wbai.net Pacifica/WBAI history   events   links   archive   bylaws etc
PNB   LSB   elections   contact info   opinion   search

PNB historical context - a bald-faced lie 5-30-01

The push to centralize control of Pacifica began during Pat Scott's administration, as did the fight against it. There is a lot that could be said about the issues raised in the article below, but I'd like to call your attention to one particular point: Scott's admission that the reason for the attacks the union was that the union prevented her from easily removing unpaid staff.

This is something that she vigorously denied at the time. Tens of thousands of dollars - your dollars - were spent on legal precedings to smash the union at WBAI so that programmers could be removed. Pacifica management, at that time, said its motive was to defend the rights of paid workers! A Pacifica press release quoted in a March 1997 Current article said, "Pacifica's case is based on its belief that 190 people who do not make a living at WBAI should not be bargaining for the wages and working conditions of the approximately 30 people who do."

So, here is one concrete example of a bald-faced lie.



Pacifica's overhaul leader, Pat Scott, to depart in fall

Originally published in Current, April 20, 1998

By Jacqueline Conciatore

Pacifica Executive Director Pat Scott is calling it quits after four years, during which she led the five-station network through changes some see as necessary progress and others as a disheartening, even tragic betrayal of Pacifica's unique founding vision of true community radio.

Scott says she's leaving because the time is right. "It's time to step down as executive director and step up to something else after a long vacation," she said. "I just want to take some time off, do some traveling, ride my bike." She plans to work at Pacifica's Berkeley headquarters through October, and then take the R&R for six months to a year.

She says she hopes to return to community radio. "I really love it, it's been great. It's not often you get the chance to do work you really truly believe in and get paid for doing it."

Scott's April 15 announcement comes six months into the new board chairmanship of civil rights leader and no-nonsense administrator Mary Frances Berry.

About Scott's departure Berry said: "I think she thought it was time. Organizations need different kinds of people in charge at different times. One may be able to make a contribution in one situation and then another somewhere else."

Berry commended Scott for having overseen significant improvements to Pacifica stations' studio and work spaces, for leading the organization through a strategic planning process, and for "making sure Pacifica's relationships with CPB and outside organizations were handled well and expeditiously."

Under Scott, all five Pacifica stations--KPFA, Berkeley, KPFK, Los Angeles, KPFT, Houston, WBAI, New York and WPFW, Washington--have moved to bigger and newer spaces or had studio upgrades. Scott also oversaw the recent launch of Pacifica's Ku- band satellite network, intended to provide community stations a programming stream at a lower cost than the C-band satellite operated by NPR.

Pacifica's five-year strategic plan, approved last April, calls for a multi-million-dollar 50th anniversary campaign to build a programming endowment fund and provide capital and operating money to further upgrade the five stations.

Scott improved Pacifica's relations with CPB in 1995, when public broadcasting was under threat of congressional defunding. Scott sat on the committee of system leaders that devised a first-ever performance standard that holds stations to certain ratings or financial-support levels to be eligible for CPB grants. The grant standards went into effect this fiscal year (Current, March 2).

CPB President Bob Coonrod last week issued a statement of appreciation about Scott. "Pat Scott is one of the gutsiest managers I know in public broadcasting. For more than a decade, she's given Pacifica and the industry her personal best. She guided the effort to implement the much-needed reform that is returning Pacifica to a leadership position in community radio. She's tenaciously held to the belief that a station can only achieve its mission while serving a significant audience. Now, she leaves with both listenership and fundraising at record levels."

The new CPB grant standards put Pacifica's Los Angeles outlet, KPFK, seriously at risk of losing its aid. With programming changes, shifts in fundraising practices, and a large, unexpected gift from a listener, the station was able to meet the standards and retain eligibility. G.M. Mark Schubb says he expects to "squeak by" next fiscal year as well.

Because the standards are set to rise in coming years, they pose something of a threat to all five Pacifica stations (Because the criteria are keyed to population size, small-budget operations in big cities are at a disadvantage). But Pacifica has said the standards are consistent with its own goals.

These include, as outlined in the strategic plan, reaching "the largest possible audience." And Scott earlier had directed the five station managers to double their audience by 2000.

