worse than the original show and result in significant loss of listeners and donations. Unfortunately, this has sometimes persisted for years (especially at some other Pacifica stations), and has caused those stations to run continuing deficits, causing our debt to become very critical. This has to change if we are to survive!
See rethinkingpacifica.org for more about this and why we also need reform of the Pacifica Bylaws to help ensure we get better boards. But in the meantime, please vote for all the candidates on this web site, all of whom are endorsed by Move KPFT Forward. They want to improve KPFT, reduce cronyism in Pacifica, keep our good programs and get more, and improve our finances to Pacifica can pay off its debt and become more influential.
Let’s help to Move KPFT Forward!