Marc Cooper on the ongoing disintegration of KPFK and Pacifica


First off, Cooper details (Pt. 1, Pt. 2) how listenership for KPFK has dropped off a cliff. It has the strongest signal in the western US and a potential reach of 20 million people yet its average listenership in any given quarter hour now has plunged to a pathetic 1,800, down from 7,000 in 2001.

So, what happened? Cooper says a misguided ‘Save Pacifica’ movement spearheaded by Saint Amy and others forced out the supposed corporate management and brought in their own. But it backfired. Badly.

[They] bought into the myth that they had to “save” Pacifica. They did so by hounding out of power an incompetent management and replacing it with a vastly more incompetent and ideologically strident and narrow management. Nice going.

Air-time was parted out to a potpourri of lefty screamers, screechers and ultra-loonies — just at a time when more than ever there was the need for an effective counter-media. The result has been catastrophic.

KPFK now has near-constant pledge drives and the programming too often is indeed unlistenable. Quack medicine. Conspiracy theories. Lefter-than-thou. And sometimes just boring.

Some history. Cooper had a show on KPFK and was fired in a very public purge there in 2002. I was on the other side of that fight then but based on my own experience with KPFK and what others have told me, he was and is quite accurate about why Pacifica is collapsing. The leftie loonies have taken over the asylum.

The [current] reform movement [at KPFK] is prisoner of that deadly disease known as “no enemies to the left.”

The levels of vitriol and viciousness that permeate Pacifica’s inner workings are immeasurable. And the political zealots and loonies in its orbit are willing to do anything, say anything and destroy anybody in order to get either a slice of air time, or a meaningless title on a meaningless governance board.

This isn’t sour grapes, what he says has been confirmed to me by others.

I am ABSOLUTELY convinced that Pacifica’s internal culture is little different, if it all, from the inner workings of say, the “birther” fringe. Different ideology. Same mierda.

Pacifica has had crises before. But never this bad. The real loss is that just as George Bush took power, Pacifica could have made a difference, getting genuinely progressive news and views out to the public at large. They could, and should have, grown mightily during that era. But instead they imploded, primarily due to lefter-than-thou factionalism and deranged infighting. What a lost opportunity.


  • woody

    I have to disagree to the extent that you’re saying Pacifica as a whole is having issues. The overall group seems to be fine. KPFK may have issues, but frankly they always have. KPFK has always been the “red headed step-child”, even when it was playing mainly music, as the rest of the network was mainly talk. Other Pacifica stations (like WBAI) seem to be doing well, and have had no more pledge drives than normal.

    To compare, one of the shows I listen to on WBAI also has a sister show on SUNY StoneyBrook’s campus station. WBAI has had two fundraisers this year, which is normal for them. StoneyBrook has has 4 in the same time, twice their normal schedule. This is true of many of the NFP groups I give money to anually. I’ve gotten many requests from places asking for more, sooner than normal, because NFP groups are hurting.

    • However WBAI is having a major internal battle so see who controls the station and thus the programming, with a lunatic fringe on one side.

      When we lived in SF recently, I found KPKA barely worth listening to. Underwhelming. And also internal politics would erupt on the air every so often.

      All the stations have sharly dropping listenership too. Woulda coulda should.

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