For a network founded on the principle that an "audience of one" was sufficient so long as the programming was truly valuable--a network determined to be free of the sort of constraints that can compromise programming quality and independence--the push for higher ratings has been a truly radical departure. But Scott says Pacifica has to evolve: "You can't serve a mission to promote peace and understanding if nobody's listening."

Even Scott's detractors will admit Pacifica stations were in need of improvement, particularly when it came to production quality. Scott, who used to manage KPFA, says: "When I first came into KPFA, you could hear the toilet flush on the air." There was also a serious lack of fiscal oversight, she suggests. "Many on staff, I'd been there for a couple of years, and I'd never seen them. We had people on the payroll I'd never seen."

Not the "Scott regime"

Known for her strong personality and not for great diplomacy, Scott has faced frequent strife, particularly over the national office's attempts to assert more control over the highly decentralized station chain and its grassroots workforce, weaned in Pacifica on the idea of participatory radio.

Indeed, strife has marked virtually the careers of every Pacifica director, beginning with visionary founder Lew Hill, who in 1957 killed himself the day after the Pacifica board reversed firings he had ordered. The 38-year-old Hill was severely afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis and Scott has said the constant pain accounted for his suicide more than any Pacifica battles.

Much of the conflict in Scott's time arose over program changes. At all the stations, trying to boost ratings has meant re-writing "crazy- quilt" program schedules to look more like other public radio stations' "stripped" schedules--hourly slots devoted to one program like Pacifica's Democracy Now! five days a week. The resulting purge of workers was ugly--in some cases volunteer hosts who had been with stations for decades lost their slots and were told they could compete for new slots with an open candidate-pool. Pacifica also decreed that no one could discuss the program changes on the air.

Volunteers and some long-time listeners have engaged in passionate resistance, and the battles brought Pacifica and Scott some bad press. But she says: "I think whether it's me or someone else going in this direction--to have Pacifica be more meaningful than little local radio clubs for everybody--anybody is going to run into that criticism."

"I expected the criticism and certainly got what I expected, huh? I essentially became mostly immune to it. There are people whose opinions I respect and a lot of things I would run by them to make sure I was right, and once that happened I was OK with it." Her advisers included predecessor David Salniker and her former aide Dick Bunce, she says.

At one point, Scott fired back at her detractors with a press release suggesting that members of Take Back KPFA! were harassing Pacifica staff with anonymous phone calls and death threats. The activists denied those charges.

Perhaps the fiercest conflict has been with the staff's union at WBAI in New York. Pacifica's attempts to oust volunteers from the bargaining unit has led to charges that a network dedicated to peace and social justice is busting its unions. Scott has said the rules change is needed because under union rules it's too difficult to remove volunteer on-air hosts, even those with low audiences. The National Labor Relations Board ruled last year that Pacifica must allow the unpaid staff members to remain in the union, but Pacifica is appealing that decision.

Asked about the union issue, Berry said she was "not going to second-guess" Scott. She also noted that the media consistently presents news about Pacifica as if Pat Scott were operating alone. "I think it's a mistake the press is making all time. They talk about the 'Pat Scott regime,' as if there wasn't a board."

Looking to the future, Berry clearly has her eye on the level of conflict and PR problems. At the beginning of a September 1997 board meeting, Berry said Pacifica housed "people of good will who want this organization to succeed," but that too often the place reminded her of "a dysfunctional family that's lived together too long and everybody has ancient grievances and memories about things that somebody did years ago."

"I ... do not intend for this organization to destroy my reputation," she said. Asked to elaborate, she told Current: "I mean I am going to be a very open person with integrity who tells truth as I see it and stands up for what I think is right. I would not stay if all people are going to do is fight. My reputation is I succeed in what I do. I don't want to risk that."

She wants Scott's successor to be "somebody who is a good administrator and manager, who's good with people, and sensitive to the public image of the organization. And who can in a collegial way work with station managers and volunteers to make progress with a minimum of conflict." She hopes to have a replacement within six months.

Scott says Lynn Chadwick, who is Pacifica's new director of operations and former president of National Federation of Community Broadcasters, may be the next choice. "It's a possibility. But we will do a search, and I will stay around to do that search."



top of page | opinion | home

sponsors this site