What’s happening to Pacifica Radio?


Pacifica, a proudly left-wing independent radio network, has been wobbling noticeably lately. Endless fundraisers. Rumors of ultra-leftists trying to jack the leadership of WBAI in NY. KPFA in Berkeley was riven by factions when we lived in S.F. recently. The programming is suffering too.

On KPFK in L.A. on Friday, Sherry Beale of Healthy Planet Healthy Me fawningly inteviewed one Sheriff Richard Mack, who thinks the Brady Bill is icky and that Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Phoenix is a swell guy. WTF? Why is this on KPFK and not on the Birthers Conspiracy Show?

Judging from the programs listed on her website, Beale herself doesn’t appear to be right-wing but more from the conspiracy du jour crowd. What new Hideousness are They foisting on us today, that sort of thing. The problem with conspiracy theories is solutions are rarely proposed and after a while it just becomes a miasma of paranoia, rage, and hopelessness.

A hardcore socialist acquaintance in LA once said disgustedly to me after listening to KPFK news, I can hear better stuff on NPR now. That was three years ago too.

Fundraising is down everywhere, to be sure. Pacifica stations are in constant begging-for-money mode. Part of this has to be due to their increasingly inept and scattered programming. Sure, there are gems like Doug Henwood’s Behind The News on WBAI, but for the most part Pacifica is losing focus and listeners.

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  • woody

    I’ve been listening to WBAI since I picked up the station as a kid and heard “Off The Hook”. Pacifica has had infighting since it’s inception, and will continue to have it until it’s eventual demise (which I hope is a long ways off). It’s collected an eclectic group of people with odd points of view, all of whom believe in what they’re doing enough to donate their time and money to program the station mainly as volunteers.

    I remember the uproar when Garry Null proclaimed on air in early 90s that AIDS was a myth, and did a 13 segment show on his “proof” of such. I also recall the several times that the station was locked down by one faction on the other, taking over the station, sometimes via the sub-station on the top floors of the Empire State building where the signal is transmitted.

    They have been hurting recently, but so has every charity. My local PBS has had to “beg for money” more often too this year, and has fallen short on each pledge drive. Reality is that with so many people out of work, or pinching pennies because of other debts, non-profits are suffering. This particular non-profit has a 50K watt station to broadcast that fact, and makes their budget so transparent that you can call and ask for a copy of it any time (for free via e-mail or at cost for a print/mail version.) So it’s a little more obvious where they are, that’s all.

    Over all, they do a good job of getting news and facts. There are some off the wall shows, but you’re bound to get those when you’re doing 24 hour, all volunteer, talk radio with an open community spin. There are several good shows on most of their stations, and there have been many good spin-off productions that they still air, but that are financially no longer tied to Pacifica directly. (Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now!”, and Free Speach Radio News being two that spring to mind.) To write them off because of one show out of 40+ they have per week seems a little reactionary.

    Personally I have a PayPal account that I use as a distribution system for my funding to several groups, including WBAI, FSRN, and A-Infos. I only give a little per month ($10 to $20 depending on the group), but it’s money they can rely on and budget with. And since it’s automated, all I have to do is replenish that PayPal account every few months. It’s a good way to give if you can, vs the lump-o-cash every year, where they can’t predict if you’ll give more, less, or at all this year. It also prevents the “I want to give, but I don’t have that $100 in the budget this week to do it” when the paper renewal slip hits your mailbox.

    • I’m not writing them off, just saying their quality control needs some work. Someone needs to be in charge, and with their eternal infighting, that can be problematic. Which doesn’t matter as much in good economic times, but when people are deciding who they can afford to donate to, they’ll probably choose the well-run operations.

      When I was Co-coordinator of the Green Party of Los Angeles County Council, after a particularly contentious meeting that lasted 4 hours where nothing got accomplished, I asked a fellow council member if KPFK meetings, where he was also involved, were as dysfunctional. He said it wasn’t even close, that KPFK meetings were way more dysfunctional.

      • I did quite a bit of “work” with Pacifica a couple of years ago when building a couple small computer networks for a couple of local community radio stations and was for quite a while on their mailing list. Haven’t heard from ’em in months (maybe over a year), and a quick check of the bookmarks finds them as dead as the last time I checked.

        I stopped listening when their program content became consistently twenty-four hours behind what we were providing our listeners with via DemocracyNow! and other topical programming. As sucky as NPR has become, it still (sadly) better content.

  • It is a shame. I can’t get NPR or Pacifica unless Amy Goodman is working with them. Worse than that, our local ‘news’ has switched its hourly two minutes from ABC to Faux …
    What non-corporate news I do get is Free Speech TV and Link, both of which I try to support financially … Faux News blurts something out and calls it reporting, then offers to let me ‘decide’ … decide what? That I’d rather be fishing?

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